Tribal Welfare in North-East India
The Northeastern states account for about 8% of the country’s land area and are inhabited by 3.8%1 of India’s total population. The 8 states of Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Sikkim form the North Eastern Region (NER) govern India’s gateway to South East Asia. The NER is of considerable economic importance and geopolitically sensitive given their strategic location. The area is also characterized by a rich cultural heritage and natural wealth, boasting a large number of ethnic tribal groups. The Constitution recognizes the Scheduled Tribes (STs) under Article 342 of the Constitution of India. Of the 619 Scheduled Tribes, nearly 200 reside in the North Eastern Region (NER) and differ substantially in their way of life from the tribal groups of the mainland. Level of acculturation and social and economic development varies across different tribal groups. The Government of India has also recognized 75 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), earlier known as Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) who need special attention due to their exceptionally low level of development. These groups are characterized by primitive levels of technology, declining population and very low literacy rates. Marram Nagas from Manipur and Reangs from Tripura have been categorized as PVTGs in the NER. Moreover, more than 80% of the population of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland is tribal. The abundance of these groups in the NER and the geopolitical importance of the region make it essential to focus attention towards their development.