March 1, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination




THE CONTEXT: Nomads and Denotified tribes in India are an invisible and marginalized section of society, facing numerous challenges due to historical and contemporary factors.


Background: Historical Context of Nomadic and Denotified Tribes

  • During British colonial rule, nomadic tribes were unjustly labelled as ‘born criminals,’ marginalizing them within society.
  • Traditional roles of these communities in providing services and contributing to India’s cultural heritage disrupted by societal perceptions and legislative acts.

Invisibility and Visibility: A Perspective

  • Invisibility defined as a complex and relative phenomenon linked to terms like ‘neglected,’ ‘marginalized,’ and ‘hidden.’
  • Perspectives shaping visibility – civil society, intellectual class, policymakers, and marginalized groups neglected on social, epistemic, and policy levels.

Nomadic and Denotified Communities: Historical Impact and Marginalization

  • Pre-Colonial Contributions: Traditionally, these communities contributed services in transportation, entertainment, healthcare, and livelihood support.
  • Colonial Legislation Impact: Criminal Tribes Act (1871) stigmatized nearly 200 communities as ‘born criminals.’
  • Economic Reasons Behind Stigmatization: Ayyangar Committee (1950) highlighted economic motives behind branding certain groups as ‘born criminals.’
  • Effects of Colonial Legislation: Acts such as Criminal Tribes Act (1871-1947), Forest Act (1865, 1878, 1927), and Salt Act (1835) marginalized nomadic communities.
  • Disruption in Livelihoods: Legislation impacting access to natural resources like water, forest, and land led to livelihood challenges.

Socio-economic Invisibility

  • Nomads and denotified tribes are on the periphery of all forms of modern development.
  • They lack basic documents to receive state assistance, basic amenities such as drinking water, toilet and bathroom facilities, electricity, modern education, and healthcare services.
  • They are commonly found living in makeshift and tent settlements on the outskirts of villages and towns.
  • Following Independence, some nomadic and denotified communities were included in the constitutional categories of Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Castes (OBCs).
  • However, the socio-economic profile of these communities shows that they lag behind the general population in terms of education, employment, and other development indicators.
    • More than half is illiterate among nomadic and denotified groups in Haryana compared to the state average.
    • Higher illiteracy rates and lower work participation in urban settings among these communities.


  • Need for Attention and Support:
    • Emphasis on addressing lack of basic amenities and assets for marginalized groups, especially in urban areas.
    • Urgent requirement for focused policies to uplift the historically and presently marginalized segments of society.


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