The 325 tribal communities of India are diverse with distinct sociocultural traits. However, they face common challenges that merit recognition as a single category in specific contexts.
Despite having some common characteristics, they are highly diversified in terms of:
Though there are diversities among them, most of the tribal communities suffer from common issues like
Socio-economic and educational backwardness:
- As per NSSO estimates, ST people living below the poverty line in 2011-12 were 34% as against the 19% for the overall population.
- According to NFHS-4, Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Under Five Mortality Rate (U5MR) and anaemia in women for STs is higher than other social groups.
- According to 2011 census, literacy rate of STs is around 59% which is way below the literacy rate of total population (73%).
Loss of tribal culture and identity:
- Conversion of tribes into other religions; Industrialisation; urbanisation; Migration etc. resulted in the loss of the tribal way of life and their identity, languages and rich tribal knowledge.
Keeping in view the diversities among the tribes and the common problems faced by them, it is necessary to adopt a flexible criterion to designate ST status to any community.