Role of NGOs in tribal development

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) are legally constituted organizations, operate independently from the government and are generally considered to be “non-state, non-profit oriented groups who pursue purposes of public interest”. The primary objective of NGOs is to provide social justice, development and human rights. NGOs are generally funded totally or partly by governments and they maintain their non-governmental status by excluding government representatives from membership in the organization.

It  has  been   recognized  that  the  task  of  the  development  of Scheduled  Tribes  cannot  be  achieved  by  Government  efforts  only.  The role  of  voluntary  or  non-governmental organizations,  with  their  local roots  and  sense  of  service  has  become  increasingly important.

  • The Christian  missionaries  are  perhaps  the  oldest  among  the various  agencies  responsible  for  the  development  of    Though  they are  primarily  keen  in  evangelisation, welfare  schemes  such  as  opening schools,  dispensaries,  hospitals  to  the  people  were  undertaken.
  • The intensity of their voluntary services can be traced out in the tribal belts of Assam, Orissa, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Inspired by Gandhian values, a seva kendra was established for the first time in Ranchi in 1940.
  • It formulated two categories of programs the first to implement plans on tribal education and the second to encourage the scheme  of  Khadi  production,  Cottage  industries,  crusade  against alcoholism,  and  distribution  of  ayurvedic  medicines  and  to  form Gram panchayat  and  cooperative
  • Of the  organizations  started  in  the same  lines,  Bharatiya  Adimjati  Sevak  Sangh  under  the Presidentship  of Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Nagaland Gandhi Ashram are noteworthy.
  • While the former  focused  in  publishing  tribal  problems,  the  later  established  a health centre.

In  the  era  of  good  governance,  NGOs  are  playing  a  more proactive role. The  failure  of  the  Government  gives  a fertile  ground  to  the  NGOs  to  work  upon  and  extend  a  helping  hand  to their  tribal brethren.

  • Protection of Rights:
    • They are  playing  a  protective  role  by  seeing  that  the  tribal rights  are    Greenpeace is one such organization.
    • Implementation of PESA act to empower gram sabha to safeguard tribal rights and culture.
    • Implementation of forest right act 2006 to ensure individual and community rights for tribals over forest and forest produce
    • Fighting on land issues, restoration of land rights and Fighting against injustice. E.g.: Dongria Konds’ fight for land in the Niyamgiri hills.
  • Education:
    • They have helped facilitate  free  boarding  and  lodging  to the Tribal children for education
    • Computer centres were  also  being  established  by  various  NGO’s  such  as  Kothari institute.
    • These institutions are  directing  their  energies  for  socio-economic  development  of  tribes  to  bring  them  into  fruitful  channels  of development
  • Health and Medicine:
    • NGOs have contributed in a positive note to the development of tribal health and in the protection of their indigenous knowledge base which is either ignored or exploited.
    • Tribals have a  profound  knowledge  of  the flora  and  fauna,  the  appropriate  plant  species  with  medical  importance, their  location,  the  parts  to  be  used,  time  of  collection,  preparation  and administration  of  the
    • Their knowledge of the ethno-medicine is very important   for   their
    • Provision of food : Nutrition programmes and Immunization drives against deadly diseases
  • Environmental Conservation:
    • Protection of sacred groves, water bodies etc which hold cultural significance for tribal population.
    • Fights against construction of dams, roads, industries in the Eco-Sensitive Zones which can affect the ecosystem.
  • Livelihood enhancement:
    • Self employment by Guidance on self occupation, Handicraft development etc.
    • To overcome the debt trap, several NGO have formed Self-help Groups (SHG’s), which pool money collected from tribals and provide low interest loans to them.
    • Providing market access to the Minor Forest Produce collected by tribals and the products created by them.
    • This helps reduce the distress migration to cities in search of work.
  • Awareness Generation:
    • The NGOs create awareness among the tribals by demonstrating the conservation and preservation of the forest and its resources.
    • They use  the audio-visual  aids  for  creating  a  lasting  impression  and  campaign  for ensuring the promotion of important herbal plants in kitchen-garden and nurseries.
  • Inclusive Development:
    • Activities related with Women’s development: Formation of Women’s groups, Saving group of women, training of self-employment, Women’s Co-operative Society, Income generation for women, Women’s employment, etc.
    • Youth development activities: Formation of Youth groups

It is an undeniable fact that the NGOs have emerged universally as a “Universal Third Force” in   tribal development in India.  However, there is lack of coordination among them. Developmental role of NGOs is preparing  the  people  for  a  change  which  is basically  an  advocacy  role,  viz.  development of  education,  incorporating  self-sustainable development  philosophy,  and  form  public opinion  about  govt.  policies  or  social  issues, consciences  for  environmental  problem, literacy, health, use of appropriate technology for  family  planning  and  empower  the  poor  to overcome  psychological  inhabitations  and opposition of appraisers.