The vast territory of India with its diverse ecological, physical, cultural and linguistic zones is a home to 1028.73 million people which include about 84.32 million tribal population (42.06 million; 40.88 percent of males and 41.15 million; 59.12 percent of females). Yet, in 60 years of development, the tribal literacy rate of India has not reached even 50 percent; it is a mere 47 percent. There was no visible improvement in ST female literacy over the period of 30 years of development in India. In this context, the present study attempts to understand the Gender Literacy and aspects of Deprivation among Scheduled Tribes India.

  1. Introduction

As per notified schedule under Article 342 of the Constitution of India, there are 533 tribes concentrated across the States and Union territories. India has the largest concentration of tribal people anywhere in the world except perhaps a certain country in Africa. Generally tribes are homogeneous in terms of socio-economic development unlike other groups. As per 2001 Census, the total tribal population constitutes 8.8 percent to the total population of India. The total literacy rate of scheduled tribes in 1991 was 29.6 percent increased to 47 percent by the year 200 i. Literacy poverty leads to the perpetuation of different types of disabilities which prevents them from availing and utilizing the development opportunities made available (Nagaraj B 2004). In the present competitive world, productive and qualitative human resource is the only asset that makes India shine. ‘People are the real wealth of the nation’, because people are not only the beneficiaries but also the agents of economic and social progress (First Human Development Report 1990). ‘Literacy poverty’ could be said to be one of the obstacles that frustrated the otherwise landable most influencing factor which led to a limited success of development efforts in India (Nagaraj B 2004). Empirical studies have shown that particularly primary education has the highest rate of social returns and it emerged as the most significant contributor to predicted growth (Mahabub u.i. Haq and Khadiji Haq 1998). The data collected by Demographic and Health Survey (World Development Report 200-01) reveal that more than half of the 15 to 19 years olds in the poorest 40 percent of house holds have zero years of schooling in 12 countries of the world, and India is one among them. However, it is true that India started with a poor education base at the time of independence, with a literacy rate of 17 percent, and have been making committed efforts to eradicate illiteracy.

HDI- based profiling of scheduled tribes has shown that the scheduled tribes are a most deprived segment of the Indian society. The tribal sub-plan (TSP) strategy introduced since the Fifth Five Year Plan period i.e. 1974-79, called for specific plans of development including educational development of scheduled tribes. As seen from the available data, nearly two-third ST boys and

Girls dropped out while ascending from primary to middle school. Increased financial outlays and special emphasis to the cause of STs have marginally improved the situation. But the picture is not too encouraging (Bhupinder Singh 1996). It is generally conceded that rural areas in general and tribal areas in particular have failed to attract resources personnel and infrastructural facilities. Even the special plan i.e. the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) has not helped to the extent that it should have. In the words of Ramamurthy Committee, it has remained a paper exercise “not concretely provided in the budget documents”. Yet, in 60 years of development, the tribal literacy rate of India has not reached even 50 percent; it is a mere 47 percent, and further it is much below the national average in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan, West Bengal, the progressive state of Tamilnadu and the union territory of Dadra and IMagar Haveli.

In this context, the present study attempts to understand the Gender Literacy and aspects of Deprivation among scheduled tribes in India, by states. Source of data for the study is the Primary Census Abstract: Census of India 1991 and 2001. Index of Deprivation (IOD) in crude literacy has been computed by using UNDP-HDI frame work.

  1. Background and key information on Population and Literacy: India

The total population in India increased from 838.58 million in 1991to 1028.73 million in 2001Of the total, there were about 67.75 million of tribal populations in 1991 which increased to 84.32 million in 2001. The proportion of scheduled tribe population in total population was 8.08 percent in 1991 and 8.19 percent in 2001 showing a marginal increase. But, the trend was reverse in the case of scheduled caste population; their proportion declined marginally from 16.48 percent in 1991 to 16.19 percent in 2001, as can be seen from table 1. In the last two decades, there has been a continuous increase of urban population in the country. A similar trend is seen in the proportion of urban population of Scheduled Tribes in India (Table 1); it has almost doubled in the decade 1991 to 2001.

The decadal growth of total population in India was 23.85 percent and 21.34 percent for the decades of 1981 -1991 and 19912001 respectively. In regard to the decadal growth rate of SCs and STs, it was higher than that of the general population in India in both the decades (see table 1). However, due to the efforts of the Health and Family Welfare Department, through population policies and programmes, even SC and ST population growth rate declined along with the general population in the decade 1991 -2001. However, the ST population growth was comparatively higher (19.64 percent) than the growth of SC population (17.5 percent) and also the general population growth (21.34 percent) in India for both the decades. This is attributable to various reasons viz., demographic, social and economic rather than popular population containing measures.

Table 1: Selected Key Information on Population of India

Selected aspects Year
1991 2001
1. Total Population 83,85,83,988 102,87,37,436
2. Total SC Population 13,82,23,277 16.66,35,700
3. Total ST Population 6,77,58,389 8,43,26,240
4. Per cent of SC Populationin total Population 16.48 16.19
5. Per cent of ST Population in total Population 8.08 8.19
6. Per cent of ST Males in total ST Population 50.71 50.56
7. Per cent of ST Females in total ST Population 49.29 49.44
8. Per cent of ST Rural Population in total ST Population 92.6 84.23
9. Per cent of ST Urban Population in total ST Population 7.4 15.77

The crude literacy differential among SCs/STs and general population from 1971 to 2001 is presented in table 2. In 1971, the literacy rate was just 14.67 and 11.3 percent respectively for SC and ST population in India. Even after thirty years of planned development literacy rate for ST in India had not reached even 50 percent. However, the literacy rate for SC (54.69 percent) was comparatively higher than the literacy rate of ST population in 2001. Further, if we take the literacy gap between (a) SCs and general and (b) STs and.general, it becomes evident that in all the Censuses ST literacy rate was higher than the SC literacy rate (Table 2). The literacy gap between SCs and general and between STs and general was 10.69 and 18.28 percent respectively in 2001. Table 2 Differentials in Literacy Rates of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and General Population in India.

Year Scheduled Caste Scheduled Tribe General Population Literacy SCs and Gene Gap STs and Gen
1971 14.67 11.3 33.8 19.13 22.5
1981 21.38 16.35 41.3 19.92 24.95
1991 37.41 29.6 522 14.79 22.6
2001 54.69 47.1 65.38 10.69 1828

Source: Educational Statistics of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Ministry of Human Resource Development, 1993 and Primary Census Abstract, Census oflndia 2001

III. Gender Literacy and Aspects of Deprivation

In order to understand the paradigm of development in a developing society like India, gender related issues need to be given due weightage. To balance gender variation in education, employment and other fields like legislation and parliament, the constitution provides for reservation for SCs STs and women. However, there still remains much disparity between genders in literacy rates, employment etc. Religious groups and even states in the Federation have inequal levels of attainment in regard to education, employment etc. With this background, an attempt has been done to understand the literacy deprivation in ST males. As reported in table 3, the national average of 1OD in crude literacy of ST males in 1991 was 0.794, which further declined to 0.386 points. In 2001, it was only 0.408 points. The highest and lowest levels of IOD were reported in the states of Bihar (0.602) and Lakshwadweep (0.078) respectively. In 1991, the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, M.P, Orissa, Rajasthan and Tamilnadu had shown relatively higher level of deprivation in the crude literacy of ST males. The remaining states have shown relatively moderate level of deprivation in their crude literacy in 1991.

In 2001, the situation was entirely different in regard to the deprivation level for in ST males. Only two states viz., Mizoram and Lakshwadweep had registered lower levels of deprivation in 1991, but by 2001, many states i.e., Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Nagaland, Sikkim, Uttaranchal, the union territories of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Daman & Diu had reduced their deprivation level from moderate to low levels (Table 4). In regard to ST males, only the tates of Bihar and Jammu & Kashmir had shown relatively higher levels of deprivation in their crude literacy in 2001. The IOD of ST males was relatively moderate in rest of the states in India. From this, we could conclude that during the last 30 years of development in India, much importance was given to the development of SCs/STs through innovative policies and programmes. Hence, it is clear that these measures have to some extent helped in reducing the level of deprivation in crude literacy among ST males in India.

Results of a comparison in gender variation of IOD in crude literacy is given in Table 3. In 2001, the overall average of IOD for ST females was 0.408, but highest i.e. 0.652 points was reported for ST females. There was much variation in IOD figures between males and females. For example, the lowest level of IOD in crude literacy was for ST reported from the states of Mizoram and Lakshwadeep for the years of 1991 and 2001. On the other hand the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Goa, H.P, Maharastra and Tripura reported reduced rates of IOD of ST females in 2001 as compared to 1991. In 1991, these states had relatively higher level of deprivation in their IOD of ST females. A comparison of gender IOD gap shows that there was higher deprivation level in male population of ST in 2001, in the states of Bihar and Jammu & Kashmir.

However, it is evident from Table 5 that the IOD of ST females is concerned, many states like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, M.P, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamilnadu, U.P, W.B and Dadra & Nagar Haveli have had shown higher level of deprivation in crude literacy. Hence, it is to be noted that there was significant disparity in gender literacy deprivation among scheduled tribes in India. There was no visible improvement of ST females in India over the period of 30 years of development. Further, a stagnating trend was witnessed in the literacy levels of ST females in India, as could be seen from Table 5. Even ST Males are no exemption to this trend of declining IOD from relatively moderate to lower level during 1991 and 2001. Excepting the states of Arunachala Pradesh, Assam, Goa, H.P, Maharastra, Megalaya and Tripura, the rest of the states continued to have relatively higher level of deprivation in crude literacy among ST Males during the period. As reported by Bhupinder Singh (1996) there was a sharp drop from primary stage (101.79 percent) to middle stage (35.65 percent) and consequently over two-thirds of ST boys and girls dropped out from primary and middle schools.

There are historical and socio-economic reasons for experien­cing wide disparity between male and female literacy in India in general and of ST population in particular. Studies have shown that for ST girls, it is the lack of residential facilities in educational institutions that deter scheduled tribe families from sending their children to such institutions. On the other hand, in a generally male dominated society like ours, the traditional role of women confining to the house, taking care of children and accepting male domination in the family has found wide acceptance 2. However today the situation has changed at least for the general population; female literacy rate has improved significantly to reach the male literacy rate. But in case of tribal females the situation continues; literacy gap between ST males and ST females continues to be grim. The literacy gap between ST males and females has not shown improvement in the last 60 years of development.

High priority to girl’s education and steps to reduce drop-out rates, encouragement for school enrolment to SC/ST girl students and incentives for retention of students from standard III to VI were provided in the tribal welfare plan which was formulated in 2001. Further the Tenth Plan aimed at improving the literacy rate especially female literacy rate and enrolment rate as also reducing the drop-out rate at all levels. It further aims at increasing the employment opportunities for educated youth of poor families and improving the socio-economic status of the communities of SCs and STs. With this in view, the Ministry of Education has been providing grants to tribal sub plan (TSP) to tribal majority states under article 275 (l)to meet the cost. Under this scheme, girls hostels, boys hostels, ashram schools in tribal sub-plan areas have been opened and working to enhance the welfare of scheduled tribes in India. The scheme provides for establishing educational complexes in low literacy pockets in tribal areas by providing cent percent financial assistance to NGOs/ organizations established by government as autonomous bodies/educational and other institutions like cooperative societies to establish educational complexes in 136 identified districts of erstwhile 13 states where tribal female literacy is below 10 percent as per 1991 census. So these institutions are mandated to improve female literacy especially in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattishgarh, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karntaka, M.P, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamilnadu, U.P, W.B, and Dadra &Nagar Haveli. The existing institutions under the above scheme have been trying to reduce gender disparity in crude literacy among scheduled tribes in India by reducing IOD level in ST population and the above mentioned States.

IV Concluding Remarks

Article 46 of the Constitution explicitly recognizes the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes as the weaker sections of the society and calls for promotion of their educational and economic interests as well as to protect them from exploitation. In pursuance of this, both central and state governments have been implementing several schemes for the development of SC/STs. Now we have stepped into 21 st century and also completed 60 years of independence. Hence, when we talk of development, we should keep in mind the imperative to take care of the overall development of every community, region and religion in the country.

In recent years, India has achieved great success in IT and BT. IT graduates from India are in great demand in the international market. But, according to 2001 census in India, there were 41 illiterates for every 100 ST males and 65 female illiterates for every 100 females. This situation, if allowed to persist would cause irreparable damage to our social fabric. The progress achieved in improving literacy rate of ST males in India gives room for hope.

The Tribal Sub Plan (TSP), District Primary Education Progra­mme (DPEP) and the scheme for educational complexes in pockets of low female literacy tribal areas which is being implemented in pursuance of Article 275 (1) of the Constitution, should focus on improving the literacy situation particularly of ST females in India. What is needed is a vigorous approach to improve literacy and reduce the IOD of crude literacy among ST females, especially in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattishgarh, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, M.P, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamilnadu, U.P, W.B, and Dadra &Nagar Havel i. Comprehensive and effective programmes are required to tackle gender disparity in literacy among STs in India.

Selected References

  1. Bhupinder Singh (1996), Educational and Development of Tribals in India, Journal of Education and Social Change vol X, No. 1&2 p.p 22-40S. Rajoo Krishnan (2002), Literacy in India: Current Scenario and Changes during the last decade. Demography India, vol XXXI, No. 1, p.p 51-64
  2. Nagaraja B. (2004), Towards Literacy Poverty: An Analysis of non-enrolment of children in schools and the need for their management, Journal of Educational Planning and Administra­tion Vol XVIII, No.4, p.p 507-517
  3. Shavkath Azim (2005), Literacy Growth Disparities in Karnataka, Economic and Political Weekly April 16-22, Vol 40, No 16
  4. Joshi, Hemlatha (1999), Spatial Variation in Crude Literacy Development Index (Rajasthan) 1991, Transactions of the Insti­tute of Indian Geographers Vol 21(1).
  5. SurapaRaju S (1998) Ashram Schools: A Birds View, Journal of Education and Social Change, Indian Institute of Education, PUNE,411029, p.p 126-135
  6. Seetharamu A.S (2001), Literacy, Employment and Social Security. Working paper No. 79, Bangalore, Institute for Social and Economic Change. UNDP (2003), Human Development Report, New Delhi: Oxford University press