A Brief Note of Sustainable Development among Himalayan Tribes

Ashok Kumar Sahani

    Among the tribes of Central Himalayan Region, The Jaunasari and The Bhotia are two major tribal groups. The Juansari is the largest community concentrated in the area of Jaunsar-Bawar region of Derhadun District. The Bhotia stand second in size inhabiting in eight major river valley of the northern part of the bordering Tibet.

    The Jaunasaris trace their ancestor from the " Pandavas" and Kauravas" of the great epic "Mahabharata". They are highly superstitious in nature and practice polyandrous social system. The hierarchical stratification of the Jaunsari society is similar to and based on the caste principle of Hindu social system(Topal et.al 1998). Like most of the tribal societies, each Juansaries village has a traditional village panchayat locally called as "Sayanachari" and the Head man of this traditional Institution is know as "sayana" who is responsible for maintaining law and order within the village. This is a three tier Institution at three territorial level i.e. village, "Khat" (a group of village) and "Sadar" (regional level).

    The Bhotiyas inhabited in northern parts of the state bordering Tibet in its northern, traditionally called "Bhot pradesh". The Bhotia Tribes constituting of two main social strata.i.e.The Rajputs (Upper caste) and the"Dumas"(Harijan or service caste). Besides this they have number of social groups, which can be identified through their inhabitant, like Joharis/Saukas of Johar valley, Darmis of Darma valley, Byansi of Byans valley, Chaudasis of Chaudas valley, Marchhas of Mana valley, Jads of Jadung $ Nelang valley etc, (Samal, et.al, 2000). Further on the basis of their traditional occupations and model of livelihood, the entire tribe can be Classified under three categories viz., traders-cum-pastoral, agriculturists-cum- pastoral, and agriculturists. The most notable specialty of these tribes is their transhumance between their winter settlement (at lower altitude) and summer settlement (at high altitude). The transhumance practice is great importance of them, Because through it they have been able to survive by using varieties of subsistence economy including pastorals, trade,Terraced cultivation, manufacturing woolen article and trading minor forest products (MFPS).

    The study was aims to camper among these two tribes for sustainable development in Himalayan ecology. To know the trends of sustainable development, data was collected on their adoption of physical environment, demography, socio-cultural status, economic condition, political structure, village institution, knowledge, attitude and perception on environmental conservation and development initiatives. The Jaunsaris are agriculturists and a conservative tribal group with unique cultural practices like polyandry by which they acquire property right jointly. Traditionally the Bhotias are traders and their trade with Tibet was main-stay of their economy. The act of trade with Tibet resulted in evolving distinct socio-economic structure like seasonal nomadism. Here an effort is being made to characterised the differential trends of socio-economic and demographic development among these two tribals, with exception to altitudinal variation.The central Himalayan region of India is governed by, more or less a set of similar geo-physical and environmental conditions. However, discernible differences in socio-economic and demographic developments (shown in table) are found in these tribal communities, which are effected by economy and culture. 

Table; Differential Development among the Jaunsari and Bhotia tribal communities 

Demographic features Jaunsaries Bhotias
Joint families(%) 84.3 49.8
Nuclear families(%) 15.7 50.2
Average family size 10.39 6.12
Families with female heads(%) 2.69 13.7
Literacy(%) 40.40 63.17
Sex ratio 884 1006
Female literacy(%) 22.5 45.90
Mean age at first marriage of female 13.23 17.32
Mean age at first pregnancy 14.27 18.91
Average number of pregnancies 4.16 3.75
Crude birth rate 60.51 53.22
Total fertility rate 5.83 5.01
Crude death rate 15.21 14.38
Infant mortality rate 187 165
 (Source: Field Data)    

    The analysis advocates that the trends of development in both tribal communities were guided by economic and cultural parameters. There was not any meaningful increase in the area of agricultural land of the Jaunsaries from 1952-53 to 1995-96.However, their mode of economy and cultural conservatism did not allow them much to diversify their economy. The Jaunsaries remained as traditional agriculturists and economically poor.

    Their demographic behavior, to larger extent, are guided by conservative cultural principles which had affected the quality of life, particularly of females .The enterprising Bhotia tribe with a upward looking way of life had success fully taken advantage of economic and cultural elements for its growth with prosperity. They very aptly used their culture as framework for trying out new ideas and changes .It makes imperative that policies and programs to be undertaken for development of tribal people must understand the nature of economy and culture of the community.


  1. 1.Samal, P.K., Fernando, R. and D.S. Rawat.2000. Influence of economy and culture in development among mountain tribes of Indian Central Himalayas, International journal of sustainable development and world Ecology, Vol.7, pp.41-9.
  2. 2.Topal, Y.S and D.S. Rawat, 1998.Socio-economic and cultural adaptations in Sustainable use $ management of resources in a high altitude village in Central Himalayas,Man In India,Vol.78 (1 $ 2),pp.9-25.