The Baiga tribe, a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) in Chhattisgarh, has been granted habitat rights under the Forest Rights Act 2006, exactly a month after the Kamar tribe, another PVTG, was given the same rights on World Tribal Day.
Every year 9 August is observed as the International Day of Indigenous People or World Tribal Day. Indigenous people are also popularly called as tribal people. The day is observed to raise awareness about the contribution of the Indigenous people and protect their rights.
The theme for International Day Of World's Indigenous People 2023 was 'Indigenous Youth as Agents of Change for Self-determination'.
What are Habitat Rights?
The term habitat is defined under Section 2(h) of the Forest Rights Act as the areas traditionally inhabited by PVTGs and pre-agricultural communities, including their customary habitat and other habitats with community rights in reserved, protected, and other types of forests.
- In April 2015, the Indian government and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs issued a directive recognizing the right of community for habitat and habitation over customary territories used by PVTGs. This includes territories used for habitation, livelihood, social, economic, spiritual, sacred, religious, and other purposes.
The significance of habitat rights includes:
- They are documenting the traditional rights and mechanisms of the community related to their distinct social systems and culture.
- Safeguarding and promoting traditional livelihood and ecological knowledge passed down through generations.
- They are converging different government schemes and initiatives from various departments to empower PVTG communities to develop their habitats.
- To promote a sense of identity and ownership and improve participatory area development through governmental support.
PVTGs in Chhattisgarh
Chhattisgarh state has identified and listed seven groups under the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) category.
- These include Abujhmadia, Baiga, Birhor, Kamars, and Pahadi Korwas, which are recognized by the central government, along with two communities, Bhunjia and Pandos, declared by the state government.
About Baiga Tribe
The Baiga community primarily resides in Rajnandgaon, Kawardha, Mungeli, Gaurela-Pendra-Marwahi (GPM), Manendragarh-Bharatpur-Chirmiri, Bilaspur districts, as well as adjacent districts of Madhya Pradesh.
Importance of Habitat Rights for Baiga Community
- The habitat of the Baiga community will be accomplished by consolidating and integrating the sub-habitat areas in these districts of the two states.
- The habitat rights provision is specifically meant for PVTGs in India. It has been granted to 19 villages/para/tola of the Baiga tribe community in the Gaurela block of the Gaurela-Pendra-Marwahi (GPM) district.
- This decision will benefit women's customary practices around natural resources, livelihood, culture, and traditions.
- The habitat rights recognition provides the Baiga tribe with the rights over the customary territory of habitation in 19 villages of GPM, along with socio-cultural practices, economic and livelihood means, intellectual knowledge of biodiversity and ecology, traditional knowledge of the use of natural resources, as well as protection and conservation of their natural and cultural heritage.
In 1973, the Dhebar Commission established Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a distinct category within the tribal groups. These PTGs were considered less developed than other tribal groups.
The Government of India later renamed PTGs as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in 2006.
PVTGs share some basic characteristics, such as being mostly homogeneous with a small population. They are also often physically isolated, with social institutions cast in a simple mold, lack a written language, have relatively simple technology, and a slower rate of change.
The Indian government created a separate category called PVTGs in 1975 to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups.
Initially, 52 groups were declared, and in 1993 an additional 23 groups were added. This made a total of 75 PVTGs out of 705 Scheduled Tribes, spread over 17 states and one Union Territory, according to the 2011 census.
- The identification criteria for PVTGs include a pre-agricultural level of technology, low levels of literacy, economic backwardness, and a declining or stagnant population.
Tribal population in India
- 10.42 crore Indians belong to the Scheduled Tribes (STs), out of which 1.04 crores reside in urban areas.
- Approximately 8.9% of the population in the country are STs.
- The sex ratio among Scheduled Tribes is 990 females per 1,000 males, which represents a significant increase from 978 in the 2001 Census.
- Madhya Pradesh has the highest Scheduled Tribe population at 14.7%, while Meghalaya has the lowest at 2.5%.
- Bhil is the largest tribe in India.
- Article 46 of the Indian Constitution mandates the State to safeguard and promote the economic and educational interests of the vulnerable sections of society, particularly the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- Article 243D mandates the reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in Panchayats.
- Article 330 reserves seats in the House of the People for Scheduled Tribes.
- Article 332 provides reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States.
- Article 338A provides a National Commission for Scheduled Tribe in India.