Tribes of Chhattisgarh

By: Dr Saraswati Raju
The State of Chhattisgarh is transforming and contrary to the older generation where tribal or non-tribal status impacted the way people would access amenities such as literacy, the disparities in the population are disappearing rapidly.

About one-third of Chhattisgarh’s population is tribal. Another 16 per cent belong to scheduled castes while 42 per cent are from other backward castes. The State is largely rural in character with about 80 per cent of its population living in rural residences and largely depending upon agriculture as means of livelihood. Although the share of primary sector in the net state domestic product has gone down over the years accompanied by progressively increasing share by the secondary sector indicating that the State is undergoing industrial development, agriculture is still the mainstay of thousands of tribes. As per the 2004-2005 data by the National Sample Survey, the tribal and non-tribal population is not very different in their social attributes such as marital status, but the tribal and non-tribal divide manifests itself in the parameters of literacy and attainment of education. The tribal females are much closer to non-tribal females than their male counterparts suggesting that females irrespective of their non-tribal/tribal status occupy a gendered space in the educational hierarchy as females.

Overall, 28 per cent of non-tribal male population is illiterate as compared to 41 per cent among tribal males whereas these percentages are 50 and 60 per cent respectively amongst females (Figure 1). It can be seen that contrary to older generation where tribal/non-tribal status impacted the way they would have access to literacy, the disparities in school going population are disappearing (Table 1).

Article 1 Fig 1
Figure 1: Tribal and non-tribal population by educational attainments


Source: National Sample Survey, 61st Round, 2004-05. Computed from the unit level data

Article 1 Table 1
Table 1: Current attendance in educational institutes of child population, age group 0-14

 Note: Currently not attending includes never attended and ever attended

Article 1 Fig 2
Figure 2: Tribal and non-tribal workers by industrial classification



Note: Primary sector includes agricultural, mining and quarrying.  Secondary sector includes manufacturing, electricity, gas and water supply and construction. Tertiary sector includes wholesale, retail trade, hotels, transport, storage and communication, financial intermediation, real estates, public administration, educational sector, health and social network, other services and persons employed in other people’s home.

Article 1 Table 2
Table 2: Declining poverty ratios in select states

 Source: Economic and Political Weekly Nov. 22-28, 2008, pp. 61-68.  K L Datta ‘An Estimate of Poverty Reduction between 2004-05 and 2005-06’

Workforce participation amongst males is higher than their female counterparts irrespective of whether they are tribal or non-tribal. However, more tribal females work as compared to non-tribal females (Figure 2). Most of the workforce is engaged in the primary sector, whether tribal or non-tribal although the percentage is much higher for tribal males.

The temporal increase in the overall literacy rate of the Scheduled Tribes as per the 2001 Census was almost double as compared to the 1991 Census. This percentage is also higher than that of all Scheduled Tribes at the national level. The male as well as female literacy among the Chhattisgarh tribes are also higher than those at the national level suggesting their exposure to literacy for a much longer time, which can be traced to missionary presence.

The tribal character with its relatively more gender-egalitarian structure has meant that despite being behind in terms of conventional developmental scale, the State ranks reasonably well as some of the indicators related to women’ well being such as total fertility rate, life time risk of maternal death, safe deliveries, 0-6 sex ratios and freedom to participate in productive work suggest. In fact, as per the India Report on the State of Population 2007 by A R Chaurasia and S C Gulati, reflects that Chhattisgarh is at the threshold of achieving the replacement fertility – in the league of better developed States such as Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana.

Although disaggregated data on these parameters are hard to come by for tribal vis-à-vis non-tribal women separately, in many ways women seem to constitute a homogenous group withholding the tribal and non-tribal differences. In general, tribal males tend to gravitate towards their female counterparts as far attributes of literacy, education, and workforce characteristics are concerned and the most privileged section emerging is that of non-tribal men.

Also despite prevailing high levels of poverty in the State the mapped reduction over time is quite remarkable in urban areas. Unfortunately rural sample is not sufficient but given the overall poverty in the State at 38 per cent for 2005-06 as compared to 41 per cent in 2004-05, a fall of just 2 per cent, one can perhaps conjecture that the poverty reduction in rural areas may not be that significant. Incidentally, the Planning Commission has approved a plan outlay of Rs 4,275 crore for Chhattisgarh in the fiscal year 2005-06, up 29 per cent against the Rs 3,322 crore allocated in 2004-05, the argument being that without Central resources the State cannot deliver its promises of alleviating poverty and improving infrastructure.


Chhattisgarh Tourism Board


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