What does a special package mean for Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups? | Explained

Where do the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups live in India? What is their population? Why is so little known about them? When was the last count done? How is the Pradhan Mantri-Janjati Adivasi Nyaya Maha Abhiyan (PM-JANMAN) scheme expected to benefit PVTGs?

December 10, 2023 02:40 am | Updated 09:42 am IST

Not enough data: The Khond tribals, who are part of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups, cultivate land at Kothaveedhi village, Anakapalli district in Andhra Pradesh. 

Not enough data: The Khond tribals, who are part of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups, cultivate land at Kothaveedhi village, Anakapalli district in Andhra Pradesh.  | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The story so far: On December 6, the Tribal Affairs Ministry told the Rajya Sabha that the population of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) was not in decline, citing information provided by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India (ORGI). This was in variance with the State-wise Census data provided by the Ministry to a Parliamentary panel last year showing that the numbers of these tribal groups fell almost 40% in at least nine States and Union Territories in the first decade of this century.

Who are the PVTGs?

Initially known as Primitive Tribal Groups, the PVTGs are defined by the government as tribal communities that show either a declining or stagnant population, use of pre-agrarian technology, economic backwardness, low literacy etc. They are found to be living in some of the remotest and most inaccessible areas in the country. There are 75 such communities which are spread over 18 States and Union Territories, according to government figures. A book, The Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups in India: Privileges and Predicaments, published by the Anthropological Survey of India in 2016 and edited by K.K. Misra and others, says the highest number of PVTGs are found in Odisha (15), followed by Andhra Pradesh (12), Bihar and Jharkhand (9), Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (7), Tamil Nadu (6) and Kerala and Gujarat (5 each). The rest, the writers said, are scattered in Maharashtra and West Bengal (3 each), Karnataka and Uttarakhand (2 each), and one each in Rajasthan, Tripura and Manipur. All the four tribal groups in the Andaman, and one in Nicobar Islands, are recognised as PVTGs. The last available Census that counted all 75 communities was from 2001, which put their total number around 27.6 lakh.

In the Introduction, Misra and Suresh Patil write that one of the reports of the Government of India reveal that most of these groups were small in number, had not attained any significant level of social and economic progress, and inhabited remote localities with poor infrastructure and administrative support, thus becoming “the most vulnerable sections” among the Scheduled Tribes, needing special attention.

What does the PM-JANMAN aim to do?

The Cabinet recently approved the ₹24,000 crore Pradhan Mantri-Janjati Adivasi Nyaya Maha Abhiyan after the Prime Minister announced the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups Development Mission early this year that would take basic facilities likes roads, power, homes, mobile connectivity, etc. to the most backward among the Scheduled Tribes, the PVTGs.

The first announcement of this package came early this year during the Budget Session, when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that a PM-PVTG Development Mission would be launched, for which the Government was planning a ₹15,000 crore expenditure, to be spent over a period of three years. Officials said the package has seen a massive contribution from the office of President Droupadi Murmu, who took a special interest in overseeing the plans.

How will it work?

The allocation cleared by the Union Cabinet on November 29 for this package stood at ₹24,104 crore out of which the central share would be ₹15,336 crore and the share for the respective State governments would stand at ₹8,768 crore. The government has said that as for the launch of the package, there were a little over 22,000 villages where PVTGs reside and where this will be implemented.

However, the implementation of the programme will be done through nine ministries, which will ensure that existing schemes are taken to these PVTG-inhabited villages. The targets that the government has set for itself are to build 4.9 lakh pucca homes, lay 8,000 km of connecting roads, link all households with piped water, set up 1,000 mobile medical units, construct 2,500 anganwadi centres, 1,000 multipurpose centres and 500 hostels, install mobile towers in 3,000 villages, and so forth. The plan also intends to set up vocational and skill training centres in 60 aspirational PVTG blocks and build 500 Van Dhan Vikas Kendras to help people trade in forest produce, in addition to connecting 1 lakh of these households to an off-grid solar power system and bringing in solar street lights.

Out of the entire ₹24,000 crore allocation, more than ₹19,000 crore is to just build the pucca homes under the PM-AWAS scheme and lay 8,000 km of connecting roads, which will be implemented by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Senior officials in the Tribal Affairs Ministry told The Hindu that its own scheme for the development of PVTGs is just a small component of the PM-PVTG Mission. “The goals are to build roads, telecom connectivity, water and sanitation. The monies for these efforts will go into the Scheduled Tribe Component (STC) of these respective ministries from where it will be allocated for the development of these groups,” an official explained. The Tribal Affairs Ministry’s Budget Estimates for 2023-24 showed just ₹256.14 crore allocated for the development of PVTGs.

What are the challenges?

Ever since the announcement of the package, officials of the Tribal Affairs Ministry have been making contact with the 22,000 PVTG villages, in order to understand the needs of each of them. Many of the officers were sent on tours to assess the villages’ needs, following which a detailed proposal was placed before the Cabinet, which cleared the initial estimates for the package in November.

However, even as the government proceeds to implement the project, the principal challenge facing it is the lack of current data, which has already been flagged by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment. While the Ministry of Tribal Affairs has said that it had started conducting baseline surveys to measure the progress of the campaign, it is yet to compile an accurate and current dataset of their populations. Even as per the population data submitted to the House panel last year, which was based on the 2011 Census, the government was unable to tabulate the population of PVTGs in Maharashtra, Manipur and Rajasthan. The current project is thus going ahead with the estimate that the PVTG population is “around 28 lakh”. Further, the government has not yet made any results of the baseline surveys public. It told Parliament this week that no Census since 1951 had accounted for PVTGs separately and has not submitted any data on their socio-economic indices to the House panel either.

In 2013, a National Advisory Council (NAC) report on the state of PVTGs had recommended that as a first, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs should design and conduct a Census specifically for the PVTG communities to not just enumerate but also find out the status of education, health, and housing.

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