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The Baiga tribe of central India are primarily settled around Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. They lead a semi-nomadic life and never plough the earth out of respect for 'Mother Earth'. If a family member dies, the old house is abandoned and a new one is built. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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The Toda tribe lives isolated in the NIlgiri Plateau of Southern India. All in all, their current population stands at less than a thousand. Usually clothed in a single garment, they no longer practice female infanticide nor the practice of marrying a woman to all the brothers in a single family. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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The Sidi community, which is often referred to as 'India's lost Africans', primarily resides in Karnataka, Gujarat and even parts of Pakistan. Over time, their origins have been lost but they are believed to have been brought to India as slaves by Portuguese traders. The tribe worships its ancestors and believe the spirits of their elders are always close. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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The Maram Naga tribe mainly live in the district of Senapat, Manipur. They are the only Nagas to not have consumed pork historically but those food habits changed with the advent of Christianity. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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Ladakhi tribes live mostly in Leh district and are a peaceful and happy lot. They work for only four months and rest of the months are known for festivals and celebrations. Photo: Alberto Buzzola/LightRocket/Getty Images

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Historically, the Kurumba who live near Chennai and Mysore, have been best known for their acts of sorcery. The name Kurumba is said to have originated from the occupation of tending kuru (sheep) or possibly from the Tamil word kurumbo (mischief) because in ancient times they were beleived to be arrogant and mischievous. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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The Korwa tribe primarily resides in the hills and forest area of the Chhotanagpur plateau, the bordering area of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Their main source of livelihood is hunting and collecting forest products. They are probably the poorest of all indigenous people in India with 60% of the tribe falling below the poverty line. Photo: Wiki Creative Commons

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Believed to be of Persian origin, the Rabari tribe are primarily settled in Gujarat and Rajasthan. They are know for enaging long hours into embroidery and has a rich textile tradition. Photo: IndiaPictures/UIG/Getty Images

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The Drokpa tribe is rumoured to be descendants from Alexander The Great's army. They live in three small villages in the disputed territory between India and Pakistan. They allow public kissing and wife swapping without inhibitions. Photo: IndiaPictures/UIG/Getty Images

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For the Dongria Kondh tribe of eastern India, the Niyamgiri Hills in which they have lived for thousands of years, are sacred. Photo: Jason Taylor

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The Bodo Gadaba tribe from Odisha is one of the most colourful tribes in India. Drinking liquor is considered sacred. Photo: Wiki Creative Commons

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The Bhils, India's second largest tribal community, live in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. They are closely connected to the land, and believe that painting is the best form of offering prayers and healing. Photo: Rajpipla/Atherton Archives/Getty Images

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE

UN Indigenous Peoples' Day: meet Native India, 8.6% of our population

Catch Team @catchnews

The ninth of August is commemorated each year as the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.

It's a good day to remember three things: how fascinatingly rich and varied these indigenous cultures once were; how most countries have pretty much annihilated the original inhabitants of their land; and how the world is slowly coming round to the wisdom of many of their belief systems - particularly on gender equality and ecological sustainability. (See photoessay)

Celebrity activists like Bianca Jagger have tried hard to foreground tribal issues across the world but for the most part it remains an imaginative black hole.

This year the focus is on the access to health services such communities have. This too is a timely remember.

Here's just one fact that captures the harsh neglect tribal populations face: in Chhattisgarh, in India, more tribal people die annually from a deadly strain of cerebral malaria than from all the years of Maoist conflict put together.

However, not even a fraction is spent on creating health services in these regions.

Tribal India: the system gap

In India, this story is particularly stark because its tribal population is not just a museum relic: it equals 84 million people, which is equivalent to the entire population of Germany. Or 8.6% of India's total population.

This is the second largest concentration of indigenous people in the world after China. Yet, only 2.6 % of this 84 million have access to health care.

In effect, what this translates to is this: India has the largest number of under-5 child deaths in the world. Within this, more under-5 tribal children die than any other group. They are also the least vaccinated; and tribal mothers receive the least anti-natal care. There is nearly an 86% shortfall of doctors in the tribal regions.

In fact, the tribal story in India today is dark from every angle it is looked at.

There are over 461 scheduled tribes in India. Many of them have a proud, even martial, history. Today, 75 tribes are particularly vulnerable. But there is no urgency to protect either their numbers, or their languages and culture.

The tribal right to land, forest and self-governance was guaranteed by the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution for mainland areas and the Sixth Schedule for tribals in the north-east regions.

But over the last decade, this right has been under increasing assault. As governments and corporations eye the mineral rich regions where tribals are concentrated, they are being forcibly displaced for mining and development projects. They are also jailed for straying into forests that have been their home for centuries.

The experiences of tribals in India, however, remains an unevocative statistic because no effort has been made to set up centres to learn their languages or preserve their oral histories.

The few tribals who do speak for themselves and their people have often faced brutal retribution from the State.

Catch Team

Catch Team @catchnews