Integrating Tribals in the Mainstream Emerging Dissimilarities
in the Status of Tribal Women in Maharastra
Chhaya Datar

    The strategies within the government policies towards tribals are centred around the assumption that it is the lack of modern outlook among tribals, which creates barriers in the development and eventual integration process of tribals in the mainstream. The absence of modern outlook is blamed on their geographical isolation, which is believed to have contributed to perpetuation of their traditional cultural practices.  Thus development strategy envisaged so far is to provide opportunity for education through Ashramshalas and to reserve seats in the government jobs as well as electoral processes. This is a strategy to attract tribals to make them enter the mainstream creating motivation for others to usher in the modern era. The flip side of this strategy is that it has no respect towards the traditional rights of tribals over natural resources, which were preserved by them for centuries.  The tribals understood ecological cyclical system of regeneration since their livelihood depended on that, and as a consequence, it also shaped their belief system.  The backwardness or an influence of superstitions on tribal life in reality is due to the distortions occurring in their cosmological understanding caused by half-hearted penetration of the market institution which is pervading modern life.  It is not easy for them to take to modern values.
    Although the concept of tribal self rule is accepted by the state as a part of the special provision under the Panchayat Law, where the rights of the tribals over natural resources in the vicinity of their habitats is recognised, they are more often than not violated than respected under the principle of 'eminent domain' or are superceded under the principle of 'acquisition for the public purpose.' Very recently World Human Development Report has emphasised that, enjoyment of human rights have to be an integral part and necessary condition for the human development, the approach still missing in the policies towards tribals in India.
The experience of tribals with the development process is distinct from that of the caste society. The dalits, landless and the marginal farmers have been migrating to the cities and occupying the spaces in the slums, creating a reserve army of labour for the capital to exploit, under the dual system of formal vs informal sector. In case of tribals in Maharashtra, migration has been limited to seasonal migration, where they seem to be unwilling to leave their traditional habitats and also access to land and forest for ever. This has precisely created limitations to their integration in the mainstream. But this also means that they have refused to be completely assimilated into a system, which is hierarchical and where they would be integrated at the lowest rung of the ladder.
    The Dalit community has already seen immense stratification due to the similar strategies adopted by the state. But they had very little choice because of lack of traditional entitlement to natural resources in the rural economy and society.  In contrast, the tribal communities in Maharashtra have yet to see intra-tribe stratification taking place on a large scale, although inter-tribe stratification has started emerging. One notices that this is a consequence of the strategy of mainstreaming adopted by the government for the last few years, the impact of which is compounded because of the several other factors such as historical developments and geographical locations. This stratification has also paved the way for the process of 'Sanskritisation' often described in terms of emulation of social and cultural practices of the higher castes by the lower castes. Women's status undergoes major changes, propelled by these processes of interaction with the outside world where the markets predominate. It is interesting to study these changes in the status of women which are correlated with the process of integration  of that  specific tribe in the mainstream.
    Undoubtedly, the situation of tribals needs change. But it also needs to be recognised that the link between economic or material prosperity and human development is neither automatic nor obvious. Human development has more to do with the quality of life than mere acquisition of material goods. What is this specific vision of  'happy life' for tribal society is not worked out at this juncture by the tribal leaders in Maharashtra.  Also, the same leaders or the persons who are working with tribals have not crystalised what strategies exist to achieve these changes.
    Some of the strategies used so far by the tribal leaders in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are based on the politics of identity and demand for independent statehood. Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh emerged as a consequence of that politics.  The leadership in these newly formed states did not seem to have a vision of an alternative paradigm for the development of tribals.  They were inspired by the aspiration of power within the present paradigm of development. No studies exist about what happened to women in this process.  Whether they too got empowered through this politics is not known.
    In Maharashtra it is quite difficult to envisage that a demand for separate statehood would be raised, although the movement for 'adivasi identity' is gaining momentum.  The gaining barrier is that the tribals are scattered geographically and are divided in 47 different groups, which relate to each other in a hierarchical manner. This process of mobilisation needs to be studied further, but again women appear to be missing in this mobilisation.
    The aim of this paper is limited to study the status of women among eight tribes in Maharashtra based on the data collected by the Benchmark Survey of Tribal Research and Training Institute, during 1996-97.  It appears that there are significant dissimilarities emerging among these women.  Looking at these dissimilarities would help us to identify areas for further studies denoting the changes taking place in the women's status and correlating them with the process of integration of the tribe into the mainstream, to which they belong.   

Introduction to the Tribal Communities
    India has a tribal population of 6.78 crore as per the 1991 census, which is 8% of the total population in India. The Scheduled Tribe population in Maharashtra is 73.18 lakh, which again is 9% of the total population in the state. Maharashtra ranks fourth among the states in India having large tribal populations. There are 47 tribes in Maharashtra spread over 47 tehsils of 14 districts.
    Typically the tribals inhabit foothills and slopes of the two major mountain ranges such as Sahyadri i.e. Western ghats and Satpura in the North-West of Maharashtra and the traditional natural habitation of the forest of Dandakaranya, that divides North India with South Peninsula. They are a marginalised community, physically and socio-economically. They also depend on forest resources for their livelihood.  They are mostly engaged in occupations like settled cultivation, hunting, gathering, fishing, animal husbandry, trapping of birds and animals. Some have taken up pastoralism, terrace cultivation and horticulture, and some basket-weaving, mat-weaving and toddy-tapping. They have neither been integrated in the mainstream successfully, nor are they able to retain their autonomy and identity despite various laws, proclaiming their special status under the Constitution. About 92.6 % of the tribals live in rural areas. However, urbanisation is taking place at a fast rate. In 1961 only 2.7 % of the tribals were urban dwellers, by 1991 this increased to 7.4%.
    Traditionally the moneylenders grabbed the tribal land making them paupers despite the laws, which ban the sale and purchase of the tribal land to non-tribals.  During the last two decades, they were threatened with displacement on a mass scale because of the development projects such as dams and forest management undertaken by the state, negating its own proclaimed objectives of protection of traditional rights of these indigenous people. As per the statistics compiled by Walter Fernandes about the displaced persons in India between 1951-90, the tribals appear to represent almost 50 percent of the population. It is quite disproportionate to their number in the total population, which is around 9 percent. They seem to be the most vulnerable lot because of their geographical location and also because of lack of voice. Among the rehabilitated persons too their proportion is significantly less, i.e. only 24.97.E1  Today their status could be described as ‘ecological refugees’, the term used by Ramchandra Guha and Madhav Gadgil. [Guha and Gadgil, 1995.] They have lost access to forest produce and at the same time have not been able to increase the productivity of their lands through water and other resources. In many cases their lands are not recorded in their names, even though for generations they have been cultivating the same plots.  They have become easy prey of the forest officials, who undertake campaigns to clear forest land for restoring forest cover.  Such campaigns are going on in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, under the pressure from politicians who are seeking the funds from the bilateral agencies and the World Bank, apparently for Joint Forest Management, but basically to convert forest into commercial activity.E2 Many tribals have to work as seasonal migrant labour, destroying their chances as settled communities which pursue natural evolution.
    There are 47 official tribes in Maharashtra, which are again divided into sub-tribes denoting basically the endogamous boundaries for the purpose of conjugal relationships between men and women. It appears that the rules for this purpose are observed carefully and stringently as in the caste system. There is hierarchy among the tribes, which is observed steadfastly within Ashramshalas and the conflicts arising out of this are known headaches. It is also noticed that the tribals are not homogenous communities in many respects and hence the benefits of the government schemes too have been appropriated in different proportions as per the geo-socio and political status of those tribes. The concept of creamy layer could not yet be applied to them, because the layer may not be significant enough, but still care needs to be taken to see to it that the benefits are distributed in a more egalitarian manner. The political representation for scheduled tribes is obviously likely to go to the tribes with larger populations in that particular pocket. But it is the duty of the state to see that those who are deprived are brought into the safety net with focused attention.
    Gender is another concern, which needs focused attention especially in the light of the fact that sex ratio in the tribal population too is growing negative. Tribals are known for their relatively egalitarian traditions and the girl child is not despised as she is in the caste societies.  As is now sufficiently pointed out, dowry practice is the main culprit. However, once the tribals start integrating into the main society they would be deprived of their traditional means of livelihoods.  In that case, it is expected that they would follow the same suit as the caste society.

Tribal Sub-Plan
    As per the Constitution of India, certain areas, which have a dense tribal population, are under the Tribal Sub Plan. This is spread over the 11 districts of Thane, Nashik, Dhule, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar, Pune, Nanded, Amravati, Yavatamal, Gadchiroli, and Chandrapur.  The idea behind the Tribal Plan is the implementation of various schemes formulated for the welfare of the tribals. Subsequently, certain areas with a tribal population were selected from 10 districts and declared under the Additional Tribal Sub Plan area.
    Further to this, tribal population was found in a scattered manner in certain areas and these were declared as Modified Area Development Approach (MADA) and mini MADA pockets. The criterion for MADA pocket is a minimum total of 10,000 population with not less than 50% ST population. And in the Mini MADA pocket there should be a total of 5000 population with not less than 50% ST population. There are 43 MADA and 24 Mini MADA pockets in the state.
    About 16.5% of the geographical area of Maharashtra is under the Tribal Sub Plan. During the years 1971 to 1981, the tribal population increased from 7.6% to 9.1 % of the total population, the main tribes being Bhils, Gonds, Mahadeo Kolis, Pawras, Thakurs and Varlis. The tribes are mainly concentrated in the hilly districts of  Dhule, Nandurbar, Jalgaon, Nashik and Thane (Sahyadri region) and the eastern forest districts of Chandrapur, Gadchir-oli, Bhandara, Gondia, Nagpur, and Yavatamal (Gondwan region).

The Focus of the Study
    The study focuses in analysing the concern for the status of women, within the larger context of the status of tribals in Maharashtra. Another sub-focus is to find out the dissimilarities among the 47 tribes and try to raise the relevant questions for further studies. In the larger study we are pursuing the comparison between all the tribal groups in the context of their locations, and the district administration. In this paper we have chosen six dominant tribes and two primitive tribes for comparison. They are Bhils, Gonds, Kokna, Mahadeo-Kolis, Thakur/ Thakar, Warlis, Katkaris, and Kolam. A short profile on them is given below in the context of comparison later.
    Also the data we are using is the benchmark survey carried out by the Tribal Research and Training Institute, Pune in 1996-97.  The analysis is based on mostly the secondary data, supported by some personal observations during our own data collection process. Our own data is yet not electronically processed, but appears to coincide with the statistics presented here.

Short Profile of Selected Tribes
According to Gare, Bhils are the most prominent tribes in India both in number and historical importance.  Bhils are found in Dhule/Nandurbar, Nasik, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar and Aurangabad. They are an ancient tribe classified as belonging to Pulinda or Nishada races. They believe in totemism and have their own language known as Bhil or Bhilori. The Bhils are economically a group of settled agriculturists, socially a patrilineal tribe and traditionally a community of good archers.

Gonds occupy mostly Dandakaranya forest areas bordering Madhya Pradesh and Andhra. They rank third in population among the STs of Maharashtra as per the 1971 census. They are mainly concentrated in Chandrapur, Yavatamal and Nanded districts.  They are divided into 50 sub groups and into 4 sagas or phratries. Each saga is an exogamous section of the tribe.  The Gonds as far as possible work for themselves. They do their own blacksmith and carpentry work. The internal social structure of the Gonds is such that it has its own professional and service groups from amongst the tribe and most of these groups are regarded as sub groups of the Gond tribe.
    Gonds are regarded as the principal tribe of the Dravidian family and speak a Dravidian language.  Therefore, they might have come from the south into the Central Provinces.  Historically they are very significant and there are even tombs of Gond kings. They had to surrender to Maratha armies, and later settled down after the British came. They have retained their distinctive dress habit and customs and the aboriginal tongue called ‘Gondi.’  They are mainly engaged in agriculture and most of them are labourers. They also do wood cutting, bamboo felling and collect minor forest produce.  They grow rice, millets and pulses and their economy is not sound.  They have no restrictions on diet and eat all kinds of flesh like beef, pork snakes, lizards, etc.

Kokna is one of the principal tribes in Maharashtra state and is spread over districts of Thane, Nasik and Dhule.  Although they had their own dialects in the past, at present most of them speak Marathi among themselves or with outsiders.  They were driven away from Konkan towards North during the 1396 -–1408 Famine.  Koknas are considered of higher status by the Thakar, Warli, Mahadeo Koli and Katkari. However, they do not claim the status of  a Kunbi which is included in the ‘backward caste’ status in Maharashtra.  Among the Marathas Kunbi lies lowest in the sub-hierarchy.  Koknas are known as good agriculturists.  They are better educated.

Mahadeo Koli
Mahadeo Koli tribe ranked second as per the Census figures of 1971, in Maharashtra. The tribe is predominantly found in the districts of Nasik, Ahmednagar, Pune and Thane.  They reside in the hilly region and western belts of Pune, Ahmednagar and Nasik. They are patrilocal and polygamy is a common practice. They have exogamous units of families, comprising of 12 family lineage denoted by surnames after totemistic objects.  One of them Popera Mahadeo Koli was made chief of Jawahar in the North Konkan by Bahmani king in 1346 AD. They are agriculturists and agricultural labourers.  They are noted for their militant spirit. They joined the freedom movement during the nationalist struggle in 1940s.  Their agricultural activity is organised in the institution of ‘Padkai’ a seasonal cooperative working group.  They have known the value of education.

They are concentrated in the districts of Thane, Raigad, Pune, Nasik and Ahmednagar. They have a number of exogamous divisions called Kuls. The main occupation of the Thakars is agriculture but their economy is not sound because of the hilly region.  They keep animals for breeding and love them.  The Thakurs live aloof in separate hamlets situated near agricultural fields. Married Thakar women can own an individual property within a joint family.  This property called Avanji is controlled completely by her.

Warlis rank fourth among the scheduled tribes in Maharashtra  by their population as per the 1971 Census. They are spread over districts of Thane, Nasik and Greater Bombay.  Warlis originally lived in northern part of Konkan and were called ‘Varalat’ ie upperlanders. This varalat consists of hilly tracts of Thane and Nasik. They have agriculture and forest labour as their occupation. They now hold inferior lands in the interior, whereas other lands are passed on to money lenders and zamindars, who are non-tribals.  There is a Gujarati influence on their language, since the area is near Surat and also many Parsis are located in that tract of Thane.  They regard themselves socially superior to Bhils, Thakurs and Katkaris.  There are different stories about their origin, one of them being that they are descendents of Rajput settlers and hence we find that many keep Rajput names.  Besides this there are 200 clans or exogamous groups amongst the Warlis.  Warlis do not follow orthodox Hinduism but generally believe in Hindu God and deities.  They are particularly familiar with Ram. They practice cremation unlike other tribes. Warli women have a secondary role in the community. They do not share ancestral property, neither are they part of the community panchayat.

Katkari means the tribe, which makes Kat, i.e. catechu, the thickened juice of the Khaire (catechu).  Katkaris have a nomadic tendency due to poor economic conditions and the nature of their occupation.  They believe that they are descendents of monkeys, which Lord Rama took with him in his expedition against the king Ravan in Lanka.  They appear to be an aboriginal tribe much influenced by Hinduism.  Yet, the chief object of their worship is the Tiger God.
    Katkaris do not have much land and work under forest contractors.  They are the poorest among all the tribes.  They sell firewood and wild honey.  They were also known as ex-criminal tribe.  They are considered lowest among all the tribes in the region and no food is accepted from them.

Their population is quite small and is spread over the districts of Nanded, Chadrapur and Yavatmal, which are bordering Andhra. There is a lot of Dravidian influence on them, including their language. They have names identical with Gond clans.  Their exogamous divisions have been divided into four pharatries. They  are Four Deves, i.e. worship four Gods, Five Deves, Six Deves and Seven Deves. They possess habits of the most primitive character. They do not eat beef but eat pigs, hare, ghorpads, deer, rola etc.
    The principle occupation of Kolam is cultivation.  Traditionally they manufacture baskets and mats from bamboo strips. The percentage of agricultural labourers is found to be very high among them.  They are very poor and have a poor literacy rate.

    According to some anthropologists, women contribute to the working force in a more substantial way in the tribal world. While the ratio between male and female workers in the general population of the country is 5: 1, it is 3: 1 in the tribal population. Among the non-tribal women 11.9 are workers while tribal women have 20.75 as workers. (Sachidananda, 1992)
    The tribal economy is largely confined to the primary sector. About 90% of the women are engaged in agriculture and cultivation labourers.  The economic roles of men and women are sharply divided. In the rural area, hunting is the job of men while collecting fruits is that of women.  The women additionally cook meals, look after children and manage the household.  Exclusively, women do transplanting and harvesting.  They also fetch water and wood for fuel.
    A comparative analysis of the census data shows some important trends. In 1971 women constituted 36% of the main tribal working population in rural areas. In 1991, this rose to 44%. In urban Maharashtra women were 28%, which fell to 24% in 1991. In 1991, 44% of the tribal rural women worked while only 17% worked in urban areas. These figures prove that previously tribal women were part of the subsistence activities and hence they were not enumerated. Now because of pauperisation their proportion among the main tribal workforce is rising, either as agricultural labourers or construction workers, working on Employment Guarantee Works, other construction works or are engaged in other than household industries as is shown in the following table.

Table No.1

Percentage of main tribal women workers out of total main tribal workers Maharashtra

        Source: Census of India, 1991

Table no. 2 explains how more number of women among the tribal women population in Maharashtra as a whole are getting enrolled as agricultural labourers and also cultivators. It is a well known fact that as the male migration takes place the women get recorded as cultivators of the deserted lands, i.e. poor quality of land with poor equipment and no irrigation. Thus rising number of women in the capacity of cultivators is a symptom of pauperisation.

Table no.2

Percentage of women out of total tribal women

        Source: Census of India, 1991

Against this background we would like to analyse the situation of the eight tribes we have selected for our study. Table no.3 clearly brings out that all the eight tribal communities are mostly occupying agriculture and agriculture labour categories of work.  Kokna, Koli Mahadeo and Thakur communities occupied in service category represent only 5.8, 7.14 and 5.3 percent respectively and others are far behind such as Katkaris and Kolams which are primitive tribes, among whom only 84 and 1.67 percent occupy the service category. It shows that their integration in the mainstream is way behind. It also means that unless their main occupations such as agriculture/farming and agriculture labour are given boost they would not be able to elevate themselves to a dignified level of livelihood. It is interesting to note that there is also correlation between the agriculture and service categories. Thus these three communities such as Kokna, Koli Mahadeo, and Thakur who have some representation in service category are also engaged in farming in a marginally larger proportion than the other five communities, such as 72.47, 59.7 and 43.5 respectively. Whereas Katkaris have very small percentage in farming followed by Kolam, such as 11.94 and 34.2. It could be concluded that those who have some settled base as farming are doing a little better than others.

Table no. 3

Percentage of households classified by main occupation.

    Source: Benchmark Survey, TRTI, 1996-97

Table no. 4 explains the respective landholding and irrigation status of these eight communities. Except Kokna, Koli Mahadeo and Thakur all other tribes record on average 40-50 percent landlessness.  Among those who have land, the land holding size is very small and among the landholding families majority falls under the first category of upto 3 hectares. We have chosen three sizes, upto 3 hectares, 3-5 hectares, and 5-10 hectares and found out that again Kokna, Mahadeo Koli and Thakur have proportionately more percentage representation in later two categories, such as 13, 12.4 and 7.6 in the first and 5, 5.5 and 3.5 in the second.  Bhils, Gond and Kolams are comparable with these three in the second category, i.e. 3-5 hectares. They represent 8.8, 11.4 and 17.9 respectively. But they have less representation in the second category of 5-10 hectares.  It is surprising that proportionately more Kolam have landholdings in the category of 3-5 hectares i.e. 17% than any other tribe and still they have remained primitive. Katkaris is another primitive community. The proportion of families holding land among Katkaris is 4.9 in the category of 3-5 hectares and 1.07 in the category of 5-10 hectares. We would be able to see the impact of this lack of holdings on their migration pattern. They are known for working as distressed labourers for wood-coal kilns set up seasonally on the outskirts of Mumbai.
In Thane and Raigad districts the Katkaris are fighting for their traditional leasing rights for Dalhi land plots in the forest area for over 50 years since independence, and the forest department is coming in their way, denying them their food security. (Bokil, 2000, p.2843-2850)  In our discussions one could see the resentment against the three dominant tribes i.e. Kokna, Mahadeo Koli and Thakur, among Katkaris and Warlis on the ground that all the service jobs reserved for STs are appropriated by them, since they started their education drive in an earlier generation. The irrigated landholdings appear to be a rare category among all the tribes, but again in Kokna the proportion is the highest, i.e. 22.7 percent. Next come Bhils’ and Gonds’ landholdings, where 10.9 and 11.9 percent of land is irrigated.

Table no. 4
No of landless & landholder tribal households according to size of land possessed

    Source: Benchmark survey of TRTI, Pune, 1996

Table no. 5 presents the women’s proportion in each category of occupation tribewise. Here it is noticed that there are negligible women among each tribe who are part of the service occupation. Only Kokna women represent a little more than one percent of working women who are in service.  In farming their number is maximum, i.e. 54.4 percent compared to Katkaris who represent only 7.35 percent. Koli Mahadeo and Thakur women too are concentrated proportionately more in agriculture. It is surprising that more Kolam families have recorded landholdings (approx. 27 percent in categories 3-5 and 5-10 hectares) but compared to that less number only 20 percent women have been engaged in farming and more are engaged in agricultural labour (77.33). Agricultural labour is always considered as residual labour, since it is not by choice but by circumstances of not being able to avail any other job, the women flock to this occupation. That is one of the reasons cited for their low wage rate in this occupation. The wage differential between men’s wages and women’s wages in agriculture is caused mainly because men have other options and mobility.

Table no. 5
Occupation of tribal women tribe-wise in percentage

Source: Benchmark survey of TRTI, Pune 1997
It is reported that more than 90 percent of the tribals fall under the BPL. Dr. Jain and Dr. Tribhuvan report (1996, p.33) that as per the benchmark survey carried out in the year 1980-81, 45 % of the general population in the rural areas were living below the poverty line in Maharashtra whereas in the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) area the percentage of the population under BPL is on an average 90.89 percent.  The same authors mention that in 1992 the TRTI carried out a sample Bench Mark Survey and one of the findings is that the economic situation of the tribals has not undergone a major change from what it was in the year 1980-81, although some qualitative improvement in respect of certain communities is found.

Table no.6
Annual income per household from different sources in percentage
Sources of Income in Rupees

Source: Benchmark survey of TRTI, Pune, 1997

Among those, who have improved their status, Mahadeo Kolis and Koknas are notable.  Some other communities like Gond and primitive communities such as Madias have still remained at the same status.
Table no.7 describes the seasonal migration tribewise and also gives us an idea how many persons from each family travel every time.  It appears that seasonal migration in search of agriculture labour or construction work is quite rampant among all the tribes. Also, more than one family member migrates every time, meaning women too are migrant workers and are vulnerable for insecurity of the migrant life. It also appears that more workers migrate for a longer period.  Bhils migrate, mostly to Gujarat for sugarcane cutting. Kokna and Mahadeo Kolis too migrate as agriculture labour in Nasik district where grape orchids and vegetable cultivation provides good opportunities.  This migration might have provided these communities access to cash and have brought some prosperity.  For Katkaris it must be sheer survival need.  The government has refused dalhi lands rights to them and thus they are on the look out for work permanent work.  They also remain as bonded labour with forest contractors.  In fact, migrant labourers usually work as bonded labourers, because the employer or his mukadam/supervisor always gives them cash advance to lure them into jobs and this advance is never cancelled out.

Table no. 7

Number of Persons Migrating Seasonally per Family

Table no. 8 explains the nature of women’s work compared to men in the families. Large number of women come under the category called ‘other work’. The benchmark survey does not analyse what this category means. May be it is a collection of forest produce and raring of goats, poultry etc.  This work must be contributing to the family livelihoods but may not be earning substantial, tangible incomes.  Thus women’s work is very much a part of tribal economy but may not provide them status within the tribal community or in the society at large.  In the service category there are very few women as we noticed earlier but compared to the men in that community, are not faring well.  Bhil, Gond and Kokna women represent 20.3, 15.4 and 15.9 respectively out of total persons occupying the service category.  Among the Kolam as a primitive tribe women represent 14.6 percent of total persons in service, which is encouraging. But others are way behind.  The women take a long time to catch up with men once the forces of modernization start blowing through the community. Unless some special measures are adopted and opportunities are created for them to exercise pull effect, the process of integration would be very slow.

Table no. 8
Male-female percentage of tribal workforce: occupation-wise, tribe-wise

Source:Benchmark survey of TRTI, Pune, 1996

Deforestation and tribal women
    According to Geeta Menon, official policies in India reflect concerns for the needs of the industry rather than the people. Development projects and industrial needs thus result in deforestation. This deforestation has caused an acute shortage of resources for basic needs of the people like firewood, fodder, etc. This bias of the state in favour of the industry results in the deprival of traditional rights of people and threatens their very survival.
    An important feature of forest dwellers is their complete identification with the forest and  the total dependence on it for survival needs like food, fuel, fodder, medicines, housing material, and also social and psychological needs like entertainment and religion.
    Forest-based tribal economy is woman-centred. Women make provision for basic necessities like food, fuel, water. With deforestation, the close bond between the women and the forest is destabilised and is manifested in aspects such as additional workload, reduced food supply, deterioration of health condition and introduction of external values that result in their lower status. Tribals traditionally keep a balance between human and ecological needs and this clearfelling affects all of them, and women more so.
    Even today, the tribals are dependent on the forest, but the forest is dependent on the Forest Department. This dichotomy is the genesis between the interests of tribals and the management of the forests. Careful inspection of the forest land owned by the Forest Department indicates that more than 50 percent of the forest land has very little tree cover. Only 9 to 10 percent of the geographical area in Maharasshtra has some semblance of forest which by interantional standards is very poor and could create many ecological problems in future. Depletion of forest to such an extent has caused serious repercussions on the life style of the tribals forest areas.
    The above information is borne by the fact that in Table no. 6 (Income) very little employment is recorded as a part of forest labour (Department).  The benchmark survey did not even feel it is important to collect information about the income from the forest produce.

Literacy Level Among Tribal Women
    The above mentioned data on women’s participation in service category has direct and one to one correlation with their literary status. As per table no 9.1, in 1971, 86 % of the tribal women were illiterate in urban Maharashtra. Only 6.2 were literate, 7.2 were primary level passed, 0.3 SSC level, and 0.4 above SSC. In rural Maharashtra the percentage of tribal women was as follows; illiterates was 96% with only 2.6 being literates, 1.1 primary level passed, 0.01 SSC level and 0.09 % graduates.
    The 1991 census shows some improvement in the literacy level. The percentage of rural illiterates fell to 83%. The number of literates rose to 7%, primary level 4%, up to SSC level 3%, above SSC 0.15 and graduates 0.04. In urban Maharashtra too, the illiterates went down to 56%, and the literates rose to 10%, primary 12%, upto SSC 16%, above SSC 1.8 and graduates 0.9%.
    The National Family Household Survey (NFHS) Maharashtra, 1998-99 also corroborates this by saying that illiteracy is highest among ST women – about 70 % while it is 39 to 48 % among other castes.  Among other backward classes it is 38% and among Scheduled Castes 48%. The NFHS data further says that a very high proportion of tribal women in Maharashtra (54%) isn’t regularly exposed to any media, as compared to 26% for SC women. Also, about 6.5  % of the ST women in the state are not involved in any decision making as compared to 5.4 % for SC. While 87% decided what to cook, only 46% decided on health care. Only 46% went to the market without permission as compared to 36% for other backward classes.  Only 53% of the women had access to money, while 68% of the SC women do. Son preference was also strong among ST women especially those working on family farms or in family business.

Table No. 9.1

Literacy rate of ST population in Maharashtra
All areas

    Source: Census of India, 1991

The data in the table no.9.1 shows that the overall literacy rate among tribals rose four times during the period from 1961 to 1991, while among men it increased three times and among women it increased 10 times over. Because of very low base in the beginning the initial rate always sounds very encouraging. However, compared to rural areas the female literacy rate in the urban areas shows a big jump during the same period, i.e. from .5 to 43.2, which indicates that urban life has some impetuses for women to acquire modern indicators.

Table no. 9.2                        Table No. 9.3
Rural Areas: Literacy Rate                Urban areas: Literacy Rate

Source: Census of India, 1991                Source: Census of India, 1991

Since 1975 the government has introduced Ashram schools for tribal children in Maharashtra.  A report on the study conducted in 16 Ashram schools in Amravati, Dhule, Gadchiroli and Thane appeared in the Tribal Research Bulletin. It says that in Maharashtra there are 721 Ashram schools for tribals out of which 409 are run by the Government and 312 by NGOs. Enrolment of students was 2.48 lakh students (1.29 lakh boys and 0.65 lakh girls). Data relating to enrolment shows 1868 boys and 681 girls i.e. 3: 1 ratio in NGO schools and 2:1 ratio in Government schools. Decrease in enrolment of girls is attributed to poor accommodation and infrastructural facilities in NGO schools. (Tribal Research Bulletin, 1999)
    The table no. 10 shows that Gond, Kokna, Koli Mahadeo have male literacy beyond 50% and women literacy above 30%.  Kolam women too have a reasonably good rate compared to Katakaris who fall in the same category of primitive tribe (27.8:10.79). It is also, disturbing because the Katkaris are living very close to Mumbai. Women in other tribes are not so fortunate and have literacy rate below 20%. However, the strong positive correlation is noticed between male and female literacy.
    Having degree in Arts and Science or in engineering is a rare phenomenon among all the tribes and not much comparison could be made except to take note that Kokna tribe has a little better presence in the field of engineering and medicine. Upto 7th and 10th standard Gond, Kokna, and Koli Mahadeo women are doing better compared to other tribes as well as compared to their own men. It can be said that the third generation women after independence are doing better, which seems to be a common phenomenon among all the tribals. The setting up of the Tribal Sub Plan and ITDP since the Vth plan (1975-79) and increasing the budget for the tribals seem to have definite impact on the rate of development among tribals although it cannot be said to be very satisfactory.
    Table no. 11 also proves the point that the current generation of female children appears to be lucky since in first two age groups , i.e. 3-6 and 7-11 it is noticed that the girls are almost 50% of the total school going population, among all the tribes. Katkari girls are less in proportion such as 41.7% in the age group of 7-11.  However, in the age group of 12-16 the percentage of female children suddenly drops, and it settles down to an average 35%. Katkari girls fall behind other tribes in this category also.  They fare only 28.2%.  Gond, Kokna and Kolam are doing better in this category.  Mahadeo Koli’s initial momentum is not sustained and may be they are following a typical course in the status of women that once upward mobility is achieved for the community, the women are relegated behind the four walls to express that the family does not have to send their women out to work anymore.

Table no. 10
Tribe-wise educational level (in percentage)
M= Men & F= Female

Source: Benchmark survey of TRTI, Pune, 1997

Table no. 11
Classification of school-going children between 3 to 16 years

    Source:Benchmark survey of TRTI,Pune, 1997

    One of the important indicators for the status of women in any community is the sex ratio. At the deeper level, in fact the ratio has to be scrutinized in various age groups, taking into account the life cycle experiences of women. Here in table no 12 it is found sufficient to look at these two sex ratios; one for the age group of children 0-6 and general sex ratio considering the total population.

Tale no. 12
Sex Ratio of tribal women

    Source: Benchmark survey of TRTI, Pune, 1996

One of the reasons for more scrutiny of the sex ratio in the age group 0-6 is that the recent study by Arun Bhatia and Roin Tribhuvan(2002, p:8) of the malnutrition related deaths of the tribal children in Nandurbar district, reports that there is a gender difference observed in the level of malnourishment of siblings of the dead children. Out of 136  children (siblings of the dead) they investigated, 64 were male and 72 were female. In the grades I &II level of malnutrition, male were 28 and the female were 34, while in the grades III & IV number of male was 20 and the female was 22. Thus the discrimination against the female children is penetrating among the tribals too.  It was the Bhil community under investigation in which the number of normal children was the same for both male and female.

    Health and nutritional problems among tribals, especially women, are more because they live in isolation and in remote areas and also in a poverty situation. It has been identified by many that several factors are responsible for the high morbidity among tribal women.  The marriage at early age and the pregnancies thereafter bearing on an average 6 children out of which 3.5 is the rate of survival. Because of the early pregnancies low weight babies are very common.  According to SL Kate (Kate, 2000), because of inadequate health infrastructure there is conspicuous lack of maternal and child health services. The fertility rate is high as also the infant and maternal mortality rate.

Table no 13
Health Status of Tribal Population in Maharashtra

Source: SL Kate, Immunohaematology Bulletin, Oct, 2000

The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data  further says that ST women in Maharashtra have a relatively poor diet that is deficient in milk or curds, fruits, eggs, chicken, meat or fish. SC women are more likely to have the above diet at least once a week. About 64.2 % tribal women have anaemia as compared to 48% for SC and other classes, 43% ST women have mild anaemia as compared to 31% for SC and other backward classes, 16 % have moderate anaemia as compared to 14% for other classes and 3.9 have severe anaemia as compared to 2% for other backward classes. The BMI or body mass index (weight in kg divided by height in metres squared) is also much lower among ST women in Maharashtra – about 18.9 while that of other women is 20. Dr Vidyut Joshi has written about the health and nutritional hazards among tribals in Dhule and Amravati. They are

- Malnutrition among women and children
- Lack of adopting scientific methods of contraception and spacing
- Poor dietary intake
- Ignorance about sanitation and hygiene
- Lack of pure drinking water
- Illiteracy
Meeta and Rajivlochan in an article in EPW (Economic and Political Weekly) in 1997 have written about heavy child mortality in the hilly, tribal areas of Vidarbha. During the rains, entire villages were cut off. Absence of health facilities, heavy rain, dwindling food stocks, lack of safe drinking water led to a dangerous situation. And the first to succumb were children usually below 6 years and in the grade 4 category of malnutrition. Apparently this was happening since 1989, but this was widely reported in 1993 and it was discovered that the Government had done nothing about it. Local newspapers reported about the death of tribal children in the Vidarbha region due to malnutrition and consequent illness. About 160 deaths were reported in the Amravati region.
     Dr. Robin Tribhuwan has also written about the child deaths in Melghat, Amravati district in Tribal Research Bulletin. He has referred to problems of infant mortality and malnutrition in Dharni and Chikaldhara tehsils.  Low levels of literacy among women and early age at marriage leading to early pregnancies and large family size resulted in poor nutritional status of women giving rise to still births, premature births and low birth weight babies and anaemic children.
    In an another landmark report, a recent study mentioned above tried to find out the real reasons behind the deaths of children in the age group of 0-6, in  Nandurbar district, among the Bhils and Powras Arun Bhatia and Robin Tribhuvan using a very interesting methodology. (Bhatia and Tribhuvan, 2002)  They investigated the possiblity of malnutrition among the children of the same family, i.e. the siblings, by weighing and using the body mass index and other criteria to evaluate the status of nutrition of these surviving children. This way they could go beyond the symptoms reported by the medical personnel as the causes of deaths.
    They also found out whether the government had not done enough to provide the Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS) for these families in the near by area, so that their livelihood is assured. The provision of ration shop nearby and guaranteed supply of foodgrains all the year round were some other factors influencing the malnutrition. The lack of availability of PHC (Primary Health Centre) or sub-centre to treat the child at a reasonable distance is an important factor, as noted by many others.
Another shocking study reinforcing the neglect of tribal poverty and its impact on women and children was published very recently by Dr. Abhay  Bang. Through his primary data collection process he came to the conclusion that the government medical machinery has failed to collect real statistics about the death rates among still born, new born, infant and children in the age group of 0-5. He calls them ‘fall of tender leaves.’  He has compared the death rates of these four categories of children among tribals, rural areas and slums in urban areas in Maharashtra. Surprisingly, the death rate of stillborn children among the tribals is low compared to other two areas, rural and city slums such as 27.1, 34.6 and 37.9 respectively. But later among infants (0-1) and Children (0-5), the death rates for the same categories acquire inverse proportion, i.e. 72.7 for tribals, 66.0 for rural, and 68.2 for city slums. The figures for later (0-5) are 92.2 for tribals, 76 for rural and 86.6 for the city slums. This statistics proves the fact that the tribal children become vulnerable to under-nutrition and malnutrition, because of poverty after the age of one year, i.e. weaning period.  This data questions the often cited cause for infant and child mortality, such as early marriage and early child-birth being primary responsible factor.   
    The NFHS report also mentions prevalence of reproductive health problems among 44% ST women as compared to 38% among women not belonging to SC/ST. The average age at birth was also lower among ST women. About 18 while it was 19 for other backward classes. And the birth interval is 2.4 years for these women. ST women were also less likely to have seen or heard a family planning message through the media (39%) than other women (62 to 66%) and also unlikely to have discussed family planning (17%) than other women (20 to 23%).

Violence against women
    Witch-hunting is seen to occur typically among tribal women. There are references of witch-hunting against many adivasi women in Thane district every year. This is called the bhutali phenomenon and is not very prevalent in other districts of Maharashtra.  A woman suspected of being a witch is made to stand on trial. And when found guilty by the community, she is stoned to death.
    Our own observation is that the Bhutali incident continues abated despite the propaganda waged against it.  There is a need to collect systematic information on this phenomenon.  We checked at the PHC at Molgi, in Akkalkuwa taluka and the doctor admitted that the cases of severe beating come to them at least four five times a year. These are not usual cases of domestic violence but must be cases of witchhunts.  The families do not admit to it, however, in Molgi, another case of an older woman being cast as a Bhutali was going on and the woman had gone to the court.  We could not meet her. She was a sister of the member of a Panchayat Samiti and hence had courage to fight it out.
    Although these incidents occur throughout the year, they increase during the monsoon. Usually witch-hunting follows a negative event; a prolonged illness, an inexplicable death, an epidemic, or a crop failure. Witch hunting is seen as a response to conditions of starvation, malnutrition, inaccessible health care, increased infection and growing deforestation.  The villagers find a scapegoat in the form of a witch. This is seen as a manifestation of male dominance against women. (Lingam, 1998, Status of Women in Maharashtra)
    The NFHS data also says that 20% of the ST women have been beaten up since the age of 18, the figure being 18% for the general population. Not bearing children, especially sons, were important reasons for violence against women. While 10% of the women had been beaten many times, 14.5 % had been beaten a few times and 19.2% only once. 56.4% had never been beaten.

Tentative Observations and Recommendations
Livelihood opportunities
It appears that there are dissimilarities between different groups and they do get expressed through the status of women. Of course the differences are not so significant that the principle of creamy layer should be applied here. However, we noticed during our data collection that Mahadeo Koli and Kokna women dominate in the area of ANM and aganwadi teachers.  In Gond area, SC women were found as aganwadi workers at many places.  When a post needs to be filled, not many tribal women from that locality would have been eligible at that point of time.  Koli Mahadeo and Kokna women are willing to migrate and thus get these jobs.  Jain and Tribhuvan warns about the phenomenon of pseudo-tribalisation and the benefits such as reserve post allotted  to the tribals being cornered by non-tribals by purchasing the false certificate of being tribals. In one of the public sector company out of 1000 reserved seats more than 300 were occupied by non-tribals, based on these false certificates.
    We tried to trace the causes of these differences among the eight tribal communities by looking at their occupations, landholding pattern, the migration pattern and the status of gender. The correlation is not found very positive, between the landholding sizes and the status of women in terms of literacy, particularly in the Kolam community. They are known as a primitive community having low development indicators, but the landholding wise they are much better off. Mahadeo Koli and Kokna have emerged as the most developed tribes, who have reasonable land. The status of women in those communities appears to be a little bit better, in terms of literacy. Settled agriculture and increased productivity would be the most desirable development strategy for them.
    Seasonal migration is another indicator, which needs to be studied further. Whether the migration offers substantial income to the family, or is it the distressed activity is the important question. Seasonal migration is known to encourage bondedness, since an advance is paid in a form of a loan and is returned with a heavy interest rate.  This is very common for sugarcane cutters.  But without the advance, labourers go to work in grape or vegetable farms in the Nashik district, to earn some cash income.  This detracts them from nurturing their own land and demanding the land development programmes.
    Taking in to account the emerging dissimilarities, it would be desirable that the government should design a more specific tribe-focused approach.  Especially in the case of Katkaris, it was noticed during our data collection, that in a village panchayat out of Thakur, Warlis and Katkari padas the benefits of housing schemes were accrued to Thakurs and to some extent to Warlis, but Katkaries have remained untouched by the scheme. The tribes with smaller population are not likely to get political representation and hence they would remain deprived for a long period to come unless effective intervention is achieved. Further study is needed to prove this hypothesis. In a caste riddled society as India, the tribes are structured in a hierarchical manner, which we noticed also in the Ashramshalas.  Katkari women drink liquor and women of Koli Mahadeo and Kokna do not.  These habits may also have an impact on the status of women, which could be compared in different communities.
    The major recommendation could be to make the tribals to avail irrigation facilities, through either construction of wells or construction of small tanks and bandharas. Tribals practice mostly traditional agriculture, but they do not have many cattle. Thus organic manure is not available to them. The training in organic agriculture would help them in the long run.  Along with it they should also plant herbal trees and fruit trees by offering buy-back facilities. Forest department could use the humanpower resource of tribals and undertake construction of trenches cum bandharas, leveling of land, afforestation etc., in the catchment area. Anand Kapoor proved the point to the EGS officers in the Bhima Shankar area where Dimbhe dam is located, that if the earth treatment work is done in the upper ridge area of the catchment, the siltation rate of the dam is reduced and the volume of oimpounded water increases. Since the area is rocky with hard strata, the cost of the earth treatment is more than in the command area.  But it provides two benefits; the recovery of land to the tribals and more water to the farmers in command area.
The collection of forest produce is also an important activity, which is encouraged by the government by setting up Forest Development Corporation. However our observation in Gadchiroli was that the government rates were much lower for tendu patta collection (required for bidis) than those offered by the traders. It was also noticed that the government in the forest area has planned no tendu plantation on a large scale and hence that resource was becoming scarce in the long run. The complaint by officials was that the tribals did not allow the plants to grow and start plucking leaves when they were young. Or put them on fire to get new young leaves, required for bidi patta and thus the plantation gets stunted. But it was noticed that many women were involved in collection and were able to get money in their hands. They could be persuaded to undertake these plantations for long-term sustained interest.
    In case of Katkaris, the Bokil’s recommendations are strongly appreciated and we would like to reinforce them. In his article in EPW, Bokil has described the history of dalhi cultivation in Raigad district mainly observed by Katkaris and sometimes also Warlis.E3 Dalhi refers to the mode of preparing the ‘warkas’ land (land not suitable for sedentary cultivation), which is mostly slash and burn cultivation, not of very big trees but shrubs and small growth.  Under this cultivation mostly millet is grown and the land is treated as communal land. Bokil also cites the gazetteer saying that the Dalhi assignments were granted for weaning these tribals away from their nomadic lifestyle and settleing them to a permanent mode of life, by providing them with a suitable means of livelihood in the form of lands for cultivation. These lands have come under dispute between the tribals, mostly Katkaris and the Forest Department in recent years and a strong movement has emerged. One of the important reasons is that due to the government encouragement for tourism and entertainment industry in this area, which is close to Mumbai, the spectacular land market has emerged in this region with the connivance of the government officials and the politicians. The government has passed a special resolution for allowing the projects initiated by the non-tribals to purchase tribal lands, provided the project takes responsibility to rehabilitate the affected tribals by way of providing employment in the project of allotment of shops.
    Bokil feels that bestowal of land rights is the only strategy to prevent the physical and cultural extinction of the tribal communities  in the face of modernisation and evil designs of the vested interests. Bokil feels that in the new paradigm, where Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) has charted out their development plan with a top to bottom approach, tribal lands have lost their identity, not to mention sanctity.  It has also superceded all the local self-government institutions in the area. Bokil feels also that dalhi lands have a strong common property resource aspect, which is ecologically sound.  Dalhi lands present an ideal option for conservation and augmentation of natural resources, through watershed development and other activities. Bokil strogly argues that instead of wasting precious resources on non-viable, peripheral and irrelevant schems ITDP might as well develop the dalhi lands which would contribute to the core production process. We would like to add that this process would also help tribal women, if special pattas are allotted to them. Prayas Resource and Livelihood groups from Pune has planned to educate tribal women in intensive cultivation of small plots surrounding their huts and vastees with some novel methods of organic agriculture.

Health Status
Health status of tribal women and children especially, is seen as the most critical indicator and needs very focused attention to transform the statistics of this indicator. Among many other factors we feel that early marriage and early pregnancies could be tackled on a war footing.  It needs to be explored whether earning a bride price could be a motive for the parents to marry the daughter early.  Among non-tribals, under the fear of dowry the poor parents offer their daughters in early marriage.  If she is well educated,  only educated boys are willing to marry her but with a lure of a big dowry.  So far bride price was considered as an indicator of value attributed to women’s work.  But if the bride price is earned by the parents/father, then his ownership right over the daughter nullifies her status as an independent woman.  Through another study made by us during 2002, we realised that the bride price was increasing in the tribal community, and even among the urban tribal inhabitants, the dowry practice had penetrated.  Dowry was reported by 23 percent households, among whom Kolam women were prominent. In other communities the bride price was getting commercialised. More focused research is needed urgently on this aspect so that educational campaigns could be organised focusing on these messages.
    Malnutrition has very close links to poverty.  The elimination of poverty has to be the most important agenda not only by providing opportunities to earn money, but also by making their subsistence agriculture more productive. Along with these very basic measures, availability of ration shops, grain banks would ensure food security to women and children.  Malnutrition incidents have occurred among Korkus in Amaravati district, among Bhils and Powras in Nadurbar and Warlis and Katkaris in Thane. Thus it is possible to focus attention on these areas.
    The benchmark survey did not provide health data tribe-wise and hence it was not possible to compare the health status of women and girl children among different tribes. We found out only one recent study in Nandurbar district regarding the nutritional status of girl and boys, siblings of the dead children between 0-6 age group in one pocket. The study proves that despite the record of many other apparent reasons created by the health department personnel, those reasons could be symptoms caused by the basic fact of malnutrition. The study also mentions that the number of girls in the category of malnutrition was a little higher.  Nandurbar is the habitat of Bhil communitiy. In future, more attention should be provided to this gender aspect of malnutrition. As the tribals are coming under the purview of modernisation, the transition from traditional practices to mainstream practices are expected, such as from bride price to dowry and it may have consequences in terms of sacrifice of female children in the context of male preference.
    Regarding the health care facility, which is the most vital resource, Jain and Tribhuvan have given many concrete suggestions, which we would like to reiterate.E4  One of the important observations made by many is that there is insufficient number of health care personnel available to tribals for either education or providing health care services.  They pointed out in their case study of Molgi and Kathi Primary Health Centres, that out of total posts only 70 percent posts were filled. However, most of them live at the Tahsil palces, which are about 20-25 k.m.away.  Most of the staff frequently visit their native places and remain absent. Their main suggestion is that some very good incentive scheme needs to be prepared so that they carry out their work diligently.  It has to be appreciated that the density of the tribal population is very low and the area is inaccessible.  Thus distance criteria needs to be applied while taking the decision about establishing the PHCs.  More vehicles and mobile clinics are some of the facilities which could be thought of.  In order to encourage the medical staff, monetary incentive such as additional emoluments, which is equivalent to the person’s basic salary or seniority such as two years of service in the tribal areas should be equated with four years of service in other areas.  It needs to be also seen that the period of posting should not be more than three years, because living in these areas is like cut off from the rest of the world. We would also like to suggest that the government should also consider giving special allowance for keeping the children in hostels in some urban area for their education. In Africa they have done it for those who work in Safari areas.

Education Status
Ashramshalas may be expanded in numbers and in quality. The teachers not coming to teach in the Zilha Parishad schools because of the distance is a common complaint. The Vastee School concept, where the 12th standard educated boy or girl from the same village/locality is identified and appointed as a teacher seems to be working very well in the past few years. These persons are accountable to the gram panchayat, and the continuity of their job depends upon their approval. This is likely to contribute to the education of tribal children and the girls especially in the long term.

Cultural Practices
We could not obtain data on the different rate of transformation of cultural practices among these tribal communities, through this benchmark survey. Three practices need to be checked in the long term: increase in bride price, liquor consumption and the protest against it, and the Bhutali (witchhunt) phenomenon.  Our observations are that the bride price rates are increasing very fast, representing the penetration of commercial influences.  The range is very wide from Rs. 50 among Katkaris to Rs. 2000 in Thakurs and Mahadeo Kolis.  Also, the gifts which were in kind earlier such as paddy and liquor are being slowly translated into cash.  In the case of liquor, it used to be the local manufacturing of Mahua liquor, which has given way to the outside manufactured liquor sold in the nearby bazar centre.  Women drink mainly on festival occasions, but men have started drinking recklessly.  Bhutali phenomenon is talked abstractly, but nobody vouches for any specific instance known to that person.  As mentioned earlier, it has to be a special study carried out at all the PHCs, where battered women are likely to go for treatment.
    Participation of women in Panchayat Raj institutions is another indicator, which could not be studied in the absence of data related to different tribes.  It is a vital indicator to determine the status of women among different tribes, and for comparison.
    On the whole, the recommendation could be that we need to have a more tribe-focused approach in the development, which is sustainable.  Instead of planning for the development, which is urbanised and envisaging that the tribals could be integrated in the new development projects of urban areas, we need to adopt a perspective which is more realistic and feasible. Allowing the tribals to settle down in their own surroundings with better agricultural practices and endowing them with powers for self-rule over their natural resources sounds the most humanitarian concept.  However, it needs to be seen that self-rule is informed by gender concerns, which may lose its edge as identity politics starts gaining ground.