• The Sentinelese, a negrito tribe who live on the North Sentinel Island of the Andamans, have not faced incursions and remain hostile to outsiders.
  • The inhabitants are connected to the Jarawa on the basis of physical, as well as linguistic similarities.
  • Some researchers argue that the Sentinelese have been mostly left alone even from colonial times, unlike other tribes such as the Onges, Jarawas and Great Andamanese, because the land they occupy has little commercial attraction.
  • In 1991 their head count was put at 23. Census 2001 counted 39 inhabitants.
  • The Govt. of India issued the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation, 1956 to declare the traditional areas occupied by the tribes as reserves, and prohibited entry of all persons except those with authorization.
  • Photographing or filming the tribe members is also an offence.
  • The rules were amended later to enhance penalties. But restricted area permits were relaxed for some islands recently.

Constitutional provisions for tribes

  • Reservation in educational institution has been provided in Article 15(4) while reservation in posts and services has been provided in Article 16(4), 16(4A) and 16(4B) of the Constitution.
  • Article 23 which prohibits traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar forms of forced labour has a special significance for Scheduled Tribes. In pursuance of this Article, Parliament has enacted the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976.
  • Article 24 prohibits employment of Children below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or in any other hazards activity is also significant for Scheduled Tribes as a substantial portion of child labour engaged in these jobs belong to Scheduled Tribes.
  • Article 46 of the Constitution provides that the State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the society and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
  • Article 243D provides reservation of Seats for Scheduled Tribes in Panchayats.
  • Article 330 provides reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People.

Related acts and policies

  • Forest Rights Act – 2006: The Act grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused by the forest laws. Rights under the Act are:
    • Title rights – i.e. ownership to land that is being farmed by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares; ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family
    • Use rights – to minor forest produce (also including ownership), to grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, etc.
    • Relief and development rights – to rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement; and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection.
    • Forest management rights – to protect forests and wildlife.
  • Protection of Civil Rights Act
    • Act to prescribe punishment for the [preaching and practice of – “Untouchability”] for the enforcement of any disability arising therefrom for matters connected therewith.
  • SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
    • Act to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, to provide for Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of such offences and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the scheduled Areas) Act, 1996
    • Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 or PESA is a law enacted by the Government of India to cover the “Scheduled areas”, which are not covered in the 73rd amendment or Panchayati Raj Act of the Indian Constitution. “Scheduled Areas” means the Scheduled Areas as referred to in Clause (1) of Article 244of the Constitution. It provides that a state legislation on panchayats in the scheduled area should take care of the customs, religious practices and traditional management practices of community resources

PVTG and related developments

  • Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) are more vulnerable among the tribal groups. Due to this factor, more developed and assertive tribal groups take a major chunk of the tribal development funds, because of which PVTGs need more funds directed for their development.
  • In this context, in 1975, the Government of India initiated to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups as a separate category called PVTGs and declared 52 such groups, while in 1993 an additional 23 groups were added to the category, making it a total of 75 PVTGs.
  • In 1973, the Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category, who are less developed among the tribal groups. PVTGs have some basic characteristics:
    • mostly homogenous,
    • small population
    • relatively physically isolated
    • social institutes cast in a simple mould
    • absence of written language
    • relatively simple technology
    • slower rate of change

Issues of PVTG in Andaman and Nicobar

There are five PVTGs in the Andaman islands such as;

  • Great Andamanese
    • declining population: The growth of PVTGs’ population is either stagnating or declining, compared to the general population growth, particularly in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands where the declining rate is very high. Eg:- In 1858, the Great Andamanese were estimated at nearly 3500, But today, just 53 survive.
    • Health and diseases: They are vulnerable to communicable diseases besides unhealthy drinking habits, acquired after contact with the non-tribal, urban, dominant and advanced communities.
  • Jarawas
    • The principal threat to the Jarawa’s existence comes from encroachment onto their land, which was sparked by the building of a highway through their forest in the 1970s.
    • Although India’s Supreme Court in 2002 ordered that the highway through the Jarawa’s reserve should be closed, it remains open – and tourists use it for ‘human safaris’ to the Jarawa. The tourists treat the Jarawa like animals in a safari park.
    • Poachers enter the Jarawa’s forest and steal the animals the tribe relies on for their survival. They have also introduced alcohol and marijuana and are known to sexually abuse Jarawa women.
    • They remain vulnerable to outside diseases to which they have little or no immunity.
  • Sentinelese
    • Their extreme isolation makes them very vulnerable to diseases to which they have no immunity, meaning contact would almost certainly have tragic consequences for them.
    • illegal poaching in their waters
    • People are trying to make a contact with them
  • Onges
    • They are a semi-nomadic tribe and fully dependent on the food provided by nature. They have now experienced the impact of outsiders, as efforts at befriending them have proved successful. They have been provided with pucca houses, food, clothes, medicine etc. by the administration.
  • Shom Pens.
    • Land encroachment: A major influx of population started in 1969 with the settlement of several hundred ex-servicemen from the mainland.
  • Related schemes

    • Scheme of “Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)”
      • Under the scheme, Conservation-cum-Development (CCD)/Annual Plans are to be prepared by each State/UT for their PVTGs based on their need assessment, which are then appraised and approved by the Project Appraisal Committee of the Ministry. Activities for development of PVTGs are undertaken in Sectors of Education, Health, Livelihood and Skill Development , Agricultural Development , Housing Habitat, Conservation of Culture etc.
    • Restricted Area Permit (RAP) regime : RAP regime was notified under the Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963.
      • Under it, foreign nationals are not normally allowed to visit protected or restricted area unless Government is satisfied that there are extra-ordinary reasons to justify their visit.

    Probable solutions

    • Along with the Census, a proper survey should be conducted to comprehensively capture the data on PVTGs population enumeration, health status, nutritional level, education, vulnerabilities etc. This would help implement welfare measures better
    • Of the 75 PVTGs, those groups whose population is declining should be clearly identified and survival strategy should be devised
    • PVTGs threatened with relocation of wildlife areas or development projects should be identified and actionable strategies should be devised to prevent the same
    • It is important to recognise the innate connection between PVTGs and their lands and habitats. Therefore, a rights-based approach for development of PVTGs should be adopted.

    Practice question

    In the light of recent developments with the Sentinelese, do you think that the Tribal Panch Sheel is valid to date? (200 words).