Particularly vulnerable tribal group PVTG earlier Primitive tribal group is a government of India classification created with the purpose of enabling improvement in the conditions of certain communities with, particularly low development indices. This sub-category was named the Primitive tribal group. Prior to Independence, the British and Japanese policy of isolation left the tribals to themselves and almost no efforts were made to develop them except some efforts to contact and befriend them mainly for peaceful colonization and administration. During the initial period of occupation, the British cleared some 140 acres of land for cultivation, which rose to 355 acres with an additional 724 acres of land being later deforested.
Subsequently, about 3000 acres of land were cleared and 876 acres were brought under cultivation. This led the tribes to go back far away from the colonies, leaving the territory, which they considered of their own. In 1870, during the rule of Lord Mayo, many convicts were given freedom of movement and were encouraged to marry convict women with the idea of settling them and expanding agriculture in the Islands. With an increase in the number of convicts population, the requirement of food naturally rose and the local production of vegetables and other food items needed an immediate expansion. Under these circumstances, agriculture was encouraged in the Islands in the south of Port Blair. By the end of the year 1894-95, 22.306 cores of land were cleared and 10.40 acres of land were cultivated of which the Government plantation of tea, coffee, cocoa, coconut, and vegetables occupied 4.425 acres and the remaining land was cultivated by convict settlements.
Efforts were also made to make to take the aboriginals to the mainland and other parts. But the efforts went in vain in obtaining the consent of the responsible persons like Mauvat, Hughton, Corbyn, Homfray, Man, and Portman. Against this tribal scenario after India gained Independence, in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands the Government has undertaken certain preventive, protective, and progressive measures for the welfare of the Primitive Tribes. Accordingly, a firmed policy towards tribal welfare has been evolved. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of free India suggested that the approach should be to develop the ‘synthesis’ or ‘integration’ without destroying the rare and precious values of tribal people.
Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru laid down five fundamental principles, which are known as ‘Tribal Panchsheel’:
- People should develop along with the time of their own genius and we should avoid imposing anything on them. We should try to encourage everything of their own traditional art and culture.
- Tribal rights in land and forest should be respected.
- We should try to train and build up a team of their people to do the work of administration and development. Some technical personnel from outside will no doubt be needed, especially in the beginning. But we should avoid introducing too many outsiders into tribal territory.
- We should not over administer these areas or overwhelm them with a multiplicity of schemes, we should rather work through and not in rivalry to, their own social and cultural institutions.
- We should judge results not by statistics or the amount of money spent, but the quality or human character that is evolved.
Under the Andaman & Nicobar Islands (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation, 1956 no non-tribal can enter the tribal areas without the permission of the competent authority. No acquire tribal property without the permission of the Administrator. The poachers and the exploiters are booked and punished under this law. In addition substantial areas in the Islands are demarcated ‘Tribal Reserve’ under Andaman & Nicobar Islands (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation, 1956. The following are the designated tribal reserves.
- 11,900 ha. On Great Nicobar Island, for the Shompens.
- 25,200 ha. On Little Andaman Island, for the Onges.
- 600 ha. On North Sentinel Island, for the Sentinelese.
- 60 ha. On Strait Island, for the Great Andamanese.
- 63,886 ha. On the western part of the Middle & South Andaman Islands, for the Jarawas.
For the welfare of the Jarawas western parts of South Andaman and Middle, Andaman has declared ‘Jarawa Reserve’ which starts from the mouth of Constance Bay proceeds to Yeratil Jig including Needhan Beach, Bluff, and Spike Island mainly and then proceeds via Wolaga Boilu, Melagar Boilu and Mor Boilu Creeks up to the Bush Police camp No. 32 facing the luice Inlet Bay. On its eastern side, the ‘Jarawa Reserve’ has been given an imaginary boundary along with the Andaman Trunk Road. The Jarawa Reserve includes coastal water up to the distance of 3 Kms from the shoreline. The said declaration was made on 19th July 1979 and officially it has been decided to review the ‘Jarawa Reserve’ and if necessary the amendment be made in the near future.
The AAJVS is funded by the Central Government through Special Central Assistance (SCA) and Grant-in-aid by A & N Administration to carry out the policies and program of the administration for well being of the Primitive Tribes. The Shompens usually come to the Complex and they bring arecanut, resin, honey, lemon and Rudraksh. But after a huge landslide in August 2002 on East-west road the SHC has become inaccessible through the vehicle for the functionaries. The author visited the SHC from Campbell Bay on 10th December 2003 by a marathon walk of about eight hours and he found that in addition to the landslide that has damaged the road at different places the nature-mother has laid down her green carpet of grass and bushes on the road.
As a result, the contact between the outsiders including the official functionaries and the Shompens has marginally been reduced. Since the Shompens have no clear perception about the cash money, the AAJVS under Exchange System collects the Minor Forest Produces (MFPs) and model canoe, etc brought by the Shompens and sell these items in the open market at Campbell Bay and deposit the sale amount in the bank in the common account for Shompens. The Assistant Commissioner, Campbell Bay send the receipt of the sold MFPs to the office of the AAJVS and this office, in turn, deposit the equal amount in the bank in the common account for Shompen.
Out station rural area Gramin Telephone has been providing with Shompen Hut Complex to establish a firmed communicational link between the Shompen Hut Complex and responsible authorities. The Andaman Public Work Department (APWD) has undertaken the repair work of Onge houses and other old buildings and out of 26 huts, 15 huts were repaired. A 24 kW Diesel Generator set has been established at Dugong Creek (1979) and a 15Kw electric generator set has also been installed at South Bay. A solar power plant was established at Dugong Creek for the Onges on 23rd January 1993. Streetlights were provided to the settlements with approach footpath.
A primary school has been functioning since 1978. Previously the classes were conducted in the community hall but now a separate building has been constructed for the above purpose. The Central Institute of Indian Language (CIIL), Mysore has prepared primers for school going children on Onge-Hindi-English languages in 1994-95. One Medical Officer-in-charge is posted in Dugong Creek who takes health care of the Onges of Dugong Creek and South Bay. The Medical Officer is assisted by the ANM, Pharmacist, and Ward attendant. One Onge namely Kwaku of Dugong Creek is deaf and dumb and he has been provided with a hearing aid after an intensive examination by ENT Specialist at Port Blair. At Dugong Creek a helipad has been constructed to airlift the serious patient for treatment at Hut Bay or Port Blair.
The timber harvesting is carried out in Little Andaman Island is neither arbitrary nor faulty and rather is based upon technical and scientific considerations and assessments. The timber is harvested in these groups of isles by practicing a time tested silvicultural system known as Andaman Canopy Lifting Shelter Wood System. Under this scheme, no clear-felling is resorted to and only mature and over mature trees are selectively harvested.
Note: The tribal welfare because it has been so recently created, its activities cannot yet be fully some Great Andamanese have become government servants working in Port Blair.