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ADIVASIS IN INDIA

Map of AdivasisMore indigenous people live in India than in any other country in the world.  Full results from the 2011 Indian census have not yet been released, but those that have indicate that the total Indian population is more than 1.21 billion (109) people.  Since adivasis have generally made up a bit more than 8% of the Indian population, one would estimate that at least roughly 97,000,000 adivasis live in India today.

Adivasis are rural people.  According to the 2001 Census of India only 2.4% of adivasis live in urban areas.  It is now common, however, for adivasis to move to cities temporarily in search of work.  By most economic and social measures ādivāsīs constitute the poorest strata of Indian society. They have also suffered disproportionately from developmental and other projects, which have disrupted their traditional ways of life and displaced them at a rate far higher than any other Indian group.

The Government of India officially recognizes 461 groups as “Scheduled Tribes” (List of notified Scheduled Tribes by State; see further Documents under Resources). It lists their essential characteristics as being "Primitive Traits, Geographical isolation, Distinct culture, Shy of contact with community at large, Economically backward" (Ministry of Tribal Affairs).  Adivasis are especially concentrated in a belt that stretches across central India from Rajasthan and Gujarat in the west to West Bengal and Orissa in the east as well as in several states in the northeast (see map).

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