Illiteracy, Poverty and the Backward Classes in India

In 1948, the Declaration of Human Rights stated that every individual has the right to education.Yet even today this right is denied to millions of children all over the world . Education is the vital parameter for social  and economic development of society. An illeterate society can never sustain nor develop. An illeterate society is gripped by various social problems such as poverty, unemployment , diseases and so on.

A person is considered literate if he or she can read and write with understanding in any language. A person who can merely read but cannot write is not considered literate.

Government of India has made education compulsory upto age 14 years in the country. Though a lot of progress has been made in expanding primary education, a major concern is high dropout rates in the first few years of schooling.


. Low socio-economic status

. Child labour

. Big family size

. Ignorance

. Infrastructure Inadequacy

. Poverty


. Provision of free and compulsory education

. Public and government partnership to raise the literacy level of a state

. Provision of education loans

. Setting up of more number of schools

. Recruiting more teachers

. Banning child labour

. Awareness programmes.



The term ” Scheduled Castes” refers to the ” untouchable castes ” . The untouchable castes are those who suffer from various social and political disabilities many of which are traditionally prescribed and socially enforced by higher castes-D N Majumdar

Those economically , socially, educationally and  politically backward castes which are kept at a distance by the other castes as ‘ untouchables’ . Mahatma Gandhi first time used the term ‘ Harijan’ for untouchables meaning ” The People Of God”.


The Scheduled Castes or the Harijans suffered for centuries from a number of social disabilities among which the following may be noted.

1) Lowest Status In The Hierarchy -In the caste hierarchy the Scheduled Castes are awarded the lowest status. They are considered to be unholy, inferior and low and are hated by the other castes. They have suffered from the stigma of untouchability. Their image is considered to be polluting for the upper castes. Hence, they have been treated as the servants of the other castes.

2) Education Disabilities – The Harijans were prevented from taking up education during the early days. Sanskrit education was not meant for them. Schools and other educational institutions were closed for them. Even today many of them are illeterate and ignorant.

3) Civic Disabilities, Prevention from the use of Public Places- For a long time the scheduled castes were not allowed to use public places, places and avail of civic facilities such as village wells and ponds, temples, hostels, hotels, schools, hospitals, lecture halls, dharmashalas. They were forced to live on the outskirts of the towns and villages during the early days.


A tribe is a collection of families bearing a common name, speaking a common dialect, occupying or professing to occupy a common territory and is not usually endogamous though originally it might have been so.- Imperial Gazetteer Of India

A Schedule Tribe refers to a ” collection of families or groups of families , bearing a common name , members of which occupy the same territory, speak the same language and observe certain taboos regarding marriage, profession or occupation and have developed as well as assessed system of reciprocity and mutuality of obligations.- Dr D.N. Majumdar


The tribals are faced with a number of problems some of are as discussed below:

1) GEOGRAPHIC SEPARATION-The tribals of India are geographically seperated from the rest of population as they live in the unapproachable areas like deep valleys, dense forests, hills etc. It is difficult for them to develop relations, and hence socially they are away from the civilised world.\

2) CULTURAL PROBLEMS- The tribal culture is entirely different from the civilised people. The tribal people fail to mingle with the civilised people, their customs and practices , beliefs and attitudes are different. They are suspicious towards the civilised people. They cling strongly to their customs and traditions.

3) SOCIAL PROBLEMS-The tribals too have their own social problems . They are very traditional and custom- bound , as a result they become the victims of superstitious beliefs, outmoded and absurd practices and habits. Child marriage , infanticide, animal sacrifice, exchange of wives, black magic and other harmful practices are still found among them. They believe in ghosts and spirits .

4) ECONOMIC PROBLEMS- Tribal people are economically the poorest people. Majority of them live below the poverty line. Some of the Economic Problems of The Tribals are explaine below:

Exploitation-The innocences, illeteracy and helplessness of the tribals are exploited by outsiders.

Unprofitable Agriculture-About 90%  of the tribals are engaged in cultivation and many of them are landless and engaged in in shifting cultivation . A very small percentage takes up occupational activities .

Land Ownership Problems- A huge portion of tribal land has been legally transferred to non -tribals. The tribals who have a feeling of deprivation of their rights to the land and forest have reacted sharply to the restrictions imposed by the government on their traditional rights.

Problems Of Banking Facility- The number of banks in the tribal areas are not sufficient to meet the demand of tribal population. As a result tribal people have to mainly depend on moneylenders.

Educational Problems- Education is a major problem of the tribals. More than 80% of them are illeterate . They have no faith in formal educational organisation. Majority of tribal people are engaged in agriculture. The illeterate parents do not give  primary importance to education of their children.

Health and Sanitation Problem- Due to illeteracy and ignorance the tribal people are not able to develop modern health and sanitation practice. They have their own belief systems which results in failure to avail modern medical facilities.

Problem Of Separatism –

1) Tribal Revolts And Uprising- Numerous revolts and tribal clashes have taken place in many tribal areas in recent times. Latest example is the ethnic violence in Assam in 2012. During these uprisings the Nagas, Mizos and Bodos have been very active and have created serious law and order problem in the region.

2) Smuggling , Infiltration and Drug Addiction-Borders of India( Tribal Belt) serve as an infiltration channel from Bangladesh, Burma and China. Tribals , being innocent people, become a victim of smuggling activities. Prohibited drugs and unlicensed weapons in the country through these people. As a result they become victim of drug addiction and trafficking activities.


Backward Classes can be defined as a social category which consists of all the socially, educationally, economically and politically backward groups, castes and tribes.

Those social groups, classes or castes which are characterised by illeteracy and lack of education, poverty , exploitation of labour and non-representation in services and untouchability.


. Low social position in caste hierarchy of Hindu Society

. Inadequate or no representation in government services

. Inadequate representation in the field of trade, commerce and industry

. Lack of general advancement among the major sections of a caste or community

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