In India, Scheduled Tribes are recognised by the Constitution, Article 342 and according to the 2011 census , the tribal population is just over 84 million or 8.2% of the total population. In the central belt, these people are collectively referred to as Adivāsi a word with Sanskrit origins which literally translates as “original inhabitants”.
However, the term is not universally accepted by all indigenous people in India. In the North East region, Adivāsi only applies to the ‘Tea-tribes’ that were brought from Central India to work on the tea plantations in Assam during the colonial era. The indigenous groups of the North East frequently refer collectively to themselves with the English word “tribes”.
Tribal peoples are particularly numerous in the Indian states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and in the north eastern states.
Many tribals are hunters and gatherers or farmers, and live in isolation in hills and forests practicing their own distinct culture and religion. They are sensitive to ecological degradation caused by modernization; both commercial forestry and intensive agriculture have proved destructive to the forests that had endured slash and burn agriculture for many centuries.