The tribal communities form an indispensable part of the Indian community. The tribals have been impacted consistently with the rapid development of society both economically and socially. With the consistent effort made by the government, the tribal people have achieved some level of decent improvement. But still, it is far away from the progress aspired by the current trend. Various schemes and policies have made their way in developing a progressive world for the Tribals (Thamminaina, 2018). Apart from these policies, NGOs in the country act as an influential catalyst in the overall process. These non-governmental organizations work in coordination with the government to enhance the process of development. There are instances where the development scenario has been significant where there is close coordination between government organizations and non-governmental organizations(Thamminaina, 2018). The role of NGOs is dynamic across various components of development. They have a significantly central role in many crucial developmental assessments, involved over many years with the Indian government.
Earlier in India, the NGOs were involved in social justice-related programs of the government. But over time, their involvement also included empowerment of tribal people, women and child safety, land rights, etc. Government support and new collaborations have facilitated the progress of non-governmental organizations.
Role of NGOs
The ideology to work for the people forms the central base of the functionality of the NGO. They get acknowledgment for their positive workability towards society. Their work functions towards the growth and welfare of marginalized groups. Among the several issues, Tribal development has been one of the top priority sectors of the Indian government. Various NGOs are actively working towards their secured upliftment and growth. The protection and preservation of the indigenous tribal communities have become a prime concern. With the growing development in the country, expansion of industries, and land development for commercial purposes, the survival of these communities are at risk. Several mining proposals in the protected forest areas adversely affect these tribal people. The recent growth in the number of NGOs in the country has given a comprehensive scope for societal and marginalized development. They ensure an inclusive social transformation in the society, ensuring a sense of equity among the public.
The tribal growth includes development in several areas like education, health, the employment sector, etc. Several NGOs are contributing significantly to ensure the tribal’s social security in mainstream society. Apart from this, the NGOs also work for justice for land rights, land alienation, conservation, etc.
Education forms the fundamental base for the development of any community. The literacy rate of tribal people is comparatively low that indicates a prime concern. Moreover, they motivate them by showcasing the various benefits they can avail from education. The NGOs play a crucial role in the actual on-ground implementation of the various government schemes and policies. Further, they help in creating awareness among the children(Thamminaina, 2018).
In some cases, some NGOs run primary schools in remote areas helping the poor and unprivileged. To promote education, even in times of covid, an NGO named Shiskhasandhan has volunteered for the educational upliftment of the tribal community children. They are majorly working in Rayagada as well as in the Mayurbhanj districts of Odisha(Mohapatra, 2020). Currently, they are providing community development services for 239 villages in these districts. Their main aim is to eliminate the dropout rate from the school(Mohapatra, 2020). Their other roles also involve teaching the children about familiar topics so that they can find learning interesting.
There are instances where the tribal people are the primary victims of land-related injustices and issues. The authorities often take the side of large commercial bodies. There are also cases of large-scale exploitation by the non-tribal people creating land alienation for the tribal communities. Numerous NGOs in the country are actively involved in solving many critical issues related to tribals. One such NGO is the Samatha organization, which came in 1987. It is actively associated with the process of organizing the youths into groups. These groups work against the oppression and exploitation by the non-tribals as well as negligence by the government (Samatha, 2021). The case of illegal acquiring of protected forest land away from the native tribal residents in the district of Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh was one of the significant movements. This movement got its justice with the help of the Samatha organization (Sehgal, 2021). This nonprofit organization acted as a key player by organizing a drive against the authorities through a legal process. The campaign was primarily to prevent mining activities in the protected forest land. After a substantial struggle, the final judgment came in favor of the tribal community.
Health is another crucial factor for the development of any community. The presence of these communities in remote locations makes it highly unfavorable to avail the health infrastructure present in distant spots. With the help of various government schemes, initiatives for health facilities related to maternal care, childcare are functioning in many tribal villages. The NGOs provide awareness related to such critical issues, thereby helping to reduce the causes of infant and maternal mortality rates. For instance, the organization of tribal health initiative is actively working in the Dharamapuri district of Tamil Nadu. Its activities primarily focus on the provision of quality health facilities to the tribals in remote locations. There are a total of 55 professionals in the organization who work in 33 villages (Tribal Health Initiative, 2021). Moreover, they are also focusing on safeguarding community health, nutrition fulfillment for the tribal people.
The tribal areas are known for their unique culture and tradition. But with the pace of development, the community is losing its culture. Tribal people are majorly engaged in agriculture or their traditional activities in rural areas. The tribals undergo crisis frequently due to the lack of support from the government. It is in terms of funds and infrastructure that has resulted in the loss of many traditional activities. Initiatives for providing funds, involvement of self-help groups have increased the employment scenario in such communities. NGOs help in gathering the people for collaboration of Self-help groups. Nonprofit organizations like the Shakti organization are working relentlessly towards the livelihood development of the tribal communities. The organization is working in the district of Rayagada in Odisha since 1992 towards facilitating the livelihood aspect through training, development, a collaboration of self-help groups, etc. Its various programs include the formation of groups for forest management, fishing, horticulture, etc. (Shakti Organisation | Programmes, 2011)
Provision for various small-scale funds and infrastructure for handicraft making, wood carving, painting within the tribal communities. It helps in saving the inherited traditional activity as well as earning a good living. The other works involve briefing about policies, awareness, helping in availing the funds, etc.
One of the main reasons for the lack of development is the lack of awareness among the tribal communities. NGOs reach to such communities in providing them a better living through government initiatives. They act as the facilitator that trains the local people in reaching their full potential. People working under NGOs are facing various issues due to a lack of sufficient resources and funds. There are also instances of corruption and other issues. These issues need regular checks so that development can take its full pace in tribal areas (Thamminaina, 2018). Still, there is an immense gap in growth for the tribals. These NGOs act as a system of checks and ensure the implementation of schemes at the ground level. Thus, it must be supported well by the government to assure development.
- Mohapatra, A. (2020). odisha coronavirus: Odisha: Amid pandemic, NGO helps tribal kids continue study | Bhubaneswar News – Times of India. Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhubaneswar/odisha-amid-pandemic-ngo-helps-tribal-kids-continue-study/articleshow/78063615.cms
- Samatha. (2021). Welcome To Samatha NGO. Samatha NGO. https://samatha-ngo.in/cgi-sys/suspendedpage.cgi
- Sehgal, D. R. (2021). Critical analysis : Samatha v. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors. (1997) – iPleaders. IPleaders. https://blog.ipleaders.in/amp/
- Shakti Organisation | Programmes. (2011). Shakti Organisation | Programmes. Shakti Organisation | Programmes. http://www.shaktiorg.com/programmes/programmes.html
- Thamminaina, A. (2018). Catalysts but Not Magicians: Role of NGOs in the Tribal Development. SAGE Open, 8(2). https://journals.sagepub.com/action/cookieAbsent
- Tribal Health Initiative. (2021). Tribal Health Initiative. Tribal Health Initiative. https://tribalhealth.org/
Author Bio: I am Annanya Behera, currently pursuing Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal and a member of NOSPlan – Organisation of Students of Planning. My keen interests are on various topics related to urban and rural development.