Who Are The Scheduled Tribes In India?

By Antonia Čirjak on February 2 2020 in Society

Dalit woman in Jaipur Rajasthan, India. Credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
Dalit woman in Jaipur Rajasthan, India. Credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

The Scheduled tribes are groups of people that are officially recognized in the Indian Constitution. They are also referred to as Dalit, which translates as broken or scattered. During the British colonization period, these groups were also called the Depressed Classes. 

Dalits Or Harijans

The Scheduled Tribes were recognized in the 20th century from the work and thoughts of B.R.Ambedkar. Ambedkar, who lived from 1891 to 1956, was an Indian economist and is considered the father of the modern Indian Constitution. Ambedkar himself belonged to the Dalits, and he was the one representing the caste during the independence struggles. 

Ambedkar was in disagreement with Mahatma Gandhi when it came to the name people should use when addressing the Scheduled tribes. Gandhi preferred the term Harijan, which translates as ‘’Man of God’’. On the other hand, Ambedkar favored the use of the Sanskrit term Dalit. However, in 2018, the Indian government brought together an act that, in essence, forbid the use of the word Dalit.

When India got its independence from the colonizers, the Scheduled tribes received a special status. Their political representation was now guaranteed by the constitution, and the foundation for positive discrimination was set. Scheduled tribes got the so-called Reservation status. However, the situation and the way other tribes see the Scheduled tribes have not changed all that much.

Discrimination Against The Scheduled Tribes

The Scheduled tribes make about 8.6% of India’s total population, and they are still very much discriminated against every day, based on their ethnicity. They are partially or wholly excluded from various types of services that are important for leading a healthy life. The 744 tribes that live in 22 of India’s states can not receive the same health services as other tribes, and they do not have the chance to get the same level of education as others. 

The Scheduled tribes are facing cultural discrimination on a day-to-day basis. This problem is even more enlarged because they often live in fairly isolated forest areas. Most of the tribes residing that remote have their own language, which continues to complicate communication with other tribes. The fact that they are isolated, and still have their own language and culture, has mostly led to general misunderstanding on a cultural level. The Scheduled tribes are often represented as primitive, and without specific civilization standards.

Health, Education And Mortality Issues

Discrimination is also visible in the Indian education system. In most cases, these tribal groups do not even have the chance to enroll in traditional educational institutions. It is estimated that almost 40% of the people that belong to the Scheduled tribes, and are older than 7, can not read or write at all. Children from these tribes usually do not have the opportunity to educate themselves further once they finish elementary school. As a consequence, those people will have meager employment chances and will be poor for most of their lives.

Even the health workers seem to forget their Hippocratic Oath, and the Scheduled tribes can hardly ever receive help from professional health care clinics. Unfortunately, that also leads to higher mortality of the population that is younger than five. The national average for this group of children says that 74 out of 1000 will die, but in the Scheduled tribes, that number goes up to 96 out of 1000. 

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