Tribals are known to be the autochthonous people of the land. Tribals are often referred to ‘adivasi’, ‘vanvasi’, ‘pahari’, ‘adimjati’, ‘anusuchit janjati’, etc. India has the second largest tribal population in the world, the first being Africa and tribal Communities are the integral segment of Indian society. India, with a variety of ecosystems, presents a varied tribal population throughout its length and breadth depicting a complex cultural mosaic. India is a home for large number of tribal people, known as “ADVASI”. Nearly all the tribal people of India have been in almost continuous contact with their neighbours, who live by farming and a large number of specialized manual industries (Bose, 1971 : 2). This contact goes back, at least, to the days of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata; for in them there are references to tribal communities who are referred to as Jana. When, in his exile, Rama reached the borders of the forests of Central India, the land was introduced to him as the abode of the tribal people, Janasthana
The areas inhabited by the tribal constitute a significant part of the under developed areas of the country. The tribal people have rich traditions, cultures and heritage with unique life styles and customs. Despite some regional variation, the tribes share many common traits, including living in relative geographical isolation, and being relatively more homogeneous and more self-contained than the non-tribal social groups.
India’s population includes nearly one hundred million tribal people. These numbers are matchedonly by the remarkable diversity of India’s tribes. The two main regions of tribal settlement are the country’s northeastern states bordering China and Burma, and the highlands and plains of its central and southern regions. The latter is home to more than 80 per cent of the tribes, which differ from the northeastern tribes in ethnicity and in having experienced greater “intrusion of the Indian mainstream and of the pan-Indian model of the state, society, economy and culture”. There are also differences in the extent to which the tribes interact with non-tribal communities. While the northeastern tribes are usually isolated communities, the tribes in peninsular India may at times coexist with non-tribal people.
India has traditionally been the home of different cultures and people. Unity in diversity is one of the most prominent features in the people of India. Among the diversified population a significant portion is comprised of the tribal people, the original inhabitants’ of the land. The tribal culture of India and their traditions and practices pervade almost all of the aspects of Indian culture and civilization. In India one can find almost a new dialect, culture, and different people after moving 50 kms in any direction. Likewise the tribal population is also very much varied and diversified.
The Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes Commission appointed by the President of India on 28 April 1960 pursuant to Article 339 of the Constitution of India in its report of 14 October 1961 stated that “As these groups are presumed to form the oldest ethnological sector of the population, the term “Adivasi” (‘Adi’= original and ‘Vasi’= inhabitant) has become current among certain people. The International Labour Organization has classified such people as “indigenous”.
The Tribal India lives in the forest hills and naturally isolated regions known as a rule by different names meaning either the people of forest and hill or the original inhabitants, and so on. The popular names are: Vanyajati (castes of forest), Vanvasi (inhabitants of forest), Pahari (hill-dwellers), Adimjati (original communities), Adivasi (first settlers), Janjati (folk people), Anusuchit Janjati (scheduled tribe) and so on. Among all these terms. Adivasi is known most extensively and Anusuchit Janjati or Scheduled Tribe is the constitutional name covering all of them.
Govt. of India has initiated a number of steps to develop socio economic conditions of tribal population in the country and one of those initiatives, is the formation of Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited (TRIFED) in 1987. It is a national-level apex organization functioning under the administrative control of Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India. TRIFED has a network of its (Member Federations) and (13 offices) all over India with its headquarters in New Delhi.