Diamond Jubilee Celebration of Anthropological Survey of India 

Port Blair, May 6: The yearlong celebration to mark the Diamond jubilee of Anthropological Survey of India, A&N Regional Centre had begun with the formal inauguration by the then Chief Secretary, A&N Administration Shri Shakti Sinha. During the yearlong celebration various functions and activities were organised by the Regional Office, which is to conclude with the two day seminar on ‘Life, Livelihood Strategies, and Technology Among the Hunter Gatherers’. 

The two day seminar was today inaugurated by the Secretary, Tribal Welfare, A&N Administration, Shri G. Theva Neethi Dhas, IAS at the Auditorium of the Regional Centre by lighting the traditional lamp.

Speaking on the occasion, the chief guest Shri Theva Neethi Dhas said, 60 years of a life of any institution is something great and thus diamond jubilee celebration is of great importance.

Explaining about the tribes of A&N Islands, Dhas said that in the islands we have 6 notified tribes. Except Nicobarese the others are grouped as ‘Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups’. It is the endeavour of the A&N Administration to convert them from PVTG to EVTG (Extremely Valuable Tribal Groups) as the AAJVS and a group of experts would like to do that.

Briefing about the past history of the tribes, Dhas said that the East India Company tried to colonise these islands but because of the hostility from the native islanders and health related aspects, colonization could not take place. Subsequently in 1858, the British India brought out Penal Settlement in these islands and followed a policy of reprisal and friendship (Gun & Gift Policy) as a means of conflict resolution. But the indigenous islanders (Tribes) did not accept the foreigners or intruders.

The then Administration later followed ‘friendly contact with them’ as a part of conflict resolution but the consequences are well known. Once there were a group of 8000 strong Great Andamanese who got disseminated. Now we have hardly 50-60 of them living in a state of barest existence in a little island called Strait Island. Fortunately the Administration intervened and they were protected from the streets of Port Blair and provided all welfare measures and support.

So was the case of the fate of Onges, he said. In 1890 the British brought out the friendly contact policy and ultimately now about 111 of them are confined in one corner of Little Andaman called Dugong Creek. Though they have been disseminated because of the policy of the British but now they have been protected, given all welfare measures. But the fact remains that they are not carrying out their Hunter Gatherer activities as they used to do it. Now they mostly depend on Govt. for welfare assistance.

In the case of Jarawas who exhibited hostility right from the beginning against the British policy of friendly contact, continued their hostility. In 1998 some incident took place and they turned towards the Administration seeking medical assistance and other livelihood assistance. Fortunately the GOI after Independence chose to have a Mid Policy. It is neither an isolationist policy nor assimilationist policy.

Under Jawahar Lal Nehru as the Prime Minister, it was decided to let the tribes decide their own fate of integrating with the other culture/ society at their own pace, their own chosen time and at their own terms. Fortunately in the year 1956 on 18th June, the President of India promulgated a regulation called A&N Islands Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation. This regulation recognised the inevitable right of the tribes especially on land.

Under the regulation a large part of land has been notified as Tribal Reserves including South Andaman and other parts of the islands. In the case of Jarawas they have inhabited a large part of South Andaman and parts of N&M Andaman. An area of about 1028 Sq. Km. has been identified and notified as Jarawa Tribal Reserve. It is a landmark decision of GoI and A&N Administration to exclusively protect their rights.

Very recently the GoI has brought out the Forests Right Act recognising the dwellers who have been settled for more than three generations. But in the case of islands, the A&N PAT Regulation is far ahead of the Act, as it gives exclusive rights to the tribals who are living there and the entry of settlers have been prevented. It can be said that it is a rarest regulation which exists in any part of the world, Dhas said.

At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that free India has to deal with so many other issues. The partition brought out large families who migrated from East Pakistan. They had to be settled. From penal settlement, now A&N Islands have been modified as human settlement and the migrant population were brought to the islands in 1950s, were allotted lands, especially in the north of Andamans. Similarly other people from the mainland were brought to assist the settlement process. From Chota Nagpur area large number of tribals known as Ranchi Community were brought for these works and got settled here. Similarly lot of other communities from various parts settled in the islands apart from penal settlers.

The question now is balancing the interest of these settlers Vis a Vis the Tribals. It’s not an easy task, he said. Article 21 says that there is a right to life and right to life includes right to livelihood. The people who have been settled in these islands are also the citizens of this country. They had lost their land rights in the mainland, brought here under a scheme and their rights have to be protected.

In 1901 as per the census if we compare the population ratio of the tribals and the settlers the ratio was 1:9 but now the ratio has changed to 1:675. In the case of certain tribes like Onges and the Jarawas, the population is increasing but the issue is to balance the two interests as both of them are citizens of the same country. For this there needs to be a dynamic policy and not a static one. Therefore the Govt thought of bringing in AAJVS chaired by the Lt. Governor, the highest executive in the islands. Through AAJVS the polity of Govt. is being implemented irrespective of all tribes.

Because of various factors including the Court Intervention, the Central Govt. brought out a policy called ‘Jarawa Policy’ in the year 2004. The implementation of the same rests with AAJVS and the Administration. It is not an easy task, mentioned the Secretary. Pre Independence, the population of the tribes i.e. Great Andamanese diminished but due to the policy of Govt. of India, the population of the tribes is increasing, he said giving examples of the Jarawa and the Onges.

There are certain issues which the Administration has to deal with, which includes the kind of life we want to give to the tribes. Do we want to give them a lifestyle which is totally dependent on the settlers or the govt. or the Administration or do we want a vibrant economy providing independent livelihood for the tribes.

There is always a conflict between the interests of the settlers and the tribes. Perhaps that’s the reason why in 2007 the A&N Administration brought out the Buffer Zone Notification which is 838 Sq. Kms. around the reserve, where commercial and tourism activity has been banned. In order to insulate the tribes from the ill effect of overexploitation, commercial activities and Minor Forest Produce the Buffer Zone was notified.

Since any policy formulated cannot be static and has to be dynamic, when there were apprehensions from people living inside the Buffer Zone, Govt. took a decision to exclude 34 Settlement Villages from the Buffer Zone reminding them that the five km. area continues to be a Buffer Zone. The settlers residing in the 34 villages are allowed to carry on with their livelihood activities, but it should not be prejudicial to the safety, security and interests of the Jarawa. In this regard the sensitivity of the Administration to address the issue should be appreciated, he said.

It is easy to criticize and comment on the decisions but the fact remains that Administration wants to have a balanced view. Let the tribals take their own decision at their own will, at an appropriate time, on their own terms.

Continuous study is being done in the area, which is being assisted by the Anthropological Survey of India. Recently we have done a study on the empirical study on the livelihood pattern of the Jarawa. We found that interaction do take place between the Jarawa and the Settler Community. It is not on the Andaman Trunk Road (ATR) as people talk more of ATR but on the coastal side or on the periphery of the tribal reserve. We have to find out how to monitor that and ensure that tribals are not exploited by this kind of interaction. Some kind of barter system goes on but how to regulate it is the question, Dhas said.

We have identified 8 areas or the so called hotspots where such activities goes on. We want to focus, monitor and empower the tribals with knowledge in order to take appropriate decisions. Places like Tirur, Jhaokhana, Bada Balu, Pottatang, Lakralungta, Phooltala, Lewis Inlet Bay and Bluff Islands have been identified as hotspots. We are studying as to how to empower the tribes with the appropriate technology, which is also one of the aspects of the seminar.

Tribals are surrounded by settlers. We cannot just say protect & preserve and then forget about them. They are human beings like you and me. If they want to come out let them come out. It should be in equal terms as they cannot be allowed to get exploited. Therefore research driven policies have been formulated by the Administration.

Recently I have been to the reserve as the Secretary, he explained. In most of the Chaddas where they live, women folk started wearing maxis, and demand for clothes. But we had an apprehension whether they are able to wash it to prevent skin diseases, so we asked them whether they wash the clothes that they were and the answer was yes they do. They demanded for washing soaps. One Jarawa man even asked soaps to bathe and also to wash clothes. He was able to distinguish between the two. In many places I noticed that they were drying the clothes.

Their material culture has changed, noted the Secretary. One of the young women asked for Powder, bangles etc. I also noticed a Jarawa boy carrying marker pens and was drawing on his head wear. The question is, are we going to keep them isolated or to facilitate them to come on equal terms with others and have a right place in the society.

One of the members even asked for Dinghy for fishing. Observing such developments, the Administration has to take the call, said Dhas hoping that the two day seminar would be able to answer the questions raised.

Speaking on the occasion Prof. K. K. Mishra, Director of Anthropological Survey of India, Kolkata said that ASI since its establishment has been involved with the adivasis who settled here apart from the tribes of these islands. The Zonal Anthropological Museum was established in 1975 with a view to document and preserve the rich culture heritage of the adivasis and other groups. Today the museum has grown much richer.

If the out of Africa theory is to be believed, the tribals here date way back to 60,000 years. In order to study that a DNA Laboratory has been established in  the zonal office here.

Influx of population and settlement has changed the demographic setup of these islands especially after the arrival of the British. The settlers have formed their own cultural group which is very unique and is of great interests for the Anthropologists.

The ASI he said was enthusiastically involved in the friendly contact programme with the Jarawa which eventually succeeded in having a friendly contact with the tribe. He also said that IGNOU is planning to have Masters programme in Anthropology and suggested the Administration to depute the staff of AAJVS for this programme.

Earlier the Deputy Director, ASI Zonal Centre, Port Blair Dr. Sashi Kumar welcomed the gathering and also gave a brief account of the activities of ASI and the sessions to be held during the two day seminar. The inaugural function concluded with a vote of thanks by Dr. Anstice Justin, Superintending Anthropologists, ASI Zonal Centre, Port Blair.

Port Blair, May 3: The Member of Parliament, Shri Bishnu Pada Ray has demanded that all saw mills that were closed after the 2002 Order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court be opened for the benefit of the islanders.

Apprising the Member Secretary, Central Empowered Committee (CEC), New Delhi through his letter dated 29th April 2013, the MP noted that prior to the Supreme Court’s Order, all the private saw mills in A&N Islands were being issued 500 cbm of round logs per year. The Shekhar Singh Commission had also recommended in its report for allowing extraction of 10,000 cbm of timber per year from A&N Forests. But later the CEC had empowered the A&N Administration for issue of 500 cbm logs to private saw mills viz. M/s Smarias Trading Co., M/s Mukesh Lall Saw Mill, Andaman Cottage Match Industries, Arasan Cottage Match Industry & Saw Mill and Andaman Cottage Match Industries, leaving aside majority of active members of the A&N Small Scale Wood Based Industries Association.


The MP further noted that A&N Islands falls under earthquake Zone V and it is the reason why buildings since the British period are constructed using timber. Even today such buildings stand strong inspite of facing several earthquakes. The houses of local residents across the islands are constructed out of timber including several official bunglows, which needs timber badly for repairs and maintenance, he said.

In this connection, the residents of Nicobar District & N&M Andaman District, majority of who are coconut farmers are the worst sufferers. They are compelled to transport timber from Port Blair at exorbitant rates. The fact remains that timber in the islands is being stolen by poachers or fall down after maturity, which has gone un-noticed by the Forest Department Officials, said the MP. 

Bishnu Pada Ray, the Member of Parliament has thus demanded immediate intervention of the CEC in the burning issue of timber scarcity in the islands and requested that directions be given to A&N Administration to re-open all Saw Mills that were forced to close following the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s Order dated 7th May 2002.


Port Blair, May 1: INS Investigator, a Hydrographic Survey Ship of the Indian Navy arrived at Blair on 30th Apr 2013. The ship has been based at Port Blair under the Administrative and Operational Command of the Commander-in -Chief Andaman & Nicobar Command.

She is an indigenously designed vessel constructed at GRSE, Kolkata.  Shri Jyoti Basu, then Chief Minister of West Bengal commissioned the ship on 11th Jan 1990. Her primary role is to carry out hydrographic survey tasks and is actively involved is preparations of Marine Charts and electronic Maps for ECOIS system.

During disaster relief operations she may be called upon to perform duties of a hospital ship. The ship is fitted with the state of the art electronic, hydrographic survey and navigation equipment. The permanent basing of the ship will expedite the process of revalidation of navigational charts of A&N Islands, and will immensely benefit the Islands.

The Naval Hydrographic Service under the Chief Hydrographer to the Govt of India is an Indian Naval organisation. Besides charting Indian waters the service has provided yeoman service is charting foreign waters of littorals friendly nation.