The history of land alienation among the tribes began during British colonialism in India when the British interfered in the tribal region for the purpose of exploiting the tribal natural resources. Coupled with this tribal lands were occupied by moneylenders, zamindars and traders by advancing them loans etc. Opening of mines in the heart of tribal habitat and even a few factories provided wage labor as well as opportunities for factory employment.
But this brought increasing destitution and displacement. After the British came to power, the Forest policy of the British Government was more inclined towards commercial considerations rather than human. Some forests were declared as reserved ones where only authorized contractors were allowed to cut the timber and the forest -dwellers were kept isolated deliberately within their habitat without any effort to ameliorate their economic and educational standards. The expansion of railway in India heavily devastated the forest resources in India.
The Government started reserving teak, Sal and deodar forests for the manufacture of railway sleepers. Forest land and its resources provide the best means of livelihood for the tribal people and many tribes including the women engage in agriculture, food gathering and hunting they are heavily dependent on the products of the forest. Therefore when outsiders exploit the tribe's land and its resources the natural life cycle of tribal ecology and tribal life is greatly disturbed.
Poverty and Indebtedness
Majority tribes live under poverty line. The tribes follow many simple occupations based on simple technology. Most of the occupation falls into the primary occupations such as hunting, gathering, and agriculture. The technology they use for these purposes belong to the most primitive kind. There is no profit and surplus making in such economy. Hence there per capita income is very meager much lesser than the Indian average. Most of them live under abject poverty and are in debt in the hands of local moneylenders and Zamindars. In order to repay the debt they often mortgage or sell their land to the moneylenders. Indebtedness is almost inevitable since heavy interest is to be paid to these moneylenders. Banking facilities in the tribal areas are as inadequate that the tribals have been forced to rely on moneylenders.
Health and Nutrition
In many parts of India tribal population suffers from chronic infections and diseases out of which water borne diseases are life threatening. They also suffer from deficiency diseases. The Himalayan tribes suffer from goiter due to lack of iodine. Leprosy and tuberculosis are also common among them. Infant mortality was found to be very high among some of the tribes. Malnutrition is common and has affected the general health of the tribal children as it lowers the ability to resist infection, leads to chronic illness and sometimes leads to brain impairment. The ecological imbalance like cutting of trees have increased the distances between villages and the forest areas thus forcing tribal women to walk longer distances in search of forest produce and firewood.
Educationally the tribal population is at different levels of development but overall the formal education has made very little impact on tribal groups. Earlier Government had no direct programme for their education. But in the subsequent years the reservation policy has made some changes. There are many reasons for low level of education among the tribal people: Formal education is not considered necessary to discharge their social obligations. Superstitions and myths play an important role in rejecting education. Most tribes live in abject poverty. It is not easy for them to send their children to schools, as they are considered extra helping hands. The formal schools do not hold any special interest for the children. Most of the tribes are located in interior and remote areas where teachers would not like to go from outside.
Due to contact with other cultures, the tribal culture is undergoing a revolutionary change. Due to influence of Christian missionaries the problem of bilingualism has developed which led to indifference towards tribal language. The tribal people are imitating western culture in different aspects of their social life and leaving their own culture. It has led to degeneration of tribal life and tribal arts such as dance, music and different types of craft.
Concept of Private Property
The advent of the concept of private property in land has also adversely affected tribals whose community-based forms of collective ownership were placed at a disadvantage in the new system. Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest's Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 popularly known as Forest Rights Act, 2006 tried to restore this status quo and ownership of the tribals but its implementation is not up to the mark.
Many tribal concentration regions and states have also been experiencing the problem of heavy in migration of non-tribals in response to the pressures of development. The industrial areas of Jharkhand have suffered dilution of the tribal share of population. These processes continue to prevail and have become even more powerful since the 1990s when the country was opened up for liberalization. The huge agitations in Maharashtra against Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant and Mining giant Vedanta in Niyamgiri in Orissa are the examples of reactionary movements against policy of alienation and exploitation of the tribals.
Problem of separatism
The divide and rule policy adopted by the British did a lot of damage to the tribal community of India. The British superimposed their own administrative patterns in the tribal areas and deprived the tribals of their traditional methods of interacting with the people. The Criminal Tribes Act which the British introduced gave an impression that the tribals were either criminals or anti socials. The tribal groups such as Kolis, Mundas, Khasis, and Santals who fought against the British were branded as dacoits and robbers. The British also promoted missionary activities especially in the Central and North Eastern hills. All these activities alienated tribals which continued even in the post independent India.