Preserving Tribal Culture
Syllabus: GS2/Government Policies & Interventions
- The vision of inclusive growth and community-led development is not an idea but an actionable strategy for Odisha in its 5T (transparency, technology, teamwork, time-limit, leading to transformation)-driven development model.
Tribal population in India
- India comprises 8.6% tribal population, has access to an enormous indigenous knowledge which through recognition, adoption, and mainstreaming has the potential to provide sustainable solutions to concerns related to falling agricultural productivity and soil quality, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, pollution, and Climate Change challenges.
About Tribal Culture
- Communal living:
- Many tribal communities in India have a strong emphasis on communal living and sharing resources. They live in close-knit communities and often make decisions collectively.
- Connection with nature:
- Tribals have a strong connection with nature, with traditional beliefs and practices that revolve around the forests and animals.
- Tribe is a synonym for a self-reliant community, a tribe is a relatively closed society and its openness is inversely related to the extent of its self-sufficient pursuits.
- Spiritual beliefs:
- Tribals often have their own unique spiritual beliefs, which may involve the worship of ancestors, nature spirits, or deities.
- Folk arts and crafts:
- Tribals are known for their unique art forms, including pottery, weaving, and jewellery making. These crafts often have spiritual or cultural significance and are passed down through generations.
Government initiatives to conserve tribal culture
- TRIFED’s Initiatives For Tribal Population
- Sankalp Se Siddhi – Mission Van Dhan: The Government plans to establish 50,000 Van Dhan Vikas Kendras, 3000 Haat Bazaars, etc.
- Institutional Support for Development & Marketing of Tribal Products / Produce (Central Sector Scheme)
- Tribes India Outlets: The outlets will showcase tribal products from all over the country and the outlets will have a specific geographical indication (GI) and Vandhan corners.
- Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs):
- The scheme covers activities like housing, land distribution, land development, agricultural development, animal husbandry, construction of link roads, etc.
- Support to Tribal Research Institutes (TRIs) and Tribal Festivals, Research Information, and Mass Education.
- Scholarships for pre-matric, post-matric, and overseas education
- Support to National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation
- Vocational Training in Tribal Areas.
- The aim of the Scheme is to develop the skills of the ST youth for a variety of jobs as well as self-employment and to improve their socio-economic condition by enhancing their income.
- The mechanism for Marketing of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) through (MSP) and Development of a Value Chain for MFP’ as a measure of social safety for MFP gatherers (Centrally Sponsored Scheme)
Issues & challenges
- Loss of culture:
- The identity of tribal communities is rooted in their culture. Its uniqueness lies in the unbreakable bond between the community and nature.
- As societies embrace modernised development, the richness, diversity, and depth of tribal cultures tend to fade away.
- They tend to get overshadowed by the homogeneity of globalised norms.
- Development vs cultural preservation:
- While the Central government has introduced several developmental projects for tribal people, it has a one-size-fits-all approach that divorces tribal development from tribal cultures.
- Even in schemes such as the Aspirational Districts Programme, the focus is exclusively on development-driven indicators; the cultural and societal contexts of those districts are sidelined.
Odisha’s Special Development Councils (SDCs) initiative
- In a significant move towards preserving, promoting, and popularising tribal culture while also continuing with the development process, the Odisha government launched the Special Development Councils (SDCs) initiative in 2017.
- This is an active effort to preserve the culture and heritage of 62 tribes in the State under one umbrella while keeping economic development on course in the regions.
- The scheme, which covered nine tribal-dominated districts and 60 lakh tribal households in 117 blocks, has now been expanded to 23 districts covering more than 84 lakh tribal people.
- SDC’s model: In this model, important cultural markers that are a reflection of tribal identity are identified and promoted.
- Language is recognised as an important marker of culture.
- As Odisha is a land of over 22 diverse tribal languages, the focus is on the use and propagation of these languages.
- Over 21 tribal proficiency centres have been established.
- These have modules to educate frontline workers like ASHA workers and non-Odia speakers about tribal culture and dialect.
- Sacred Groves:
- More than 4,500 sacred groves that were close to vanishing from the village landscape are now being conserved.
- These groves hold immense cultural and conservational value for the tribal population, as they are considered to be inhabited by the gods. Resource extraction in these groves is strictly prohibited.
- More than 4,730 sacred groves are under protection in nine districts, and 1,609 tribal cultural clubs have been set up.
- Artisan ID cards:
- Artisan ID cards have been issued to over 40,000 tribal artisans.
- This initiative not only preserves culture, but also enables employment opportunities.
- Tribal Resource Centres:
- To ensure an efficient transfer of knowledge, more than 50 Tribal Resource Centres have been constructed in Sundargarh district. More are coming up in the remaining districts.
- Preserving all the tribes:
- The SDC model also helps to preserve the culture and tradition of small tribal groups by giving them a role in decision-making processes. Thus, it takes care of intra-tribal majoritarianism.
- The Councils not only have people from major tribes, but also the PVTGs.
- True representation:
- The Boards are formed under the chairmanship of an eminent tribal person of the locality.
- The Council consists of the chairperson, vice chairperson (where one among the two has to be a female), and members from various tribal groups nominated by the government. This makes the bodies truly representative of the community.
- Odisha’s model of culture-sensitive and culture-inclusive tribal development is here to stay.
- It is about time that the Central government also takes inspiration for its tribal sub-plans and district/nodal plans from this model in other tribal-dominated States such as Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim, and in the north-east so that they can benefit from this.
Daily Mains Question
[Q] What are the important Tribal cultural markers in India? What is the significance of culture-sensitive and culture-inclusive tribal development in India?