Tribes are the poorest section of Indian population. They are socially, educationally and economically most deprived, exploited and suffering injustice since ages. Though in the Indian Constitution, the rights ensuring social justice is elaborated in Articles 12 to 35 on the Fundamental Rights of the Indian citizens, social justice has not progressed an inch further in today’s world. The tribals don’t even know what the rule of law is or what social justice means. The tribals form 8.2% of the national population leaving aside the Union Territories where they constitute a substantial share of population, but they are denied political power even in states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, and Madhya Pradesh, where they form 20% of the state population. So, for a stronger country we need to develop every part of the state on a equal basis.
In this era of modernization, poverty elimination has become one of the most important goals of the government. Two decades of economic reforms and drum beating about inclusive growth seem to have failed to change the face of tribal and rural communities. Hence, The Twelfth Five Year Plan which in effect since 1st April, 2012 announced that special efforts will be made to bring the tribals and other marginalized sections at par with other sections of the society. Even in the 21st century the tribes are far behind in comparison with other segments of the society on all the Human Development indicators. Their ancestral lands have been encroached and their culture is also under threat due to the prevailing problems of the modern development projects. The historical game of preying upon the tribals, their areas and their resources (both renewable and non renewable), adds to their impoverishment and the enrichment of the administrative and the political class. One can easily attach the negligence of the tribal community with the growth of Naxal Movement which has affected partially almost one third of the entire country. Therefore it is a fact that the fruit of development has not been divided on equal level which in turn propelled anarchism and Hobessian state of nature.
Thus, for the development and steady improvement of our country’s economy, we need to uplift and empower the tribes or Adivasis or constitutionally termed STs which also includes development of the tribal women. As Amartya Sen argued that women must be accommodated in the mainstreaming process of development and then only a particular society can be perceived as being developed. The tribal women constitute as in any other social group, about half of the total population. However, the importance of women in the tribal society is more important than any other social groups in India, because the family economy and management depends upon their hard work. Generally, tribal women have enjoyed greater freedom and higher status than women of other classes. Such as the Naga women have the right to choose their husband and are never forced to marry against their will. Additionally, widow burning, occupational segregation and hierarchical family structure with women placed at lowest position are absent in tribal communities. Many tribal societies are matrilineal and women in such social structures enjoy inheritance rights and privileges that are mostly absent in patriarchal societies. As per the 1931 Census, the sex ratio for the tribal groups has been approximately equal, whereas the number of female relative to male has been consistently lower for the mainstream population.
The literacy rate for women, however, is low but for the tribal women it is worse. Literacy should be given more importance as it leads to social, cultural, and economic development and also gives women more autonomy and freedom. Few matrilineal societies encourage female literacy and higher female labour market participation which gives women greater involvement in family and social activities. The highest tribal female literacy rate is in Mizoram (86.95%) but in majority of tribal women literacy rate is very low. This low level of literacy is preventing them from being skilled. Though the tribal women have high labour force participation than non tribal women, but they are mainly in low grade jobs. We know that in many tribal societies, women is considered as an economic asset and more importance is given to hardworking wife, but they don’t have the economic opportunity to work in skilled and high earning jobs mainly due to low literacy rate. Therefore, their capacity building may be the key to their all round empowerment.