Government has initiated efforts for the protection of the fast-depleting Shom Pen primitive tribe in the Nicobar islands and proposed granting it the status of “unique human heritage” of the country.

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which is working on a draft policy in this regard, has proposed to strenghten the provisions of Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation, 1956 by an amendment.

The policy proposes restrictions on the “outside intervention in the life and culture” of the Shom Pen tribe and inclusion of a provision in the 1956 Regulation to provide “deterrent punishment” to persons entering the Shom Pen reserve and buffer areas without a “tribal pass“.

“Entry restrictions on the lines of Lakshadweep and North-East should be legally introduced and enforced,” the draft policy proposes.

The policy also proposes building up of a “non-intrusive database” on each family of the tribe at Nicobar as the “first intervention” to ensure that tribe members grow and survive in good health.

Shom Pen is one of the “most isolated and poorly understood” contemporary hunter and gatherer tribe that inhabits the southernmost island of the Nicobar Archipelago.

They live in about 12 habitations made of bamboo and leaf thatch.

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