PG Student
Dept of anthropology
University of Madras

Tribes in India are the descendents of human beings which started to live in India since before 5,00,000 years. In Kerala, commonly they are called as Negritoes. Dwarf body, black skin, curly hair, Thick, lips are some of the common physical characteristics of tribes in Kerala. Most of the tribal groups are living in a geographically isolated place from the mainstream society. They have their own languages, Rituals, Beliefs, art, work, etc. It all forms their unique lifestyle. Technologically and educationally they are lagging behind the mainstream society. By religion we can’t determine a tribal. In Lakshadweep majority tribes are Muslims and in North East states they a Christians.
According 1991 census, tribal population in India was 6.78 crones (ie 8.08 out of total population) in Kerala it was 3,20,967 (ie 1.1% out of total population).

The ancestry of the present tribal population in India is traced chiefly into three types, they are,

  1. Negrito
  2. Proto Australoid
  3. Mongoloid

The Negrito is regarded as the earliest racial element as found, for example among the cholonaikans in Kerala. The central Indian tribes are assigned to the proto-Australoid race. The proto-Mediterranean stock also held responsible for the ancestry of some tribal communities.


According to 2001 census there are 3,64,189 tribes in Kerala, who constitute 1.14 percent of the whole population. They are called as ‘Giaijanam’ or ‘Giaivaragam’ meaning people of the Hills. But they are generally called as ‘Adivasis’. Most of them are settled in western Ghats and hills bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The total population of the tribes are divided into different communities. About the number of communities Kerala standing in the first place among states in India. In the new Government schedule 41 tribal communities are included but according to 1991 census they are only 35.Though there are tribes in almost all the districts of Kerala, they are most significantly found in Wayanad, Idukki, Palakkad and Kasarkod Districts.


Bordering on Gudallur in the neighboring state of Karnataka, lies Alakkal, the home of the primitive tribe, Cholanaikans, in the 10th ward of the Vazhikkadavu Grama Panchayath, Malappuram District. Virgin forests provide a green canopy to the hills, Villages and river banks of Alakal making it the most fertile area in the District. Located 16 kms from Vazhikadavu Alakkal can be reached by walk, through forest tracks frequented by elephants, wolves, bears, bison and wild cats.

The customs and observance of the Cholanaikans are similar to those of their brethren of Myladippadi in matters of child birth, post-natal care, child care, mother care, first menstruation, burial and post funeral rites.

Before just 20 years there was completely isolated and thus lived by food gathering, hunting and fishing. Men and women naked or ill clad. Poverty-stricken, lanky and angular they appeared as mere caricatures. But now the situation changed by the result of various development projects of Governments and work of non- Governmental Organizations. The Cholanaikans are said to have migrated from the neighboring forests of Mysore. They are food gatherers and hunters. They speak a mixture of Canaries and Tamil. There is no matri-age taboo between Cholanaikans and kattunaykans.

Weapons, Tools.

No Cholanaikan generally leaves their home to forest without weapons.

He doesn’t feel comfortable it he does not at least have Kodali (axe) stuck on his shoulder. It is the most important weapon the blade of which is about six inches long hafted on wood. The Kodali is not only a formidable weapon but also a “hand – axe” that comes handy for felling trees, splitting bamboos, slaughtering wild animals and fowls. The Cholanaikans main tool of food gathering is the parai, an iron blade, hafted on a long wooden handle.


Month Minor forest Products
Chingam (Aug-Sept)
Kanni (Sept- Oct)Thulam (Oct-Nov)Virshchikam (Nov-Dec)

Dhanu (Dec-Jan)

Kumbam (Feb-Mar)

Meenam (March-April)

Meenam (Aprl-May)

Idavam (May-June)

Midhunam (June-July)


Pandam (dammar), Ginger, Turmeric and Cardamom
Pandam (dammar), Ginger, Turmeric and Cardamom.
Pandam and Enga
Pandam, Kanjiseed, Vomica fruit, NellikkaPandam, Sweet potato, Arecaneet, Pepper and Soapseed.Pandam, Honey





Pandam, Ginger and Turmeric

Pandom and Cardamom.

auther with his respondants in cholanaikan settlement in alakkal

Lively hood of Cholanaikans in Alakkal

The traditional sources of lively hood for Cholanaikans were hunting, collection of forest produce, basket and mat making. These sources are now fast disappearing as forest laws prohibiting them freely entering the forest by hunting or collecting forest produce. But they didn’t fully dropped these sources. They collect forest products including seeds, honey and medical plants and barter or sell them to the non-tribes. When their traditional occupations got stopped, some of the persons turned into occupations available in the Kerala Plantation Corporation is rubber plantation as tapping workers. The tendency to change the traditional occupations to new ones is because of low income problem. A person who engaged in traditional occupation only get below 40 Rupees per day, said by one of my respondent poochapara Chathan. But the Plantation Corporation ready to give minimum 100 Rupees per day as wage. There is Co-operative Society in Punchakkolli settlement near to Alakkal for collecting the forest products in a reasonable price. But they are only giving a less price. For example, for 1Kg honey Society gives 100 Rupees, but they get 180 Rupees and above from outside. There are 26 houses in Alakkal colony. I interviewed each person among 22 families. Their details about income and occupation are shows in the table below.

Sl.No Name Main Occupation Monthly Income
1 234



















Chereekaryan ChellanGopiMathan Veeran





Mara Chathan



Cheriya Chathan







Poochapara Chathan




Sales of herbals Honey CollectionDammar CollectionTapping Worker

Honey Collection

Tapping Worker

Tapping Worker

Tapping Worker

Tapping Worker

Tapping Worker

Honey Worker

Tapping Worker

Honey Worker

Tapping Worker

Watcher in Plantation

Honey Collection

Tapping Worker

Honey Collection

Tapping Worker

Tapping Worker

Honey Collection

1800 100010003300


















National Rural Employment Guarantee act not yet started to work among Cholanaikans in Alakkal.

Educational Schemes

In the Alakkal colony, a alternative school is working. This school provides education upto 4th standard, through card learning system. Children in Alakkal settlement likes to attend the school without fail. It is the result of Narayanan Master’s (Social Worker and Teacher in Alternative School, Alakkal) great effort.

Government’s Educational Schemes cover fee concessions, fees for Pre-matriculation Courses, post matriculation grants, educational concessions for students staying outside in Kerala, miscellaneous items of educational help such as reservation of seats in Educational Institutions, Relaxation in minimum marks for admission, age relaxation, etc. Welfare hostels, Vocational study, Welfare schools and tribal schools, adult education, Night schools and Government of India Scholarships. But most of these schemes are not reaching to the students among tribes. Main reasons is that most of the students stopped their education at 4th standard. Only few number of students are willing to go to U.P. School and continue their school education.

Standard of Living

The economic level of tribes in Alakkal is very low collection of forest products is not able to provide adequate income for a living. The percentage of those in the organized sector is very low. Due to low earning and lack of assets the incidence of poverty is relatively high among them. Cholanaikans are blessed with abundance of good drinking water. But there is no such efficient facility to distribute it among the households. The Ayurvedic dispensaries, Public health centers and Hospitals are not adequate, since they do not have medicines and medical facilities. By the use of Government grant, Vazhikadavu Panchayath built some houses for tribes in Alakkal. But within one year the houses damaged due to improper construction. The contractors entrusted with the construction of the houses do the work poorly, taking a huge portion as profit.


The Kerala Panchayat Raj Act in concurrence with the constitution 73rd constitutional Amendment Act was passed in 1994 and was again amended in 1999, which changed the structure of Governance from a two tier to a three tier system. As per the provisions made in the act a number of powers and responsibilities of the Government were transferred to the local self Governments with effect from October 2, 1995.

Reservation in Election

Section 7, 8, & 9 of the act provides for reservation of seats for scheduled castes and Scheduled Tribes and it is according to the constitutional provision. The Kerala Panchayat Raj Act executes OBC from the reserved category. The number of seats are determined by the Government, and it shall be in proportion to the population of the SC/ST in the respective Panchayats.

It the population of the Scheduled Tribes or the scheduled castes in a Panchayat if not sufficient enough to make them eligible for reservation, one seat shall be reserved for SC or ST.

Currently only one member is elected from SC community and no one from ST communities. It should be their at least one member from ST community also. Tribes only know about their own need and wants.

Also there is provision for technical supervision. Section 188A notes that the heads of Department concerned and other technical officers nominated by them may inspect the work and development schemes implemented by an officer of that department under the control of any Panchayat and also inspect relevant records pertaining to such works and development schemes, in the manner specified by the Government. But this also not happened in tribal colony. The best example is their new built houses. Within a short time they damaged.


Adivasees are the most backward section of the population in India, who are facing a lot of problems all over the country. Now a days their employment opportunities are decreasing, their means of lively hood are affected and their education, health and food security are being threatened.

In the interview schedule I asked lastly two questions. The first question tried to find out whether the tribal got benefits from the local Government? If yes what are them? And the second one tried to find out their needs. For the first question they all are answered in a similar way. All of the families got houses built by the Grama Panchayat and also got a small portion of Land. They didn’t get any other benefits, they says. They getting many benefits from other government agencies like ITDP. Majority of them received solar light, free ration and fertilizer together from ITDP.

The study reveals that majority of the tribes received some benefits or other from the government in the last ten years. The benefits they received included housing, solar light, free ration, roads, electricity and drinking water. That the government programs have benefited the tribes, the most marginalized group of Kerala, is positive and encouraging. But it is to be remembered that these programs existed since before 20 years. Significantly none of them have mentioned any benefits connected into modern technologies like Information Technology. This means our developmental projects are still 20 years older.

The tribal respondents were also asked to say their needs. But large proportion of the tribes could not give any answer regarding this question. Among those who offered some suggestions many of them repeated the same things as they got until now. Some of them wants more reduction in price of food items. It is understandable that most of the tribal respondents were not in a position to answer the question as what are the schemes they want, since it is a technical question. As the Government decreases the subsidy to essential goods and services, price of these goods on increasing. The message from tribes seems to be that subsidies given to essential commodities should be continued. The next highest group of respondents suggested increase in the price of minor forest goods. The Government should ready to review the price in connection to the market demand in time to time.

Food security by means of availability of essential commodities is very important for the people, especially the poor. So essential commodities like food grains and kerosene are provided to the people through the public Distribution system.

The new generation in these tribal settlement are fully unaware about new information technologies. It makes them incapable to complete to others in mainstream. The Government have the liability to ensure high standard of education to the children’s in Tribal communities. It should be based on modern technologies. The Local Governments like Grama Panchayath have a great role to play in this subject. But the contemporary status is very pathetic. While the state prides itself on a literary rate of above 90 percent, its tribal population has only 57 percent literacy. Financial difficulties are causing for drop out the children’s from the schools. Most of the tribal children were studying in Government school since the tribal can not afford private schools. The contemporary school system in general not adapted and made attractive to tribal culture and life.

Now a days the schools are under the jurisdiction of the three tier Panchayath system. It the officials understand that the Education is the most useful weapon to fight against the inequalities prevailing in the society we should get good news’s in the near by future.


This study on the “Impact of Decentralization of Administration on Tribes” was conducted using quantitative and qualitative methods. It examined the impact of three tier administrative system on the lively thread, such as land, employment and availability of essential commodities and socio-cultural life, health and Education.

The study revealed that the Decentralization of administration can’t make much more result on the subject of development of tribal communities. The study reveals the need of setting up new cooperative societies for efficient buying and selling of forest products in a reasonable price. Though economically very backed word the tribes that certain food security because of the public Distribution system in Kerala. But the quality of goods which distributing thorough the PDS, shops are very low. The non availability of food grains added to the woes of the tribal women and even children.

Decentralization of administration is a great idea. It has to do many things related to the development of tribal communities in Kerala. Through the tribes only the lasting development and liberation of tribes can be realized. For this their participation in the planning process is essential


  • Achutha Varrier. T .V, Gothrasathyangal, Altermedia, Thrissur, 2003.
  • BGVS, School of Grass root Democracy & Participatory Economy, New Delhi, 2004.
  • Institute of Social Sciences, Review of State Panchaythee Raj, New Delhi, 2005.
  • Mathur P.P.G, Tribal Situation in Kerala, Kerala Historical Society , 1977.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s