“Tribal Development means the establishment of “Tribal Self Reliant Villages”
At the outset, let me clarify my definition of “a tribal”. In the
dominant discourse, the tribals are the “ Backward” people in India who are
labelled as scheduled tribes, part of other backward classes, janjati and
banwasi. Contrary to such class and racist construction I perceive tribal as
Indigenous people, still retaining their values that existed in the early age,
before the emergence of civilizations such as slavery, feudalism and capitalism.
In India, tribals are the people who were and still are resisting the invasion
of caste, class, patriarchal values and social practices.
There is no doubt that most of the tribals are living in an disadvantaged
situation, weak in political expression, economically poor and not yet able to
escape oppressive structures and social exclusion. However, the tribal way of
sustainable economic practice, egalitarian and participatory political systems,
social and spiritual life, caring and sharing tradition is something valuable
not only for tribal themselves but also for non-tribal societies. Such tribal
values, practices, experiences could be offered to get rid from the contemporary
social, economic and moral spiritual crises. Indian culture is generally
considered a caring culture but it is not found to be caring in respect of
dignity, self-respect and development of tribal forces. Tribals are not
treated on par with the mainstream Indians. The Indian people are
generally not concerned with the tribals.
Tribal approach for development is a viable alternative to the “Modernization”
development paradigm. It is not romanticizing the tribal reality but certain
practices, perceptions and aspirations about life, environment and spirituality
still remain practical examples of alternative way of living. As a concept,
tribal development means the establishment of “ tribal self rule”.
In a tribal community, many people do not know how to read and write and talking
of the development for these people requires special commitment and care.
To start any development programmes for the tribals and expect benefit from the
development efforts, we have to change our policies. Tribals have bleak
future, but now there is a hope that change is possible through Participatory
Action Research (PAR) on Tribal Self Rule (TSR). TSR is an endeavour to
revitalize peoples’ organizations and villages to become main actors for
socio-political, economic and cultural empowerment. PAR is a research,
which involves all relevant people actively examining together the problematic
situation of the tribal village in order to change and improve it.
This research can be undertaken by critically reflecting on the
historical, political, cultural, economic, geographic and all other aspects
which make sense. PAR may be done to find out solutions of the problems,
the results of such research, however, if carried out systematically and
consistently, will enhance the knowledge for solving the problems. Factors
and forces responsible for the problems of tribals, can be identified as the
external & internal factors & forces. They are the following:
Factors & Forces
conversion and religious leaders are spreading conflicts and division among
tribals. The tribals are deprived by the Government system and cheated by the
non-tribals. Destructive habits, like excessive alcohol consumption.
Factors & Forces
are abandoning, neglecting & ignoring their own cultural traditions,
festivals, languages and customs; Western culture/mainstream Indian culture is
catching up them.
The action oriented participatory research needs to be implemented in the tribal
villages, especially to facilitate the developmental activities in the
traditional tribal villages. It may be based on the analysis of the
self-governance system of the tribals.
The self-governance system of tribals is constitutionally recognized in
the form of Panchayat Extension of Scheduled Area Act, 1996 (PESA Act), however,
implementation of this Act so far has been ineffective. Though, once
revitalized it will become an important agent of development for the villagers
and bring about positive changes into the devastating live situation of the
All the projects in the tribal areas need to be designed to ensure active
participation of all the villagers of the tribal villages. It is conceptualised
as PAR, with the understanding that it would set a practical example of
"self-governance" for other tribal communities as well as non-tribals
to follow. The self-rule approach would bring the tribals or non-tribals, back
into the centre of activity as actors of their own development, rather than
recipients of development agencies’ services.
Tribal people always believed in strengthening and/or building peoples
organizations as primary means of their re-empowerment. Accordingly, a series of
awareness generation training programmes/workshops on various issues need to be
organized by different organizations and institutions. Through these
institutional efforts for awareness generation on different aspects are already
visible in the tribal areas. The traditional institutions such as ‘Manjhi-Pargana’ in Santal Parganas (Jharkhand),
Dhumkudiya amongst Oraons in Jahrkhand and Chhatisgarh aimed at reviving the
system - the traditional institutions of the tribals. Infact,
gradually the traditional system is getting weak. There is a need to revive the
traditional system, build critical consciousness, as this is the basis for
re-empowerment of the tribal.
Now the time has come to know ourselves. What is our social, economic and
political status; how to survive, lead a comfortable and sustainable life,
protect our environment and forests, find a place in the implementation of PESA
Act, etc. Now we have to involve ourselves for self-discovery of our own
contemporary political, historical, cultural, economic, environmental &
legal aspects. If we involved ourselves in self- assessment (PAR), this
will help us in the process and further lead to capacity enhancement of the
villagers, organizational building, formulating their strategic plans and
implementing them. In the tribal society, there are no permanent solutions
available, as tribal people have been exploited for decades
For any development programme, its vision should be to make tribal self-reliant
villages, where there is sufficient food, clothing, shelter and medicine,
agricultural facilities, work for all and tribal values like gender equality,
justice, unity, collective enjoyment, caring, sharing, consensus, collective
decision making, respecting each other, community feeling, equal participation
of all in all the activities are prevailing.
Thus, its objective is to transform the political, economic and cultural system
by strengthening the self-rule system.
The steps of village intervention are summarized as:
participatory (Bench Mark Survey) BMS, collecting data, information and facts,
the critical analysis of the problems, critical issues by the villagers,
people’s organizations: Strengthening the local system, facilitating different
committees for youth, elderly people, women, etc.
the People’s participatory strategic Planning
of the Plan by the villagers,
the village evaluation of activities and achievements.
Thus, based on the findings of the research or evaluation, process may be
started all over again until the aspired societal situation is reached.
The Participatory Action Research on tribal Self-Rule (PAR on TSR) needs to be
implemented in all the tribal villages in tribal areas.
In this context, two major aspects need to be undertaken for empowering tribals
and their villages;
of any model of self-reliant tribal villages in tribal areas is to be achieved
through strengthening the tribal grass-root/village institutions of
self-governance by adopting the PAR process. The model villages would be
examples for the re-empowerment of the tribal and even non- tribal villages.
is another important component. Hence, all the experiences, learning and
implementation process needs to be documented. These experiences are to be
shared with other civil society organizations (NGOs, movement groups,
foundations, religious organizations, media etc.), govt. organizations, policy
planners, implementers and International Development and Human rights
organizations etc. First of all we have to conduct a village survey on our own.
In this case we have to look deeper into the community and look for reasons to
the present problems. It might be necessary to have comprehensive survey. It
means we put all facts and figures about life and living conditions of our
community. Those carrying out the survey of the village should talk to all the
people, find out their situation with regard to education, health, economy,
land, employment, income and so on. Investigator should, together with the
families, try to identify the present problems of the village and also discuss
their ideas about the future.
The proposed Tribal self Rule/ Model Village should be managed by the local
resources available (land, labour, natural resources) to implement programmes,
inputs from outside (like trainers, advisers, capital and equipment), however,
can be obtained. It is therefore, commonsense that programmes or projects look
around for partners that can help provide such inputs. Tribal community of
the proposed model villages can invite the partners to assist in the endeavour.
How can the other partners come forward to help? What should they do? Obviously
there must be an agreement on how the projects/ programmes should be organized,
who should do what and when. The tribal people must make sure that the
programmes are just right for them, exactly what they need and want, they must
say what they want to achieve, which work they are prepared to carry out, and
when they will do it.
What will the people think about the activities of the survey? Will they
collaborate and contribute by talking openly about every thing? May be the
customs and traditions (tribal traditions) in the tribal community imply that
elderly leaders do all the talking? It may be difficult for the younger people
or the women to speak out freely. If so, the investigator or survey personnel
may have problems in collecting all the relevant information.
fact, to carry out the survey in the identified model village or traditional
tribal village would rather be difficult, and a big job. But people can be
trained to do it properly. Therefore, there is a need to have training for
capacitating them for carrying out the Base Line Survey (BLS) of the village by
the tribals themselves.
If the survey team does a good job, then the tribals certainly enjoy in
the participation of everybody in the community, leaders, men and women and
youngsters alike. This is then a very good start to a possible project or
programme, because everybody will start thinking about their situation in a
creative way, they will feel that they have a role in the development of their
own society, they will increase their knowledge about problems around them and
evolve possible ways of solving them, and will generally become interested in
the development matters. As of now, they are ignorant and treated as a commodity
and the dominant society utilizes them.
After this, the survey team must not forget to consult and seek the
advice from the local organizations which are active in the area, such as the
church, NGOs, local government authorities, cooperatives, self-help groups etc.
The findings of the survey will reveal the shortcomings in the community.
Now we have to see what needs to be done for the proposed model village.
Survey may open our eyes to several problems which may or may not be related to
each other, for example:
Suppose that the general opinion in the community is that the major
problem is high unemployment, but other problems have also been indicated in the
survey. Therefore, we have to make up the list of problems.
Some of these problems may be related to each other. Some problems may be more
urgent to solve than others. If we start a scheme or project, which problems
should be dealt with first? May be we should have a separate project at a later
stage for some specific problem? Therefore, there is a need to set priorities.
Every one in the community should participate in identifying the problems during
the survey or data collection and setting the priorities afterwards. A
priority list will help them to concentrate on the major and most important
problems, rather than wasting time on discussing everything in general.
There is a need to have a summary of the survey, then to plan for the
future course of action collectively. Let the community decide and generate idea
about possible project, it may come up with while discussion. People may have
different ideas about the possible projects. Some people may still not see the
need for any development, no need for any change. Some may get afraid of outside
interference. Fears may be justified therefore; this may be discussed by every
body and not just by the tribal leaders. While discussing in the community, the
following matters need to be included:
Development programmes are supposed to bring “change” in the society.
New ways and methods need to be introduced. But at the same time, our rich
culture and tradition and practices must be protected against change.
Most outsiders know very little about tribal culture; hence right
persons/ organizations need to be selected.
Try to inculcate Down to Top Planning and avoid Top- Down Planning
People need to be associated from the beginning of the project design,
planning and implementation. It does not mean only the leaders or village heads
would decide on behalf of every body else, but all those involved, or who will
be affected by the project, should have a say in how it should be designed. The
tribal community should be the active partner in the writing of the project. In
this way we can make sure what is the aim of the project, what work will be
done, who will work and so on.
We may also ensure the needs and interests of the women at the beginning
of the project planning and design stage.
We must gather and analyze information on different roles and needs of
women and men, and use it in the development project
Women must be involved in the formulation and implementation stages
We should analyse the impact of the project on women and men during the
monitoring and evaluation stages and take appropriate action.
Every one involved in the project should feel responsible for the
promotion of equal opportunities between men and women. If there is an unequal
distribution of benefits, this is required to be assessed.
People participation would be most important factor in the programme
To achieve the tribal model village, a community has to work out a plan
and ensure that how all the matters would be regulated.
To translate the vision of the tribal self-rule, self-reliant tribal
villages and to establish tribal model villages, capacity building/enhancement
of the project personnel’s, the villagers (men, women, youths, the
marginalized) through contextual analysis, cause analysis, etc is required to be
done seriously. At the same time, Organizational building/strengthening of
the people’s organizations are also needed.
To implement the suggested strategy, we have to formulate Peoples
Participatory Strategic Planning, resource mobilization and management to
execute the peoples plans and finally plan for people’s participating approach
Till today, all the development plans and schemes have been formulated
and generally implemented by the 'non-tribal' 'experts' on top; thus have been
adopting top-down approach for development. However, it should be down to top.
PAR on Tribal Self-governance is probably the first initiative wherein tribal
themselves would actively be involved in doing their own 'research/discovery'
about their own historical, cultural, political and economic situations; and in
the process they enhance their analytical capacities in diverse spheres. There
may be three different approaches to initiate change in the proposed model
tribal village. There are organizations or individuals who think what is best
for the people and to impose it on people. In this case, external agency/actors
may come forward to hold. There are people who think they are in favour of
people and they should take initiative on behalf of poor and marginalized people
should follow them because they know the best interest of the people.
Social activists think that only they themselves could bring change if they
received solidarity. These people role is not to tell people what to do,
or not imposing one’s dream on people but facilitate process so that people
initiative process for change and development” this would be the people
centered approached. The question comes that approach would be appropriate
which suits to tribal value, perhaps the most suitable approach would be that
people participation, pro-people approach” otherwise change is not possible.