CONDITION for some of their cultural distinctions. Endangered List




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     Tribal people life in Tamil Nadu get
shattered by a nexus of police, the forest department,
politicians and smugglers. Their basic human rights are cynically violated. Despite
being protected by law against encroachment into tribal areas, land alienation
is increasingly becoming an issue in tribal areas. Their right to preserve and
enjoy their cultural heritage in harmony with nature is severely threatened by
the process of modernization and economic growth. The
increasingly tragic situation of tribals in Tamilnadu as well as the continuing
gaps of standards of social development between tribals and non-tribal sections
of the Tamilnadu population is indeed worth a serious attention.

     Tribals, face systemic problems – distance
from health facilities, lack of transport, frequent nonavailability of medical
staff, poor awareness, low response level and continuation of traditional
practices that affect health seeking behaviour. Many of them live in remote or
isolated habitations that are typically cut off from many of the development

Indigenous Groups

     British anthropologists such as W. Rivers
first made the tribal groups of the Nilgiri Hills famous in the early 19th
century. The different ethnic groups have become well known for their distinct
Cultures and livelihoods, whilst maintaining key areas of interreliance.The
main groups in the District are the Todas, Kota, Kurumba, Irula, Paniya, and
Badaga, who tend to occupy different altitudinal locations, which accounts for
some of their cultural distinctions.

Endangered List of Tribes

      Tamil Nadu has
36 types of tribes of which six are on the endangered list. The total
population of all these six tribes has plummeted to less than 2,000. Of this
Kochuvelan, Melakudi and Maha malasar tribes are on the verge of extinction
with their population less than 160, confirmed a highly placed state official.

Static Nature of

     The irony is that of
the total 7.95 lakh tribal population about 54,000 are tribes by genetics, but
now they do not know which group they belong to, of the 36 tribal communities
in Tamil Nadu, the population of 6 major tribal communities Toda, Kota, Kurumba,
Irular, Paniyan and Kattunayakan has neither decreased nor increased and it
remains static. Now they are known as particularly vulnerable tribal groups
(PVTGs), the official said. The state has been monitoring the tribal population
and it is static in more than 80 per cent of the ethnic groups.

        A tribal welfare
officer of the state admitted in a leading newspaper that, Tiruvannamalai
supports close to 91,000 tribes and now there are new individuals claiming to
be kurumans. Inter-caste marriage, religious conversions, migration and lack of
genetic or anthropological data are issues 
that affects the identification of tribes. As on date, less than 20 per
cent of tribes now do their ethnic occupations like rearing sheep, collecting
honey, harvesting timber and other forest produce. Another major issue is that
large number of Irulas, who no longer catch snakes, have ended up as bonded
labour in brick kilns. In the past three years more than more than 600 Irulas
were rescued from brick kilns in Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur and rehabilitated.


Tribal Population Details of PVTG – Census 2011























Current Scenario on
the Health Front

     On the health front
there is a remarkable improvement when it comes to tribal settlements. Tribal
people in Nilgiris suffer sickle cell anemia and tuberculosis and those in
Krishnagiri district suffer a kind of Thalassemia. Sickle-cell disease (SCD) is
a group of blood disorders typically inherited from parents. The genetic
disorder results in an abnormality in the oxygen-carrying protein haemoglobin
and reduces the average age of tribes. 
This was explained by Dr Gangadevi, director, Dr G’s Health Clinic, who
has been working on diseases and disorders related ethnic people of Nilgiris
and Coimbatore. Usually those with SCD have lifespan between 40 and 55 years.  With medical intervention the average life
span of sickle cell anemic patients has now become normal like other   people.Top of FormFeeling of Community: Toda women dancing during a function  

speak – The Grace of Tribals

have adopted a refined communication technique, one that relies less on words
and more on action. This has prevented wordy duels and arguments..

many tribes live a hand-to-mouth existence, they have not forgotten about
graceful community living. For example, the Pazhiyar have to dig deep into the
hard ground for edible tubers. It may take a man well over half a day to find
the tuber, but once he does, he will snap off only one bit, and leave the rest
for others. En route to the digging site, if he saw a honeycomb, he would mark
it with a cross, as if booking it. If another man came to the forest to extract
honey and found nothing, he would still not go near the marked honeycomb. This
is the kind of grace they exhibit.

traditions have survived because of oral narratives. And, the feeling of
community is very strong. Every occasion, be it building a temple, a wedding or
a funeral, sees them get together. And, when it comes to training adolescents,
the old tribals — men and woman — ease them into the ways of their world.

welfare of each tribe is paramount to its members. Which is why, among the Aalu
Kurumbas, once a year, seven people go out into the forest, for seven days,
without informing anyone. They live off the jungle, in a bid to call upon
Nature to protect their village. When they return, they cook pongal in seven
pots and feed everyone — a case of the individuals working for social good.


of Tribes

Maha Malasar or Mala Malasar in Valparai can converse with elephants. They work
as mahouts.

are known for their painting and black magic; Todas for their embroidery; Kotas
for their pottery and carpentry; and Kadunaickayas for their expertise in honey

     TamilNadu has 7.21 lakh
tribal populations as per 2011 census which constitutes 1.10% of the total
population. There are 36 tribes and sub tribes in Tamil Nadu. Literacy rate of
the population is 27.9%. Most of the tribals in Tamil Nadu are cultivators,
agriculture labourers or dependent on forests for their livelihood. There are
six primitive tribes in Tamil Nadu. The tribal groups in Tamil Nadu are
distributed in almost all the districts and they have contributed significantly
in the management of the forests.

Need for Tribal Development

     The need of the hour
for Tribal Development is to reduce the gap between the Tribal and non-tribal
population with respect to economic, educational and social status, The
objective is to integrate the Tribals into the main stream of economic and
social development. Out of the 36 Scheduled Tribe communities in the state, six
Tribal Communities namely, Toda, Kota, Kurumbas, Irulur, Paniyan and
Kattunayakan have been identified as Primitive Tribal. The area where the
population of Scheduled Tribes exceeds 50% of the total population is declared
as Integrated Tribal Development Programme area.

     The tribal communities
live inside the Reserved Forests, in the vicinity in fringes and outside and
are also called ‘forest dwellers’. Their socio-cultural life is centered on
nature. Degradation of forests  have
reduced the resource availability and the employment opportunities for tribals
and has also affected the food availability, livelihood options and the quality
of life of the tribals.

     There is need to
understand in greater detail the present relationship and dependency of tribals
with forests and their change in life styles due to ecological disturbances and
generate more information.

“The economy of the tribals in forest
areas is dependent on the forest resources” – Policy Note on Forest Department


Tribals in natural resource management &

     The Forest Department
in Tamil Nadu has particularly cared to impart the best education for tribals
by running 20 schools in tribal areas in Thiruvanamalai, Vellore and Coimbatore
districts. Realizing the need of tribals for forest ingredients, this State has
also issued orders providing for free collection and use of MFP for tribals.
The services of tribals have been utilized in all the major afforestation and
development activities of the forest department. The tribal settlements have
also been provided with the best infrastructure support through various
forestry programmes. Thus the Forest Department programme and policies have
attended to the welfare of the tribal individuals, families and communities
living within the forests.

    Tribals are the integral
part of the forest eco-system and their economy depends on the forest
resources. Tribal villages are mostly enclosures located within the forest
area.   Hence, Forest Department naturally has a major role to play
due to the poor development in remote tribal areas.  Employment
generation, improving the infrastructure facilities in tribal villages and
education has been given adequate impetus.

Statistics of School Education 2011 – 2012






      35.3 %




(Source: Government of
India, Ministry of Human Resources development, Bureau of  Planning, Monitoring & Statistics, New
Delhi, 2014)

Welfare Scheme of the State & Central Government and their

Objectives of the Scheme

To provide infrastructure support for development of tribal

To provide health, education, electricity, drinking water,
housing and approach road and thereby improve the standard of living of tribals
within forest areas.

To establish partnerships with tribals for their development,
empowerment and engage them in conservation and management of the forest

To develop required skills for tribals, tap and utilize their
knowledge for infrastructure development in settlements thereby ensuring
confidence building and overall prosperity in their life systems.


Education – Tribal
Schools run by Forest Department

     Tamil Nadu Forest
Department is successfully running 20 Tribal schools in Jawadis, Jamanamarathur
and Pollachi and have been able to attract tribal children due to the
facilities offered in the school. Primary education to tribals in Jawadis where
started by the Forest Department as early as 1951 at Jamanamarathur and
extended to other villages. In Tiruvannamalai Division there are 11 schools
which includes 2 elementary schools, 8 middle schools and one higher secondary
school. In Tirupattur Division there is one higher secondary school, 2 High
schools, 2 Middle schools and 2 Elementary schools. There is one Middle school
in Vellore and Pollachi division. The details of schools run by Forest
Department are provided in Government of Tamilnadu – forests websites. Over 4500 students are imparted quality education
to the students  in these schools is run
by the Forest Department. 

NABARD Assisted Project

     Under Rural
Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF), a scheme was taken up with an outlay of
Rs.5.07 crore for improving the infrastructure facilities in the tribal schools
functioning under the control of Forest Department. An amount of Rs.1.01 crore
was spent during 2007-08 and Rs.4.06 crore was spent during 2008-09.

Integrated Tribal Development Programme

     The tribal communities
have a symbiotic relationship with forests and the existence of both is
mutually beneficial. Government policies also insist in implementing special
programmes in tribal areas to improve their quality of life.  Hence,
Forest Department  has a major role to
play due to the poor development in remote tribal areas. Employment generation,
improving the infrastructure facilities in tribal villages and education has
been given adequate impetus. During 2012-13, an amount of Rs.10.10 crore was
sanctioned for improvement of katcha houses, improvement of roads and existing
Schools.  The details are as follows.

Sl. No

Description of Works

Physical Target

Financial Target
(Rs. In crores)


Improvement of katcha houses (91 Villages)

1000 Nos.



Improvement of Roads development

64.75 km



Improvement of existing Schools







An amount of Rs.6.27 crores was spent upto 2013-14.

Central Schemes

     Management activities
cover under Centrally Sponsored Shared and State Scheme are mostly intervention
measures related to,

Habitat restoration and improvement

Protection and Conservation measures

Management planning and Human Resources Development

Eco Development and Community participation in conservation of
bio resources.

Mitigation of Human Wildlife Conflict

Promotion of low impact eco – tourism.





     The Forest Department
has provided guidance to four tribal settlements in Coimbatore

Forest Division and
has shown the way for the tribal population to successfully take to

agriculture, as part
of the initiative to economically and socially uplift the living conditions of

the tribal people, the
department has joined hands with Avanashilingam Jan Shikshan

Sansthan to guide the
tribal people into a new activity for earning their livelihood.

The empowerment of the tribal people was to
turn them into guardians of the forests and

wean them away from the plunderers of forest
wealth, the department was also extending

loans from the Eco-Development Committee funds
(earned by the tribal people through eco-

tourism initiatives).

crop varieties were chosen in such a way that the inputs were cheaper and
earnings for

the farmers were more.


      The vision for Tamil
Nadu 2023 is to become India’s most prosperous and progressive

 state with no poverty, and where its people
enjoy all the basic services of a modern society

 and live in harmonious engagement with the
environment and with the rest of the

(strategic plan for infrastructure development in Tamil Nadu).











Malayali’s are
settled in Dharmapuri, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Pudukkottai, Salem, 1 Prakash
Chandra Mehta, Ethnographic Atlas of Indian Tribes, New Delhi, 2004, p.9. 2
E.A.Hoebal, Man in the Primitive World, New York, 1988, p.166. 3 Verier Elwin,
Report of the Committee on Special Multi-purpose Tribal Block, New Delhi, 1960,
p.128. 4 R.Chandramouly, Primary Census of India, 2001 Tami Nadu, Series 34,
Vol.II, Chennai, 200I, p.ii. 5 Tamil arasu issue of September, 1989, p.20. 56
Namakkal, Vilupuram

Aiyyapan, Socio-Economic Conditions of the
Aboriginal Tribes of the Province of Madras, Chennai, 2000, p.142. 7
R.Chandramouly op.cit., p.486. 8 B.Narasimaiah, Neolithic and Megalithic
Culture in Tamil Nadu, New Delhi, 1978, p.1. 9 Report-Social Welfare Department,
TamilNadu, September, 1978. 57

B.     43
K.S.Singh, The Scheduled Tribes, An Anthropological Survey of India, Vol.lll,
New Delhi,1982, pp.736-37. 44 S.Balusamy, op.cit., pp.66-67. 45 Ibid. 71