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General Studies 1 >> Indian Society




1. Context

The Elephant Whisperers, which won an Oscar for Best documentary, depicts the story of the Kattunayakan tribe of the Western Ghats.

2. About Kattunayakan Tribe

  • Kattunayakan (Kattunayakar), is one of the 75 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) of India and can mainly be found in parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala (Nilgiris and surrounding region).
  • The Kattunayakan are a tribal people who live in south India. Their name means "chiefs of the forest.
  • They are believed to be among the earliest inhabitants of south India. Their main livelihood is collecting and selling honey.
  • They hunt fish and collect forest products to eat and sell. The Kattunayakan are a scheduled caste meaning they are eligible for special consideration for public jobs and college admission.
  • The Kattunayakan is one of the few tribal peoples of India who still live as hunter-gatherers.
  • The literacy rate is very low for both men and women. They practice traditional medicine and live without modern conveniences like electricity and indoor plumbing.

3. What are their lives like?

  • The Kattunayakan live much like their ancestors have for hundreds of years.
  • The Kattunayakan likes to live in separate family dwellings of about ten people. A council of elders makes decisions for the family groups.
  • Honey plays a special role in their lives. They eat it, use it for medicine and trade it for things they need.
  • The Kattunayakan can climb 20-30 meter trees in search of honey. One hive can yield over 25 pounds of honey.
  • They get so many bee stings that their bodies develop immunity. Their main competition is bears, which they sometimes have to fight off to get the honey.
  • The Kattunayakan are known for their dancing and singing. They pass on their history and customs through song and dance. The Kattunayakan are monogamous with girls marrying when they reach puberty.

4. Religious affiliation

  • The Kattunayakan practice folk religion with some elements of Hinduism.
  • Their main god is a form of Shiva, the destroyer. They are animists who believe that spirits inhabit rocks, trees, rivers, snakes, and other animals.
  • The Kattunayakan believe in magic which many of their women practice. They perform rituals to protect themselves from evil spirits.
  • They honor and venerate their ancestors. A small number of Kattunayakan have become Christians.

5. PVTGs (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups)

  • Tribal communities are often identified by some specific signs such as primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness to contact with the community at large, and backwardness.
  • Along with these, some tribal groups have some specific features such as dependency on hunting, gathering for food, having a pre-agriculture level of technology, zero or negative growth of population, and an extremely low level of literacy. These groups are called Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.
  • In 1973, the Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category, which are less developed among the tribal groups.
  • In 2006, the Government of India renamed the PTGs as PVTGs. In this context, in 1975, the Government of India initiated to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups as a separate category called PVTGs and declared 52 such groups, while in 1993 an additional 23 groups were added to the category, making it a total of 75 PVTGs out of 705 Scheduled Tribes.
  • PVTGs have some basic characteristics - they are mostly homogenous, with a small population, relatively physically isolated, absence of written language, relatively simple technology, and a slower rate of change, etc.
  • Among the 75 listed PVTGs, the highest number are found in Odisha.

6. How they are identified?

  • The government of India designed a procedure to identify PVTGs.
  • Based on Pre-Agricultural level of Technology, Low level of literacy, Economic Backwardness, and a declining or stagnant population.
  • According to the procedure, the state governments or UT governments submit proposals to the Central Ministry of Tribal Welfare for the identification of PVTGs.
  • After ensuring the criteria are fulfilled, the Central Ministry selects those groups as PVTGs.

7. Schemes for PVTGs in India

  • The Scheme for Development of Primitive Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), came into effect on April 1, 2008.
  • The Scheme defines PVTGs as the most vulnerable among the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheme, therefore, seeks to prioritize their protection and development.
  • It identifies 75 PVTGs. The Scheme seeks to adopt a holistic approach to the socio-economic development of PVTGs and gives state governments flexibility in planning initiatives that are geared towards the specific socio-cultural imperatives of the specific groups at hand.
  • Activities supported under the scheme include housing, land distribution, land development, agricultural development, cattle development, construction of link roads, installation of non-conventional sources of energy, social security, etc.
  • Funds are made available only for activities essential for the survival, protection, and development of PVTGs and are not already funded by any other Scheme of the central/state governments.
  • Each state and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands administration is required to prepare a long-term Conservation-cum-Development (CCD) plan, valid for a period of five years for each PVTG within its territory, outlining the initiatives it will undertake, financial planning for the same and the agencies charged with the responsibility of undertaking the same.
  • The CCD Plan is approved by an Expert Committee, appointed by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. The Scheme is then funded entirely by the Central government.

Previous year Question

1. Consider the following statements about Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in India: (UPSC 2019)
1. PVTGs reside in 18 States and one Union Territory.
2. A stagnant or declining population is one of the criteria for determining PVTG status.
3. There are 95 PVTGs officially notified in the country so far.
4. Irular and Konda Reddi tribes are included in the list of PVTGs.
Which of the statements given above is correct?
A. 1, 2 and 3                     B. 2, 3 and 4                 C. 1, 2 and 4                 D. 1, 3 and 4
Answer: C

For Prelims & Mains

For Prelims: Kattunayakan Tribe, PVTGs (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups), Nilgiri region, Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs), Dhebar Commission, Conservation-cum-Development (CCD) plan, and Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
For Mains: 1. Who are PVTGs? Discuss the criteria followed for the determination of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). What are the issues faced by them?
Source: PIB

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