The Dance of Jarawas: Will Tourism Endanger the Andaman Aborigines?
A tribal girl gestures at the Andaman Trunk road in Jarawa reserve on India's south Andaman island in this undated handout photo. The Jarawa are one of four ancient "Negroid" tribes barely surviving on the Andamans. Reuters

Amid the recent controversies relating to the exploitation of the endangered Jarawa tribes in the Andaman Islands of India, there is something to cheer about as the government has said that the population of the tribe has increased to 407.

In a written statement to the Indian parliament Friday, Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Shri Mahadeo Singh Khandela said, "The present population of endangered Jarawa tribe is 407... and there is no intervention in cultural life of the Jarawas and they are left to develop according to their own genius and at their own pace."

It is good news that the population of the tribe has gone up from 383 in 2011 to 407 and the number of children below the age of 10 is on the rise.

The Jarawas, the original inhabitants of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, are on the verge of extinction as their number was seen decreasing in the past decade. The indigenous people, who live in the lush forests of the island, are not much exposed to the mainstream society and still live by hunting and continue with their traditional way of life.

However, this does not wipe away the concerns over the security of the tribe as the recent media reports say that the controversial human safaris in the Andaman Islands are continuing unabated despite a ban.

There was an international outrage when a video clipping that showed the commercial exploitation of the Jarawa tribes to promote tourism appeared in the media in January last. The video clips showed some Jarawa women dancing half naked in front of the tourists in return for food.

The human safaris conducted with the support of the local authorities violate the rules and allow the tourists to see and interact with the tribe, endangering their existence.

The Indian government banned the human safaris following the outcry against it from different corners and ordered a probe into the issue. The Supreme Court of India banned any kind of tourism activity near their habitat.

However, the latest media reports show that the human safari has resumed as the local administration has bowed down to the lobbying from the tourism industry. The safari, using the Andaman Trunk Road that cuts through the heartland of the Jarawa habitat, is increasing day by day, according to the latest reports.

Jarawas: Tourism Pushing Andaman Aborigines to Tipping Point