Paniyans are one among the Primitive Tribal Groups (PTG’s) in Tamil Nadu. The Paniyans or Paniyas are found in the Southern part of the India in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. They are concentrated mainly in the Gudalur and Pandalur taluks of the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. The Paniya are one of the five ancient tribal communities of Tamil Nadu. They dwell in different hill and forest areas of Tamil Nadu. Various districts where the Paniya tribes have built their settlements. Include Gudalur block and Pandalur Taluk. The detailed information about the origin of the Paniya tribe is still unclear, but some details relating to this tribal community signify a little about the extraction of this tribal group. Thick lips, dark complexion and curly hair are the physical appearance of the Paniya people.
According to 2011 census, the total population of the paniyans in Nilgiris district is 9,824 (4741 males and 5083 females). 36 Scheduled Tribes have been notified in Tamil Nadu by the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes order (Amendment) Act 1976 and among them, six groups, namely, Paniyan, Todas, Kotas, Irulas, Kattunayakkan and Kurumbas are categorized as particularly vulnerable tribal Groups (PVTG) who are populated in Nilgiri District. Paniyas are the most important tribal community in Tamil Nadu among these sections. The Paniyas has very limited wants. Food, shelter and clothing are the only important wants of Paniyas. Better education facility, modern health system and variety of commodities in the market are not familiar with this community.
Paniyans as they are mostly landless laborers; illiterate, leaderless, unorganized and therefore generally unable to demand the minimum wages fixed by the Government. It is poverty and lack of self-respect that make the Paniyas willing tools in the hands of the clever crooks among the Nilgiri settlers. The Paniyas, as a whole, are the poorest of the poor among other tribal communities. Vast majority of the Paniyan work hard as coolies in tea estates and agricultural fields, from morning till evening, earn approximately ` 150 to 200 per day.
Paniyan Children hardly attend school. Most of the Parents do not take effort to send their children to school; they are not even ready to spend money to purchase school bags and stationeries for their kids.
The teachers in the elementary schools take effort to visit the settlements and bring the children to schools. At times the children hide themselves from teachers. Though they have got the provision of Tribal Residential Schools within few kilometers from the settlements, children often flee from attending school. The Paniyan is trying to retain their tribal character; changes are bound to persist in their traditional social organization, economic pursuit, political behaviour, etc., Consequents on the changes in all spheres a human thought and activity. Despite governmental efforts for their economic uplift, these tribal groups still continue to eke out a pathetic life in the midst of ignorance, indebtedness, ill- health and above all unhealthy economic practices.