October-09-Final
Alex Akhup
Interface between State, Voluntary Organisations and Tribes
Interface between State, Voluntary
Organisations and Tribes
A Perspective towards Tribe-Centred Social Work
Practice
ALEX AKHUP
This article critically examines the role of the state in facilitating tribal development
with a specific focus on the Grant-in-Aid scheme instituted for voluntary organisations
(VOs) working for Scheduled Tribes (STs). Based on empirical data drawn from 146
VOs working for the welfare of the STs across 26 states, what is revealed is that there
has been a high degree of ‘fragmentation of the community’ as an outcome of such a
‘paradigm of intervention’ and strategisation. The author argues that the premise of
state–tribal community interface must be revisited and strategically reformulated
within the avowed Constitutional vision and commitment to the protection and
development of the STs ‘along the lines of their own wisdom and genius’. Within these
parameters of the debate and in keeping with the state’s stated Xth Five Year Plan’s
three-pronged approach of social empowerment, economic empowerment and social
justice, the author proposes a reformulation of the state’s approach leading towards a
perspective for tribe-centred social work practice in India.
Mr. Alex Akhup is Assistant Professor, Centre for Social Justice and Governance,
School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India.

INTRODUCTION
The tribes in India, which are re cog nised as ‘Sched uled Tribes’ (STs), are
the orig i nal and the first set tlers of the re gion which later be came India in
1947. Though they are ob
jects of var
i
ous cate
gori
sa
tion pro
cesses
(Jenkins, 1997) from the per spec tive of the ‘oth ers’, they iden tify them -
selves as ‘adivasis’ (Devalle, 1990) or ‘in dig e nous peo ple’ (Xaxa, 2003).
The tribal so cial re al ity is dis tin guished for a multi cul tural co ex is tence
(Singh, 1995) in the given his tor i cal con text. The so cial struc ture is pri -
mar ily segmentary based (Shalins, 1861) and at the same time lends it self
to dif fer ent per mu ta tions and het er o ge ne ity. How ever, the un der stand ing
of the re al ity of tribes in India in pres ent times makes a shift from the ‘cul -
tural ob jec tive’ ap proach to the ‘po lit i cal’. The un der stand ing of tribes
from the cul tural and po lit i cal per spec tives de fines tribes as ‘na tion al i -
ties’ (Roy Burman, 1994) or ‘eth nic group’ (Doshi, 1990). Within this

598 Alex Akhup
given un der stand ing, the ar tic u la tion of tribes against the ex ter nal
socio-po lit i cal and eco nomic pro cesses (Devalle, 1992) has man i fested
in terms of re sis tance and au ton omy move ment. This is a socio-po lit i cal
and eco nomic phe nom e non that has be come an issue which can not be
over looked.
The tribes in India were among those who came into di rect con fron ta -
tion with colo nis ation and de vel op ment pro cesses there af ter. The dis -
course and pro cess on tribal de vel op ment in India began as a pro cess of
power strug gle around safe guard ing the re sources and po lit i cal sov er -
eignty. Con sid ered within the his tor i cal per spec tive of co ex is tence of com -
plete and com pe tent self-rule so cial en ti ties, the tribes com manded major
por tion of the re gions from time im me mo rial. Even today, 80% of nat u ral
re sources of India lie in tribal belts (Roy Burman, cited in Chacko, 2005).
Given this con
text, tribes were the first to fight co
lo
nial cap
i
tal
ist
endeavours in India. As a so ci ety, they were sub jected to the po lit i cal and
mil i tary man-oeuvres of the co lo nial rul ers for re source ex pro pri a tion.
Tribes could stand against the mighty pow ers as strong cul tural and po lit i -
cal en ti ties. How ever, in the course of time and his tory, tribes have be come
weaker and un able to fend off the ex ter nal frag men ta tion pro cesses. In fact,
the In dian na tion–state build ing pro cess in many and crit i cal ways be came
a reck on ing force against tribes. The de bates gen er ated for in clu sion and/or
ex clu sion of pro-tribe pro vi sions in the Con sti tu tion of India re veals the
dy nam ics and pol i tics that tribes went through in the na tion-build ing pro -
cess. In fact, tribes today are mere ob jects of elec toral pol i tics (Sharma,
2001), globalisation, and com munali sa tion pro cess (Prasad, 2003). They
have be come more vul ner a ble and are eas ily co opted and dis placed in the
cap i tal ist par a digm of the de vel op ment pro cess.
The fact of the mat ter is that tribes are an ‘eth nic mi nor ity’ (Pathy, 1988)
and a strat egy of ‘pro tec tion ism’ with out em pow er ment has lit tle sense in
the de vel op ment prac tice. They can not fight back the global on slaught
with ‘tra di tional’ or ‘iso lated strat egy’. Given these cir cum stances, the
state is still a vital change agent for tribes. The Con sti tu tion guar an tees sev -
eral wel fare pro vi sions for tribal de vel op ment based on the strat egy of pro -
tec tion, de vel op ment and mo bi li sa tion as a na tional com mit ment. As an
ex ter nal ap pa ra tus, the state can play a cru cial role in the op er a tion of the
panchsheel. It is the only way to help build a per spec tive for tribe-cen tred
so cial work prac tice.

Interface between State, Voluntary Organisations and Tribes 599
STATE INITIATIVES
In keep
ing with the prin
ci
ple and the spirit of the Con
sti
tu
tion, the
Government of India (GoI) is com mit ted to the wel fare and de vel op ment of
STs of the coun try who have been mar gin al ised and ne glected as a group
due to eco nomic back ward ness and geo graph ical iso la tion. The gov ern -
ment has made con sis tent ef forts to bring to re al ity the pro vi sions laid
down by the Con sti tu tion to wards de vel op ment and pro tec tion of the STs,
ever since the Con sti tu tion was en forced. It takes upon it self the re spon si -
bil ity of reach ing to the far thest ends and cor ners of its land sur face and
peo ple, from the time of its In de pend ence, in order to guar an tee its peo ple
so cial jus tice and de vel op ment. It stands by the spirit of the Con sti tu tion to
cor rect the in jus tice and ne glect meted out to them in the pro cess of the
com mon de vel op ment par a digm. It takes an un com pro mis ing stand to -
wards pro tec tion from every form of ex ploi ta tion as di rected by the Con sti -
tu tion.
Dur
ing the last six de
cades, var
i
ous pol
i
cies and programmes have
emerged. Worth men tion ing among them is the 5th Five Year Plan, which re -
cog nised con text-spe cific plan ning and ad min is tra tion (Sharma, 1978). In
the 10th Five Year Plan, the three-pronged strat egy of so cial em pow er ment,
eco nomic em pow er ment and so cial jus tice was launched for the up lift ment
of the STs. It is in this con text that the Grant-in-Aid (GIA) Scheme to vol un -
tary or gani sa tions (VOs), work ing for the wel fare of STs was es tab lished in
1953–1954 under the De part ment of So cial Wel fare, Min is try of Ed u ca tion
and So cial Wel fare (Thakur, 1997). In 1985, the Min is try was re named as
Min is try of So cial Jus tice and Em pow er ment. Con sid er ing the con text and
unique ness of the pop u la tion in ques tion, the Min is try of Tribal Af fairs
(MoTA) was es tab lished in 1999 as the nodal Min is try for the wel fare and
de vel op ment of the STs. Since then, the GIA Scheme under study is within
the pur view of MoTA.1
Not with stand ing the ef forts made in the last six de cades, the re al ity of
tribes in India is still an issue that re quires a de fin i tive pro-tribal pol icy,
com mu nity em pow er ment programme, and a con sis tent sys tem. In fact, the
pres ent con text of globalisation and liberalisation has thrown up newer
chal lenges ren der ing the task more dif fi cult. Given this sce nario, it be -
comes crit i cal to en gage in un der stand ing the strat egy of the gov ern ment
for the wel fare and de vel op ment of the STs viewed from the case of the
GIA Scheme. The case high lights the gov ern ment–VO part ner ships and
peo ple par tic i pa tion to wards wel fare and de vel op ment of the STs. This

600 Alex Akhup
case will be dis cussed in the light of for mu lat ing a perspective for a
tribe-centred social work practice.
THE GRANT-IN-AID SCHEME
Fol low ing the em pir i cal study con ducted on the GIA Scheme, the pol icy
and its implications were as sessed. The anal y sis en quired into the func tion -
ing of the sys tem of grant giv ing and im ple ment ing agen cies — the min is -
try, states and VOs. It dwelt on the im ple men ta tion pro cesses fo cus ing on
stake holders, ben e fi ciary per cep tion and the over all uti li sa tion of the
Scheme.
Given the com plex ity, size and mul ti plic ity of pro jects in the Scheme, a
rep re sen ta tive study ap proach was used. Every at tempt was made to cover
a max i mum num ber of the uni verse of the study. The study ba si cally used
two meth ods for data col lec tion: (a) an in-depth in ter view through field
vis its, and (b) mailed ques tion naire (for those or gani sa tions where vis its
were not carried out).
The GIA Scheme con sists of mul ti ple pro jects which are im ple mented
across 26 states and union ter ri to ries (UTs). There fore, multi-stage sam -
pling tech nique, in volv ing both prob a bil ity and non-prob a bil ity sam pling
meth ods were used. The states that received grant al lo ca tion in 2005–2006
were taken as the uni verse of the study. These states were listed and se -
lected ran domly using the cri te ria of fund al lo ca tion and pop u la tion. Those
states with higher con cen tra tion of tribal pop u la tion and higher grant al lo -
ca tion that is, Rupees 50 lakh and above and com pris ing over 20% of the
tribal pop u la tion, were taken as one group and re main ing states as the sec -
ond group. The first group of states (70% of the total states and UTs, num -
bered 18) was vis ited and the sec ond group (30% that is, eight states) was
ad min is tered a mailed ques tion naire. With the in ten tion of max i mum cov -
er age of the uni verse (146 or gani sa tions of the first group), 38% (as against
the pro posed 40%) of or gani sa tions that is, 55 or gani sa tions were vis ited
for an in-depth en quiry. Around 246 pro jects were being funded by the
Min is try in 2004–2006 and it was pro posed to cover 40% of the 246 pro -
jects. How ever, dur ing and after the data col lec tion pro cess, 281 pro jects
were ex ist ing (in clud ing cen tres and units). Out of these, 99 pro jects (35%)
were vis ited and data of 40 pro jects (15%) was re ceived through the mailed
ques tion naire. The over all sam ple size of the or gani sa tions and pro jects in -
cluded in the study is 55% and 50% respectively and the overall coverage
in the study on total fund sanctioned and released was 62%.

Interface between State, Voluntary Organisations and Tribes 601
The re spon dents of the study for in ter view and focus group dis cus sions
(FGDs) were se lected from the state of fices of tribal de vel op ment, or gani -
sa tions and vil lages based on avail abil ity, ca pa bil ity and will ing ness to
par tic i pate in the study. Con sid er ing the mas sive size and di ver sity of the
uni verse, dif fer ent cat e go ries of re spon dents were iden ti fied: Pres i dent/
Sec re tary of the Or gani sa tion (83), Pro ject Staff (98), Ben e fi cia ries (532),
Com mu nity Lead ers (40), and State Of fi cials (14). Around 36 FGDs were
also con ducted with var i ous com mu nity leaders, youth groups, women’s
groups and parents.
The GoI, under the Department of So cial Wel fare, in sti tuted the GIA
Scheme2 to VOs work ing for the wel fare of STs in 1953–1954. It was an
ini tia tive that part nered with VOs to wards work ing for the up lift ment of
the STs. The prime ob jec tive of the Scheme is to pro vide for over all im -
prove ment and de vel op ment of the STs through vol un tary ef forts in the
field of ed u ca tion, health and san i ta tion, and en vi ron ment, in ad di tion to
need-based, so cio eco nomic up lift ment ef forts and other rel e vant ac tiv i ties
deemed ap pro pri ate and of di rect ben e fit to the tar get group.
The Scheme has 27 pro jects/ac tiv i ties around four sec tors: ed u ca tion,
health, san i ta tion and train ing programmes (ac tiv i ties re lated to so cio eco -
nomic up lift ment). The ed u ca tion sec tor has three main pro jects — res i -
den tial schools, on-res i den tial schools and hos tels. The health sec tor has
cov
ered 10-bed, 20-bed, 50-bed and 60-bed hos
pi
tals and mo
bile
dispensaries. The re main ing pro jects are re lated to train ing for live li hood
en hance ment. There are also a few pro jects on other de vel op ment-re lated
programmes in the area of sanitation and sustainable development.
Real is ing the com plex ity, mag ni tude and unique ness of the STs, the gov -
ern ment in sti tuted the MoTA to be the nodal Min is try to cater to mat ters
con cern ing the STs in the coun try in 1999. The Min is try has been run ning
this Scheme suc cess fully since the 9th Five Year Plan. In order to at tain ef fi -
cacy, the Min is try has un der gone a thor ough re view on the pro cess of the
GIA Scheme. It has been felt that there should be a more proactive role of the
states and UTs through de cen tral ised pro ce dure for re ceipt, iden ti fi ca tion,
scru tiny and sanc tion of pro pos als of NGOs for the GIA Scheme.
There fore, in the fi nan cial year 2005–2006, a new sys tem was put in
place for better im ple men ta tion of the Scheme. In this new sys tem, the
states and UTs have con sti tuted a ‘State Com mit tee for Sup port ing Vol un -
tary Ef forts’ re ferred to as ‘Com mit tee’, chaired by the Prin ci pal Sec re -
tary/Sec re tary of the State. There are five oth ers of which three are from

602 Alex Akhup
re puted VOs. From 2005–2006, this Committee has started en gag ing in the
pro cess of GIA pro pos als under the guide lines is sued on 2nd June, 2005.
Next, the Committee rec om mends se lected pro pos als — new as well as
on go ing — to the Min is try.
GOVERNMENT–VOLUNTARY ORGANISATION PARTNERSHIP
The role of VOs in the wel fare and de vel op ment of the STs was there
from the very be gin ning (Thakur and Thakur, 1997; Iyengar, 1998). It is
ob served dis tinctly that a per sis tent lean ing to wards the vol un tary sec tor
in the ef forts to wards the over all de vel op ment of the STs in the his tory of
the five-year plans had taken place. This has picked up mo men tum, es pe -
cially dur ing the last two de cades, due to the mush room ing of re puted and
well-or gan ised VOs work ing for the wel fare of STs.
The gov ern ment is mak ing every ef fort to or gan ise the voluntary sec tor
by en ter ing into a di a logue and shar ing re spon si bil i ties in work ing for the
wel fare and de vel op ment of the STs. A num ber of or gani sa tions have come
for ward to par tic i pate in the stated task. This can be tes ti fied by the in creas -
ing num ber of or gani sa tions ap ply ing for the GIA Scheme. The gov ern -
ment has, in fact, come up with the idea of re cog nis ing well-re puted
or gani sa tions in the field, work ing for the up lift ment of tribals and have
iden ti fied them as Es tab lished Vol un tary Agen cies (EVA). At pres ent,
there are 14 such or gani sa tions re corded in the Ministry and, which have
been included in its 2005–2006 Annual Report.
Gov ern ment re cords ac knowl edge the cat a lytic role of VOs in the so cial
and eco nomic de vel op ment of the coun try, par tic u larly in the areas of ed u -
ca tion, health, train ing, and in come gen er a tion. Vol un tary organisations
have also suc cess fully part nered with the gov ern ment in de vel op ing and
ex per i ment ing al ter na tive pro ject mod els to match the needs of the local
peo ple like ‘Reach ing the Ser vices to the Un-reached’ (10th Plan Ap proach
Paper).3 In fact, the ‘Ap proach Pa per’ adds that
VOs will, therefore, be encouraged to play an effective role in improving the
status of tribals in the areas of education, health, nutrition, employment and
income-generation, besides sensitising the administrative machinery and
conscientising the tribals to realise their rights and potential besides
safeguarding them from social and economic exploitation.
Organisation Profile
Over all, the gov ern ment re cog nises two types of or gani sa tions: es tab lished
VOs (38%) and non-es tab lished VOs (62%), all work ing for the up lift ment

Interface between State, Voluntary Organisations and Tribes 603
of the STs. A sig nif i cant num ber (53%) are spe cif i cally lo cated in tribal
hab i ta tion areas. Sev enty percent of the or gani sa tions were reg is tered
under the So ci ety Reg is tra tion Act, 1860; 59% under 80G; and 61% under
the For eign Con tri bu tion Reg u la tion Act (FCRA) of 1976. Around 31%
re ported that they did not have any ca pac ity-build ing programme with re -
gard to the im ple men ta tion of the GIA Scheme and 40% in vested ef forts in
net work ing ac tiv i ties for the ef fec tive im ple men ta tion of the Scheme.
Around 80% men tioned delay as a major im ped i ment for the ef fec tive im -
ple men ta tion of the Scheme. Most were de pend ant on the GIA Scheme for
funds.
The EVAs en joyed a better fi nan cial sta tus than non-EVAs. The lat ter
are, mostly local-based or gani sa tions who con sider the GIA Scheme as the
only source of fund ing and have ex pressed dif fi culty in im ple ment ing the
pro ject due to delay. Dur ing field vis its, in ves ti ga tors have ob served prob -
lems faced by VOs re lated to loan re cov ery and pay ment from both banks
and other lend ing agen cies, in clud ing the com mu nity. The VOs ex pressed
delay of funds as an im ped i ment to their ef fec tive func tion ing as they are
de pend ent on the MoTA funds. This has cre ated a pe cu liar sit u a tion where
they are in per pet ual debt, while in the pro cess of sus tain ing the VOs. This
phe
nom
e
non was ob
served through
out the coun
try. While there were
many other fac tors lead ing to debt and de pend ency, putting to gether these
fac tors seems to con tain a syn drome and can some what be cate gor ised as a
‘debt-de pend ency syn drome’ caus ing great dis com fort to many VOs.
Chief Functionaries
From the five iden ti fied re gions, 83 VOs were the sam ple and it was found
that 83% were male of fi cials (in di cat ing that most VOs were male-headed)
and 17% fe male of fi cials. A ma jor ity of the of fi cials were over 36 years old
and a sig nif i cant num ber (31%) over 56 years. Most of fi cials have both ex -
pe ri ence and age, but the same also in di cates that an in creas ingly age ing
pop
u
la
tion is tak
ing up lead
er
ship for vol
un
tary work with tribal
communities.
Field data re flects that a ma jor ity (48%) are headed by in di vid u als and
groups from the gen eral cat e gory with 83% Hin dus, fol lowed by Chris tians
(8.4%), Bud dhists (7.2%) and Mus lims (1.2%). Only 29% were tribals. Of -
fi cials who are Hindu by re li gion, and iden ti fied as gen eral caste by the
com mu nity are the chief func tion ar ies with a mi nus cule rep re sen ta tion of
tribal groups in higher lev els of au thor ity and decision-making processes.

604 Alex Akhup
Of the 83 of fi cials in ter viewed, only 13 (15.7%) had com pleted a pro -
fes sional course at ei ther the grad u ate or post-grad u ate level in so cial work,
en gi neer ing, man age ment stud ies, med i cine or law. Many of fi cials had
long years of work ex pe ri ence. While higher ed u ca tion or pro fes sional
train ing may not be nec es sary or im por tant for vol un teers, with the grow -
ing need of an ex pert workforce in human ser vice or gani sa tions, the same
is be com ing in creas ingly im per a tive for ser vice de liv ery and pol icy mak -
ing.
Many or gani sa tions were es tab lished as early as 1920s and 1930s and
18% had reg is tered be fore 1950. Out of the 83 VOs, 59% (49) are reg is -
tered with 80G of the In come Tax Act 1961 and 61.4% (51) of the VOs
pos sessed FCRA registration.
Profile of the Staff
Based on field work ob ser va tion of around 1,782 pro ject per son nel across
the pro jects, there is a sig nif i cant low per cent age of dis tri bu tion among the
STs, Sched uled Castes (SCs) and Other Back ward Classes (OBCs) as the
amount of sal
ary in
creases from Ru
pees 6,001 to Rupees 24,000 per
month. In six dif fer ent sal a ried cat e go ries, there is a com plete ab sence of
other groups ex cept for the gen eral cat e gory who re ceive very high sal a -
ries.
The over all dis tri bu tion shows that there are 26.4% STs across dif fer ent
sal ary groups, 11.1% SCs and 12.7% OBCs. It was noted that al most half
(49.7%) of the sub jects who be longed to the gen eral cat e gory were better
placed to wards the high sal a ried group of peo ple under study. The dis tri bu -
tion of the tribe/caste sta tus of per son nel was es tab lished so that a ma jor ity
(49.7%) of them fell within the gen eral cat e gory. The said caste group rep -
re sents the high est per cent age in all the cat e go ries of per son nel.
Resource Status and Funding Pattern
Data from 2002–2003 to 2005–2006 shows that the GoI has re leased
Rupees 39.90 crore to VOs under the GIA Scheme. For the year
2002–2003, 2003–2004 and 2004–2005, the gov
ern
ment has re
leased
Rupees 7–8 crore per year; but in 2005–2006, the amount was dou bled to
Rupees 15.94 crore.
It was found that VOs have been mo bi lis ing re sources from both gov -
ern ment and non-gov ern ment sources. Ma jor ity of the VOs (57%) have a
bud get below Rupees 30 lakhs (14.5% below Rupees 10 lakhs, while

Interface between State, Voluntary Organisations and Tribes 605
32.5% have Rupees 10–30 lakhs within their total bud get). Only 10% have
a bud get of Rupees 1 crore and above.
It was found that most VOs across re gions de pend on GoI for fi nan cial
re sources, state gov ern ment fund ing (24.1%), pri vate fund ing (26.5%),
for eign fund ing (19.3%), and pri vate do na tions (36.6%). While 61.4% or -
gani sa tions are reg is tered under FCRA, only 19.3% avail of for eign funds.
How ever, it is en cour ag ing to see that a good per cent age of or gani sa tions
re ceive pri vate donations and fund ing.
Grant Giving System
Prior to 2005–2006, or gani sa tions di rectly ap plied to the Min is try for the
GIA Scheme. How ever, a need was felt for a vi a ble sys tem, in volv ing state
and dis trict of fi cers and the Min is try adopt ed the prin ci ple of fed er al ism to
cre ate a three-tier sys tem at the dis trict, state and cen tre.
District Level
The dis trict com mis sioner (DC) plays an im por tant role in the in spec tion
and mon i tor ing of or gani sa tions ap ply ing/im ple ment ing the Scheme for
the wel fare of the STs. The DC and his/her sub or di nates are em pow ered to
in spect the on go ing pro jects and new pro pos als. He/She pre pares an in -
spec tion re port of all new and on go ing pro jects of the Scheme.
State Committee Level
A clear di rec tion was given to all states on the for ma tion of state com mit tee for
man ag ing the grant. The com mit tee is em pow ered with inter-dis ci plin ary/
inter-sec toral groups, and meets once or twice a year for pro ject screen ing
on the basis of the DC’s in spec tion re port and in de pend ent field vis its. This
com mit tee screens pro jects and pri ori tises in order of need (ser vice de fi -
cient areas) and then rec om mends the se lected pro jects to the Min is try for
fund ing. All the states vis ited had con sti tuted state com mit tees to mon i tor
the Scheme. How ever, not all were clear about the role of the com mit tee.
Central Government
The main job of the Min is try was to fund the pro jects as rec om mended by
the state com mit tee in order of pri or ity and need. Due to the lim ited funds
in the GIA Scheme, only those pro jects rec om mended by state com mit tees
are funded. In 2005–2006, the Min is try funded only on go ing pro jects in
order of pri or ity.

606 Alex Akhup
Projects
The GIA Scheme con sists of 27 dif fer ent pro jects grouped under three sec -
tors of de vel op ment: ed u ca tion, health, and train ing for live li hood skills.
Other de vel op ment-re lated pro jects in clude san i ta tion, en vi ron ment,
drink ing water and legal redressal ser vices.
In 2005–2006, the Min is try funded 164 or gani sa tions and 246 pro jects
across the states. Be gin ning 2006, in an ef fort to con sol i date the avail able
grant for the said ob jec tive, pri or ity has been given only to the on go ing
pro jects. At pres ent, 23 of the 27 pro jects are im ple mented by var i ous or -
gani sa tions across states.
Pro jects in the ed u ca tion sec tor ac count for 54% of the total num ber of
pro jects im ple mented across the states and com prise res i den tial schools,
non-res i den tial schools, and hos tels which out num ber the rest of the pro -
jects in im ple men ta tion. A ma jor ity of or gani sa tions are work ing in the
area of tribal ed u ca tion. The sec ond-most vi a ble pro jects are on health and
are im ple mented across states and ac count for 25% of the total num ber of
pro jects im ple mented. Pro jects on skill train ing and live li hood build ing
range from com puter train ing to weav ing. This sec tor ac counts for 20% of
the total num ber of pro jects im ple mented across the states.
Community Participation
It has been ob served that over a pe riod of time, a close re la tion ship be -
tween the com mu nity and VOs has de vel oped and data re veals that mem -
bers of the com mu nity across age groups and re gions have in vested
ef forts in cre at ing an aware ness about the GIA Scheme, es pe cially on ed -
u ca tion and in creas ing the par tic i pa tion of com mu nity mem bers for spec -
i fied pro jects.
Vol un tary or gani sa tions have been pro vid ing var i ous train ing
programmes to se lected com mu nity mem bers — es pe cially lead -
ers — and have mo ti vated them to wards ac tively par tic i pat ing in the in -
ter ven tion pro cess for the suc cess ful im ple men ta tion of programmes.
Com mu nity mem bers have as sisted VOs in the se lec tion of ben e fi cia ries,
es pe cially those liv ing below the pov erty line (BPL) and OBCs. This
iden ti fi ca tion has helped some VOs to focus their re sources on spe cial
groups that would need the in ter ven tions more than oth ers. Field-based
re ports of in ves ti ga tors cor rob o rate this find ing and in con so nance with
the same, ben e fits de rived by low in come groups within the com mu nity
have been ob served.

Interface between State, Voluntary Organisations and Tribes 607
In the pro cess of as so ci a tion be tween the com mu nity and VOs, it was
found that com mu nity mem bers have as sisted in the se lec tion pro cess of
other ben e fi cia ries and have also at tended var i ous meet ings sched uled for
dis cuss ing the im ple men ta tion of the pro jects. In the area of VOs pro vid ing
health care ser vices, es pe cially mo bile clin ics, the com mu nity has jointly
or gan ised aware ness programmes on the same and have ac tively fa cil i tated
the pro cess of cre at ing the en vi ron ment for community members to access
these services.
The com mu nity per ceives two types of VOs — from within the com mu -
nity and from out side the com mu nity. The pro cess of part ner ship and col -
lab o ra tion be tween VOs and the com mu nity is mu tual, co op er a tive and
sup port ive. Joint meet ings are held on is sues that con cern both par tic i pa -
tion in aware ness-build ing pro grammes and iden ti fy ing fam i lies and
individuals below the poverty line.
For VOs from within the com mu nity, joint col lab o ra tions for ac tive par -
tic i pa tion in the mon i tor ing work, and iden ti fy ing girl child and fa cil i tat ing
and fur ther ing their ed u ca tional needs were their main activities. How ever,
some com mu nity mem bers have ad mit ted that their role in par tic i pa tion
was vague. This has some
times led to a mis
un
der
stand
ing and even
non-co op er a tion from the com mu nity. How ever, no major con flicts be -
tween the two were re ported from any of the regions in the coun try.
While ef forts of out side VOs were highly ap pre ci ated, it was im por tant to
re cog nise that the pro cess of as sist ing the com mu nity in its vol un tary ef forts
from within and among its own mem bers was cru cial in de vel op ing the com -
mu nity. Data re vealed that giv ing the com mu nity the nec es sary help to run its
own programmes could help re duce their de pend ency on out side agen cies.
There were also re ports from across the re gion, es pe cially by youth groups,
that some VOs were very ar ro gant and in sen si tive to wards the com mu nity.
TRIBE-CENTRED SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE: LAYING THE
CONCEPT AND FRAME

The in ter face be tween the state, VOs and tribes in India is em bed ded in the
socio-po lit i cal en vi ron ment. It emerges out of a dy namic and com plex his -
tory of so cial in ter ac tion be tween var i ous so ci et ies and the state that is
borne out of a nat u ral ne ces sity for the es tab lish ment of a pro gres sive so ci -
ety. The state (na tion–state) though for merly given birth by the Peace of
Westphalia
(1648) is be lieved to be co ex is tent with every so ci ety — in -
clud ing tribal so ci ety — as a ‘con sciously con sti tuted struc ture for

608 Alex Akhup
reg u lat ing the be hav iour of the rel e vant pop u la tion as and when re quired’
(Oommen, 2009). How ever, the point of con ten tion in the pro cess of in ter -
ac tion be tween the state and tribal so ci ety is the issue of mu tual con ver -
gence be tween them. This un der stand ing takes us to the realm of dy nam ics
of in ter ac tions be tween the state and ‘na tion al i ties’ — a dis course in the
do main of cul ture and po lit i cal en ti ties from the per spec tive of a ‘na -
tion–state’, ‘na tion al i ties’ and ‘eth nic ity’ in a mul ti na tional con text. The
basic ques tion is whether the state and na tion al ity’s bound ary have a point
of con ver gence?
Going by the spirit of the Con sti tu tion, India is a na tion of cul tural di ver -
sity. It re cog nises the co ex is tence of dif fer ent cul tures, so cial sys tems, ‘self
rule’ (Savyasaachi, 1998), and self-de ter mi na tion as ar tic u lated in Ar ti cle
342 (1), the 5th and 6th Sched ules, and 73rd and 74th Amend ments — de vo -
lu tion of pow ers to local au thor i ties. The logic of sched ul ing tribal areas
and tribes pre dom i nantly high lights the Con sti tu tional pro vi sions of the
gov ern ment with re gard to tribes and af firms the space for a tribe-cen tred
or self-rule per
spec
tive. In this con
text, the local au
thor
i
ties (gram
sabha/vil lage coun cils) of the tribal vil lage be come the high est plat form of
power and de ci sion-mak ing.
Vol un tary ac tion has emerged as a con se quence of the sol i dar ity of
human so ci ety (Darendorf, 1969), in di vid ual phi lan thropy, or re li gious
char ity (Iyengar, 1998; Tandon, 2005). The VOs/agen cies are the log i cal
end of vol un tary ac tion, which could be de fined as a struc ture of agents for
vol un tary ac tion and change in the given frame and con text. They are iden -
ti fied variedly as VOs, vol un tary agen cies (VAs), com mu nity-based or -
gani sa tions
(CBOs), self-help groups (SHGs),
non-gov ern men tal
or gani sa tions (NGOs), and non-profit or gani sa tions (NPOs) among oth ers.
In re cent times, there is a trend of un der stand ing VOs as NPOs which are de -
fined as a so cial or gani sa tion en tity that meets the five cri te ria of in sti tu tional
iden tity, sep a rate from gov ern ment, non-profit based, self-gov ern ing and
vol un tarily set up (Tandon, 2005). The point of ref er ence in this con text is
the emer gence of this sec tor since the 1970s and one that can hardly be ne -
glected, par tic u larly its con tri bu tion to tribal de vel op ment.
In the con text of India, a sys tem atic and for mal pro cess of in ter face be -
tween the state, VOs and tribes are ob served since the post-In de pend ence
era (Thakur, 1997). The basic prem ise of in ter face/con ver gence be tween
VOs, tribes and the state is the ser vice, which is wel fare-ori ented. A mean -
ing ful and pur pose ful in ter face be tween the state, VOs and tribes is very

Interface between State, Voluntary Organisations and Tribes 609
cru cial for tribal de vel op ment. There fore, it be comes im por tant to en gage
in un der stand ing and ar gu ing for a tribe-cen tred par a digm po si tioned from
a per spec tive that re cog nises and ac cepts the tribes’ inert and or ganic ca pa -
bil ity to de velop them selves.
Based on the given frame, an ar gu ment is made for a per spec tive shift
through a de lin ea tion of the different paradigms in practice as follows:
Working ‘for’ Tribes: Service and Coercive Welfare4
The ap proach of ‘work ing for tribes’ has emerged from a phi lan thro pist
and ‘welfarian’ un der stand ing of the re al ity of tribes. The ap proach that
per ceives, tribes as ‘a stage in an evo lu tion ary phase’, is a top-down ap -
proach, which con sid ers tribal areas as re source-poor, tribals lack ing skills,
and with poor ac cess to new pro duc tion-rais ing tech nol o gies (Visaria and
Gumber, 1994). It is mo ti vated by a mis sion for sav ing tribes, fired by a
mis sion ary zeal of ‘work ing for the tribal com mu nity’. There fore, the
focus has been on ser vice de liv ery, with a high de gree of pa ter nal ism,
which has been more det ri men tal than em pow er ing.
There fore, the basic prem ise of the in ter face be tween the state, VOs and
com mu nity is char ity and phi lan thropy, usu ally in spired by re li gious fer -
vour, which has been de fined as the ‘sup ply side’ ap proach (Clerk, 1993).
The par a digm fo cused on ef fi cient de liv ery of in puts that is, im ple men ta tion
of gov ern ment and other spon sored de vel op ment programmes (Iyengar,
1998).
Working ‘with’ Tribes: Partnership in Development
This ap proach of in ter face be tween the state, VOs and tribes dur ing the
seventies and eighties can be de scribed as ‘work ing with the tribal com mu -
nity’. This era spurted the VO to wards a pro fes sional ap proach, and tech ni -
cal and tech no log i cal so lu tions. The VOs took ac tive part in the pro cess of
de vel op ment with the basic aim of ‘work ing with the tribe’ and were seen as
an ac tive agent of change with a strong vi sion for the tribes. In fact, this stage
is a re ac tion to the ser vice in ter face ap proach. How ever, stud ies (Bhatt, 98)
have showed that these or gani sa tions could also not suc cess fully in ter face
with tribal com mu ni ties. The in ter face of the or gani sa tion, state and peo ple
were gov erned by the fund ing pol i cies from a neo-lib eral cap i tal ist in ter est.
In fact, VOs be came a mere tool of the neo-co lo nial state for co-op tion and
ex pro pri a tion of tribal elites and the com mu nity’s re sources (Davalle, 1992;
Prasad, 2003).

610 Alex Akhup
Working ‘through’ Tribes: A Tribe-Centered Social Work Frame
From the above for mu la tions, it is clear that till date the in ter face be tween
the gov ern ment, VOs and tribes has been more of char ity, wel fare and de -
vel op ment based from an etic per spec tive. This has brought in a lot of con -
tra dic tion in the pro cess of so cial work in the con text of tribes in India. The
state and VOs have — at most times — not un der stood the re al ity of the
tribes yield ing to the de vel op ment ef forts in vain. The sit u a tion of tribes in
the coun try is very much the same then and now, if not worse. This given
fact makes it im per a tive to re visit the ear lier par a digm and look at the re al -
ity of tribes from an emic per
spec
tive. The in
ter
face should be
contextualised con sciously to pro vide a crit i cal space to an or ganic pro cess
of de vel op ment and em pow er ment from a tribe-cen tred par a digm. Within
this frame, the state and VOs are out side agents and the prin ci ple agent are
the tribes them selves. The en dog e nous pro cess of de vel op ment — often
con sid ered to be prim i tive or ab er ra tions in so ci ety — should be come the
main stream.
Tribe-cen tred prac tice and pro cesses are very crit i cal to the de vel op -
ment and em pow er ment of tribes. If this reali sa tion comes to bear on var i -
ous stake holders that in ter face — the state, VOs and tribes — then the
com mu nity takes pre ce dence over VOs as the lat ter are out side agents that
should be ac count able to the com mu nity within a frame and de vo lu tion of
power and rec og ni tion of local and tribal au thor ity. Thus, it is ev i dent that
it is im per a tive to shift focus from a ser vice ap proach to a tribe-centric ap -
proach that aims at an em pow er ment pro cess ‘from within’ the com mu nity
rather than re ly ing on VOs from out side the community.
A TRIBE-CENTERED STRATEGY
In this given frame, ac count abil ity, trans par ency and ef fec tive ness of
programmes can be real ised only if we evoke the Con sti tu tional pro vi sion
of the Panchayat Ex ten sion to Sched ule Areas (PESA) Act, 1996. The
prin ci ple of ‘all VOs an swer able to the gram sabha’ should be the basic
prem ise of op er a tion for every or gani sa tion im ple ment ing the em pow er -
ment programmes. This prin
ci
ple should also be ap
plied in the 6th
Scheduled areas. All or gani sa tions should be re spon si ble and an swer able
to the com mu nity that is per ceived and re spected as being su preme. This
ap
proach should be ap
plied by all VOs and states im
ple
ment
ing the
programme. In prin ci ple, there should be the con sent of the gram sabha to
all pro jects op er at ing in the state.

Interface between State, Voluntary Organisations and Tribes 611
The con cep tual frame (Fig ure 1) high lights a pro gres sive per spec tive
shift and pro cesses of a strat egy of in ter face be tween the state, VOs and
tribes vis-à-vis tribal de vel op ment and em pow er ment. This con cep tuali -
sation, as it has emerged from the case cited above, is field and prac tice
based. It is con cep tual ised from the view point of the tribal com mu nity and
is a , a tribe-cen tred frame. As ar gued in the pre ced ing para graph, the prem -
ise of the par a digm for ‘work ing through tribes’ is the rec og ni tion of an or -
ganic and in ter nal pro cess cru cial for the tribe’s em pow er ment. The basic
prem ise of the con cep tual frame un der lines the de vel op ment and em pow -
er ment of tribes in the first phase of the above-stated per spec tive shift with
a focus on de liv ery of ser vice from a rights-based per spec tive within a
frame that builds incrementally and progressively.
In the given par a digm frame, the state, VO and tribe in ter face is mapped
out in dif fer ent phases overtly im pli cat ing the in tri cate and dy namic pro -
cesses in the pro gres sive for mu la tion of per spec tive from Shift One, Shift
Two to a tribe-cen tred frame. In Shift One, the state is po si tioned as the pri -
mary stake holder. It de fines and up holds the strat egy with an ef fort to:
strengthen the state committee’s operational framework;
survey service deficient areas;
build a database of VOs in tribal areas; and
establish a point-wise grading system of VOs.
In this given frame, the VOs are po si tioned as ac tive part ners of the state
and tribes in reach ing out to the STs sit u ated in iden ti fied, ser vice-de fi cient
areas. The com mu nity par tic i pa tion is in its initial stage.
In the given Shift Two per spec tive, an ar gu ment is fur thered to wards
strength en ing tribe-cen tred prac tice through de vo lu tion of pow ers to the
spe cific states. The spe cific states are po si tioned to play a cen tral role in the
im ple men ta tion of the GIA Scheme in the following aspects:
Application/screening of proposals
Monitoring/evaluation of projects
Inspection
Prioritising projects
Rationalisation of sector, project and tribe
Prioritising and encouraging internal VOs
Stabilising quality of service and critical infrastructure.

612 Alex Akhup
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Interface between State, Voluntary Organisations and Tribes 613
In this par a digm, the tribal com mu nity is per ceived as a proactive part -
ner to the state and VOs in the em pow er ment ini tia tive. It is cru cial that the
states and VOs take cog ni sance of the own er ship and par tic i pa tion of the
com mu nity.
A tribe-cen tred so cial work prac tice is en vi sioned as the ul ti mate par a digm
con cep tual ised in the given frame work. This par a digm ar gues for a mu tual
strat egy of in ter ven tion for tribal de vel op ment and em pow er ment based on the
per spec tive of a tribe’s re al ity. In this par a digm, an ideal frame work for in ter -
ven tion, the state, or gani sa tion and tribes are po si tioned in a mu tual co ex is -
tence frame. The focus of the in ter face be tween these three agents is based on
em pow er ment, qual ity ser vice and com mu nity par tic i pa tion, and own er ship of
the programme by tribes for up lift ment.
The VOs must be ac count able and trans par ent to the state and vice versa.
The state must be re spon sive (as against re ac tion ary), in clu sive and a
trusted part ner (as against mis trust of tribes), and vice versa. The VO–tribe
in ter face must prem ise its en gage ment as re la tional, em pow er ing and
time-bound. The im per a tives of such a for mu la tion are to achieve the goal
of a high de gree of qual ity tribe (ben e fi ciary) par tic i pa tion.
Finally, ‘tribe-cen tred so cial work’ pur ports that an em pow er ing
par a digm of in ter ven tion in the con text of tribes must take into ac -
count (as stated above) the key pre mises of en gage ment. Be gin ning
with en vi sion ing tribes them selves as agents of change (new agents of
change), the goals of de vel op ment must shift away from a top-down
growth-ori ented state-cen tred for mu la tion and move to wards a
non-im pe rial, non-he ge monic and anti-op pres sive pol i tics of per cep -
tion be tween de vel op ment ac tors. While iden ti fy ing con ten tious po lit -
i
cal spaces and basic pa
ram
e
ters of con
ver
gence and di
ver
gence
be tween the three iden ti fied po lit i cal ac tors, the age-old his tor i cal ar -
tic u la tions of the tribes of ‘dif fer ence’ need not be per ceived as a
threat to the state in this age and time.
A sen si tive con tract be tween stake holders would mini mise con flicts and
frag men ta tion and maxi mise jus tice and re spect. While the au thor is not ar -
gu ing for a state–VO–tribe en mesh ment, the rec og ni tion of a tribe-cen tred
so cial work in ter ven tion as for mu lated above, will en tail the ac cep tance of
a new lan guage of re la tion ship and en gage ment where key stake holders
would be will ing to lis ten and un der stand each other’s his tor i cal nar ra tives
as they pro
ceed to
wards a new so
cial work era of anti-oppressive
formulation and articulation.

614 Alex Akhup
NOTES
1.
Ministry of Tribal Affairs Annual Report, 2006.
2.
Terms and Conditions as formulated within the sole discretion of the Central
Government.
3.
The Approach Paper to the 10th Plan qualifies this move as one of the major strategies
in the Tenth Plan.
4.
With the emergence of the welfare state, service to its citizens became a core
responsibility and task of the state. As the Indian State was trying to bring its
population to ‘willingly accept’ its authority — especially with the myriad miniscule
communities that are identified as ‘tribals’ — welfare was used as a tool to coopt the
elites of these groups into the mainstream rather than as a process of developing the
tribes.
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THE INDIAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK, Vol ume 70, Issue 4, Oc to ber 2009