Adivasis at bottom rung of India’s development pyramid, finds Tribal Development Report 2022

India’s tribal communities have been pushed away from alluvial plains and fertile river basins, into the harshest ecological regions, the report notes  

By Shuchita Jha
Published: Tuesday 29 November 2022
The authors of the report discussed their papers and findings during a two-day event at the India International Centre, New Delhi. Photo: BRLF

India’s tribal communities form 8.6 per cent of the country’s population according to the 2011 Census. But they are at the bottom of the country’s development pyramid even after 75 years of independence, according to a new report released November 28, 2022.

The Tribal Development Report 2022, launched by the Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation (BRLF) in two volumes, claims to be the first of its kind since 1947.



The report focuses on the status of tribal communities at an all-India level and central India in particular, concerning livelihoods, agriculture, natural resources, economy, migration, governance, human development, gender, health, education, art, and culture. Central India is home to 80% of the tribal communities in the country.

The authors of the report discussed their papers and findings during a two-day event at the India International Centre.

Damning findings

The BRLF was set up the Union Cabinet September 3, 2013 as an independent society under the Union Ministry of Rural Development to scale up civil society action in partnership with central and state governments.

Prathamesh Ambasta, chief executive of the BRLF, said:

If we look at any issue, be it of sanitation, education, nutrition, access to drinking water and education, we will see that despite 70 years of independence, Adivasis are the most deprived. This makes it important to focus on the challenges that Adivasis face.

Promod Boro the chief executive member of Bodoland Territorial Council, Assam, said November 29 that it is important to understand the special characteristics of tribal communities to frame policies for them.

“There are many tribal communities that prefer isolation and silence. They are shy and are not going to reach out to the outside world on their own. Policy makers and leaders of the country need to understand this trait and then work towards the welfare of Adivasis so that they connect with them in a better way,” he said.

“Tribal areas are also areas that have faced a lot of disturbance and conflict. This is one of the reasons why many government welfare schemes and policies are unable to take off in these areas. Distress in the area affects both sides,” he said.

The report stated that indigenous communities of India have been pushed farther away from alluvial plains and fertile river basins into the harshest ecological regions of the country like hills, forests, and drylands.


Of the 257 Scheduled Tribe districts, 230 (90 per cent) are either forested or hilly or dry. But they account for 80 per cent of India’s tribal population.

“Adivasi sub-districts belong to a larger contiguous backward region or Adivasi belt, which goes beyond the frozen administrative categories of state, district and sub-district. In fact, mapping of predominantly Adivasi concentrated sub-districts suggests a continuum of pockets of underdevelopment that are connected to one another and to the larger development processes around them,” the report noted.

It further stated that during British colonial rule, the bond between Adivasis and their relation of symbiosis with their immediate environment was ruptured.

After the enactment of the Forest Conservation Act in 1980, the conflict came to be seen as between environmental protection and the needs of local Adivasi communities, driving a wedge between people and forests.

It was in the National Forest Policy of 1988 that domestic requirements of local people were explicitly recognised for the very first time.

The Policy emphasised safeguarding their customary rights and closely associating Adivasis in the protection of forests. But the movement towards a people-oriented perspective has not been matched by reality on the ground.

The report combines data from government sources, case studies, archival research, and interviews on crucial dimensions of tribal lives and livelihoods.

The goal is to inform stakeholders, including key policymakers, practitioners, activists, and academics, to help understand the scope of tribal issues.

The report focuses on the overarching theme of livelihoods for tribal communities from central India. It presents a status report on the overall macroeconomic situation, agriculture, land, energy, and water use, especially groundwater management.

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