Rahul Chimurkar,
Research Scholar,
Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi


Adivasis are the children of nature. They do not only depend on natural resources for their livelihood, but their culture, identity and autonomy are also based on it. However, with the advent of Globalisation which is a pro-rich, anti-poor phenomenon, Adivasis are not only deprived of the natural resources but also their identity and culture. In such a context, this paper would attempt to analyse the impact of Globalisation on Adivasis, followed by the factors determining Adivasi identity and how `growth` under the present form of globalisation is not being translated into `equity` and `human development`. At the end, this paper would come out with some recommendations to make globalisation more inclusive and equitable.

Key words: Globalisation, Development, Adivasis, Cultural distinctiveness, Territorial integrity.

Adivasis are the children of nature. They live in or around the forest and their life cycle moves around the nature. They do not only depend on natural resources for their livelihood, but culture, identity and autonomy are also based on it. Before Independence, the Adivasis had ownership rights on natural resources and they judiciously used these resources for their survival. Consequently, the Adivasis were living with autonomy, peace and prosperity. The political system of the tribal society was based on autonomy, self-rule and self-determination. The wonderful relation between man and nature was demolished after independence with the government encroaching on the tribal lands through various measures especially the indiscriminate destruction of the forests in the name of national development. However, the advent of globalisation has added more miseries to the lives of the adivasis .It is not merely a question of marginalisation for the Adivasis, it is also a multi-pronged attack on the very foundation of their existence and livelihood. The impact of globalisation is strongest on these populations perhaps more than any other because these communities have no voice and are easily swept aside by the invisible hand of the market and its proponents.

Before looking at the impact of Globalization on the Adivasis, it would make sense to understand the concept of “Globalisation”. Globalisation as a term is vague and absurd. Each one can define it according to one’s perception of it and how the impact of it is experienced by him/her. However, in our context, globalisation can be defined as the expansion of economic activities across political boundaries of nations. It believes in the formula of the “survival of the fittest at the cost of the culture of “live and let live. It believes in the maximum exploitation of the natural resources to meet not the need but the greed for maximum profit. According to S. Dasgupta, Globalisation has two sides. If one is shining, the other side is full of discord, difference, demarcation, discrimination and dissonance. It is full of threats and exclusion. To him, Globalisation has created a three-tier structure across national boundaries. The Globalist represents the core of circle, at the second level are those who are in the secured form of employment and cut-throat competition in the global market and the third are the excluded population. Adivasis who are the victims of marginalisation are forced to remain at the bottom by Globalisation.



The worst hit area in the life of Adivasis due to Globalisation is on their economic life. For them, resources are a means of livelihood and are to be used for their subsistence and fulfilment of their basic needs. However, the corporatisation of agriculture and promotion of agro-processing foods have led to the erosion of the indigenous knowledge system. Removal of agricultural subsidies and shift from traditional farming to modern farming has caused economic retardation in the economic life of the Adivasis. More and more Adivasis make up the gangs of seasonal labourers in search of wage employment to urban centres and areas of Intensive agriculture. The landscape that the Adivasis inhabit has been the internal frontier for an expanding Indian economy-a source of minerals, a site for mines, industries and factories and they have experienced the resultant erosion of their agriculture and forest-based economy.

With the coming of globalisation, Adivasi are deprived of their main resource i.e. land. Land for them is the provider of all things. Adivasi culture and life have its essence in land. Creation of dams, factories and dams causes temporary or permanent displacement of Adivasis from their land. There is a heavy concentration of industrial and mining activities in the central belt. All the massive steel plants, Bharat Aluminium Company Limited (BALCO), National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO), heavy engineering plants etc. are based here. Most river basin development schemes and hydropower projects, a chain of forest-based and ancillary industries and an increasing number of highly polluting industries are located in this region. Despite intense industrial activity in the central Indian tribal belt, the tribal employment in modern enterprises is negligible. All this has happened in the name of national interest. Millions are forcibly uprooted from their homes, habitats, communities and not even resettled, leave alone rehabilitated. Sometimes basic compensation is denied to these people questions the validity and sanctity of the so called national interest. A proper term for this process could be “Investment-induced displacement” because ultimately it is the drive for more investment by the private sector, enhancing the demand for land to be acquired in an increasingly competitive market ruled structure.


Ecology plays a vital role in the lives of Adivasis. Their life moves in and around nature. However, with the growth of industrial and mining activities in the Adivasi areas, the ecological balance has been gravely disturbed and the natural support base of the Adivasis has been decimated. The current paradigm of development which calls for extracting more and more resources often neglects the ecology. One recent example of it is the decision on Feb. 5 2013 stating that-LINEAR PROJECT-meaning those involving the construction of roads and canals, and the laying of pipelines ,optical fibres and transmission lines-will be an exempt from the need to acquire consent of village communities affected by the clearance, diversion and pollution of their forest land. The government thus gave itself- and its many private partners the green signal to divert forest or displace Adivasi communities at will. The ruling therefore renders powerless the guidelines contained within the FRA that “no member of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dweller shall be evicted or removed from forest land under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is completed.”Thus this ruling is a continuation of land grabbing, disturbing the ecological balance and a violation of the rights of traditional forest dwellers in the name of development, economy and national good. Creation of dams and extensive ground water removal damage the ecology of Adivasis which are supposed to be of extreme necessity in their agrarian life. The decision to bypass the environmental laws for the creation of infrastructure is ultimately affecting the life of Adivasis who depend on forest for fulfilling their requirements of fuel, fodder, food and so on.


Adivasis have been facing the problem of cultural identity since the beginning of planning era. The development efforts which started during the colonial era had already disturbed the cultural world of Indian tribes by bringing them with the so-called mainstreaming without emphasizing the age-old identity of the Adivasi people based on locality. The seed sown during the colonial period for the disintegration of the social order of these people in the name of making national parks, sanctuary, etc. has taken real shape during the process of Globalisation. It is the corporate bodies who are rewriting the cultural identities of these people. Customs, tradition, norms, values, rituals, beliefs, language etc. are typical characteristics of Adivasi community. However, we can see a continuous conflict between the customary laws with that of modern laws.

The major factors determining the tribal identity is “Territorial Possession” and “Cultural Distinctiveness”. Other factors are-Geographical isolation, village communities being homogenous and unstratified, non-monetised or only partly monetised, largely independent of national economy etc. Adivasis have a special relationship with the land they hold. To them, it is the land, more than anything else that gives life and meaning to their whole being; for it is in their land that their history and identity are contained. It is where their ancestors have lived and where their history, knowledge, livelihood practices and beliefs are developed. In the words of UN Special reporter Martinez Cobo,

It is essential to know and understand the deeply spiritual special relationship between indigenous peoples and their land as basic to their existence as such and to all their beliefs, customs, traditions and culture…for such people, the land is not merely a possession and a means of production…Their land is not a commodity which can be acquired, but a material element to be enjoyed freely.

The centrality of the concept of land and territory is strongly reflected in Convention no.169, which has a series of provisions to explain the concept of land and territories; the rights of indigenous people to possession and ownership; as well as the requirements for identifying the lands; protecting their rights, and resolving land claims.

As the central starting point, ILO Convention no. 169 stipulates that:

1. In applying the provisions of this part of the convention Governments shall respect the special importance for the cultures and spiritual values of the peoples concerned of their relationship with their land or territories, or both as applicable, which they occupy or otherwise use, and in particular the collective aspects of this relationship.

2. The use of the term `lands’ in Article 15 and 16 shall include the concept of territories, which covers the total environment of the areas, which the people concerned occupy or otherwise use.

This is reaffirmed in Article 25 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which stipulates that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally-owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.

Therefore, the values of sustainable use of land, and of not taking more than what is required have found expressions in the various social institutions that have evolved. Economic activities are based on collectivism and cooperation, while individualism and competition are avoided. But today, the identity of the Adivasis and their continuity as a people are threatened due to neo-colonial vehicles of oppression. The diversity of natural resources available inside their land are being taken away by the big corporate and the state, which is snatching their lands in the name of national interest. The 2003 round of NSSO gives the following picture regarding Land which is highly inequitable.


Rural Urban Per household ownership
SC 9% 4.8% 0.041 hec.
ST 11.2% 3.3% 0.145 hec.
OBC 43.5% 36.8% 0.139 hec.
Others 36% 55.2% 0.189 hec.

The government started acquiring large tracts of lands for the private companies under the guise of `public purpose` under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 after the enactment of SEZ act 2005. Thus, the unbridled privatisation of economy without regard to constitutional principles and provisions is creating institutions and order which violates `real liberty` of the citizens.

The major attack of globalisation is on the culture of the Adivasis. The culture of Globalisation is invading the culture of the local people. Culture gives them the Identity, dignity, respect. The culture of the Adivasis over the years has attained the distinctiveness by fostering the balance between nature and culture, egalitarianism in social structure, equal economic sharing and people oriented art and literature. However, through various media, culture of accumulation, consumerism, western music etc. corrupts the innocent minds of the Adivasis. To deprive them of their identity, there has been a covert conspiracy to declassify the Adivasis as Non-Adivasis. As explained before, Adivasi identity is determined by two factors i.e “cultural distinctiveness” and “territorial possession”. Moreover, in addition to the protection given to the Adivasis under Fifth and Sixth schedule, PESA has come into place wherein the consent of Gram Sabha is necessary before undertaking any work in the Adivasi land. Therefore, by making non-Adivasis, the Constitutional rights of Fifth and Sixth schedule and Art.225 automatically gets ineffective, thus relieving the Governing classes from the issue of self-rule and ownership of land, resources, taxes etc. accorded to the Tribal Councils. It also pre-empts the issue of declaring the Adivasis as Indigenous people under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People 1994.

It needs to be understood that the problem of Adivasi is related to Jal, Jungle, Jamin. The transfer of their resources to non-Adivasis is the question. There is a greater to focus on real developmental issues facing the Adivasis.


Following are the few suggestions/recommendations that could be adopted to alleviate the suffering of Adivasis and eradicate the exploitation by the agents of Globalisation:

  1. Constitutional solution— Only a strict implementation of the Fifth and Sixth schedule of the Constitution can protect the Adivasi rights and culture. In Mexico, a particular tribe called Zapatista fought for their rights when Multinational Companies were allowed to put their factories in their land and now no factories could be set up without their consent on their land, along with the provision of Penal offence in case of non-compliance of the Adivasis’s decision. The provision of `Consent’ has been provided in PESA which is not being implemented.
  2. A positive amendment in PESA 1996 be made for the recognition and realization of economic and social rights of ownerships of minerals and forest produce; guaranteeing “ownerships of companies or private entities” of Adivasis and other forest dwellers by allocating 15-20% shares to them in addition to compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement.
  3. The Adivasis be declared “indigenous people” under Art. 51(c) of our constitution for ILO convention and a law under Art. 253 of our constitution be so enacted for the realization of Human Rights.
  4. It is not enough to diagnose the problem by the political leaders and government Functionaries; they have to initiate and implement programmes for the benefit of Adivasis. They must make Adivasis true partners in the development process: by assuring them title over lands cultivated by them; by allowing them to manage forests sustainably; by giving them a solid stake in industrial or mining projects that come up where they live and at the cost of their homes. The government must recognise and give legal backing to the Gram Sabha for community forest management initiatives; in this it can make use of Panchayat(Extension to the scheduled area) act 1996 and Scheduled tribes and other forest dweller(recognition of forest rights act)2006,while safeguarding against the misuse of such laws by vested interest to take away their lands.
  5. The state government must constitute a `Special Land Tribunal’ to redress the grievances related to land alienation and prevention of any further alienation of Adivasi lands.
  6. Good Governance must include having first-hand knowledge of the Adivasi areas, their problems and providing quick and satisfactory redressal. With a view to ensuring this, a cadre of officers and officials well trained in the values of Adivasi life and culture, having zeal and enthusiasm to work among them should be evolved.

These are some of the steps that could be taken to liberate the Adivasis from the evil effects of Globalisation and make the process of globalisation more `inclusive` for the Adivasis.


There is no single panacea to the problem. The process of Globalisation has led to the conscious and systematic annihilation of the culture and identity of the Adivasi of India. Without rapid action, these native communities may be wiped out, taking with them vast indigenous knowledge, rich culture and traditions, and any hope of preserving the natural world, and a simpler, more holistic way of life for future generations. Therefore, there is a need to create a balance between local and global cultures for maintaining the Adivasi identity. Only good governance can transform the entire situation. For this, Gandhiji’s word seems to be relevant i.e Less governance is the best Governance. We need to strengthen decentralisation of power and it could bring a sea change in terms of tribal development because they love less intervention in their ways of life. Their genius should be treasured and promoted for the holistic progress of India. Let us join hands for their protection and launch a massive campaign and peaceful protest both at the International and National level to ensure the harmonious development of Adivasi people in this era of Globalisation.


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Nitya, N.R (2014), “Globalisation and the plight of Tribals: The case of Kerala, India”, The Dawn Journal,3(1):727-758.

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Shilee Subhra and Shailee Subhra (2002), “Indigenous Identity of Tribals in Jharkhand”, Indian Anthrolpologist’,32(1):75-86.

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Gudavarthy, Ajay (2014), “Politics Without Opposition”, The Hindu, New Delhi,9 October 2014

Singh, Harpal. S(2014), “Gonds may have migrated from Indus Valley”, The Hindu,17 December 2014

*International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Denmark and Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact Foundation, Erni Christian(2008), The concept of Indigenous people of Asia, Thailand

*International labour standard Department (2009), Indigenous and tribal people rights in practice: A guide to ILO convention no.169.


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