Dignity and basic rights for
Political parties contesting the elections must declare their intentions with regard to several critical survival issues that face native Jharkhandi people
BY STAN SWAMY
The different political parties contesting the parliamentary and state assembly elections have the responsibility to tell the electorate, and the electorate has the right to demand from candidates, what their respective parties intend to do about the serious issues facing the people at large and the vulnerable sections of society in particular.
Decreasing Tribal population in Jharkhand
There has been a steady decrease in the Tribal population of Jharkhand to the extent that they have become a minority in their own homeland.
Year Tribal Rate of Rate of Rate of
Populn. incr. Jharkhand Tribal non-Tribal
% incr. % incr. %
1941 3424926 12-13% 13-76 % 11-13 %
1951 3493857 09-35 02-01 13-97
1961 3938065 19-69 12-71 23-62
1971 4563895 22-58 1 5-89 26-01
1981 5329289 24-00 16-77 27-11
1991 6044010 24-00 13-41 28-63
(Source: Jharkhand mein Jansankya ka ganit aur Adivasi, by Kispota B., in Janhul, Ranchi, February 2001, page 12)
True, Indian citizenship is one and as such any Indian can settle down and work in any part of the country. But it cannot be at the expense of a people who some decades ago were the majority, a people who have a distinct ethnic identity as Tribals and enjoy constitutional privileges to preserve their culture and social traditions. In fact, the separate state of Jharkhand was created mainly to preserve the physical integrity and economic and social well-being and protect the cultural traditions of the Adivasi and Moolvasi people of Jharkhand. All these are under threat today as the native people of Jharkhand are being overwhelmed by outsiders who have no regard for the state’s original inhabitants. And if this process of marginalisation of the Adivasi and Moolvasi by outsiders is not stopped immediately, these people will vanish as a people altogether.
Displacement of the Jharkhandi people
A conservative estimate of the total number of persons and Tribals displaced by various development projects in India during 1951–1990 (in lakhs)
Displacement of the Adivasi-Moolvasi
Total Number of People Displaced in Jharkhand 1991–1995
SN Type of Project STs % SCs % Others % Total
1 Water Resource 175127 75.2 17554 07.5 40287 17.3 232958
2. Industries/Quasi 22483 34.0 15006 22.7 28548 43.2 66087
3. Mining: Coal 79568 29.6 42268 15.7 146752 54.6 268588
Non-Coal 3975 21084 73324 134294
4. Defence Establis. 237147 89.7 18529 07.0 8677 03.2 264353
5. Wildlife Sanct. 80867 15.8 87601 17.1 339266 66.5 509918
Grand Total 620372 212892 676575 1503017
(Source: Development-Induced Displacement and Rehabilitation in Jharkhand, by Alexius Ekka & Mohammed Asif, Indian Social Institute, New Delhi, 2000, page 95)
Poverty in Jharkhand
According to government estimates, around 23.22 lakh families in the rural areas live below the poverty line, out of which 3.91 lakh belong to SCs and 8.79 lakh to STs.
A study was done by prof. Dr. Ramesh Sharan of Ranchi University to probe the present status of implementation of these schemes in the state. It was done in the backdrop of several reported deaths due to which society organisations have been raising their voice against the scandalous situation of hunger deaths amidst plenty of foodgrains rotting in the godowns of the Food Corporation of India (FCI).
STs Poverty % Jharkhand India
1999 – 2000 60.62 % 44.45 %
(Source: Status of implementation of food security schemes in Jharkhand, by Dr. Ramesh Sharan & Neelkanth, Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, Ranchi, December 2002, page 1)
Rural Poverty is not only alarming but is increasing year by year.
The low rate of literacy
The rate of literacy is a valid denominator by which to assess the nature of human development of a society. But it is linked to the economic well or ill being of its members. Where poverty is deepening, one cannot expect parents to send their children to school. Hence Jharkhand has one of the lowest rates of literacy in the country.
Literates total Literate Men Literate Women
Jharkhand 54% 67% 39%
Tribal – Urban 66 79 53
Rural 46 60 32
There are at least 25 blocks in Jharkhand where female literacy happens to be below 20.35%, the lowest being Chinia in Garhwa Dt., with female literacy of 11.05% in 2001.
(Source: Status of implementation of food security schemes in Jharkhand, pages 2-3)
With all that the government has been saying about ushering in total literacy in the state, the following table demonstrates the ground reality:
Out-of-School children in Jharkhand
Age 5-11 9,15,324
(Source: Jharkhand Education Project, research study done by Avinash K Singh, 2002, table 3)
When are these nearly 14 lakh children in the age group of 5-14 going to be in school is a big question indeed. Eighty per cent of these children are Tribal.
Health situation in Jharkhand
Percentage distribution of food deficient households by number of food deficient months in Jharkhand:
— 1 month 2-3 mths 4-5 mths 6+ mths All
ST 3.57 53.67 32.54 10.23 100
SC 0 71.26 25.93 2.80 100
Others 1.11 76.69 19.83 2.37 100
Total 1.89 64.05 27.86 6.20 100
(Source: NSSO 55th Round (1999-2000), cited in Status of implementation of food security schemes in Jharkhand, by Dr. Ramesh Sharan & Neelkanth, Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, Ranchi, December 2002, page 3)
According to the NSSO 55th Round, 10.46% of all households in Jharkhand faced seasonal food insecurity. The data also revealed that around 2.5% of households face chronic food shortages. Among the families facing food insecurity, 64% face food shortages for 2-3 months while as many as 28% don’t have sufficient food for 4-5 months and almost 6% of the food deficient households have to go hungry for more than half the year. Incidence of insecurity is quite high in ST families.
An assured food supply exists for only about three to four months of the year i.e. in winter following the harvest in late October-early November. Food supplies tend to run short by the end of winter and the starvation period begins by mid-summer (June) and in many cases, continues till the end of October. (Source: Status of implementation of food security schemes in Jharkhand, page 3)
Alienation of Adivasi/Moolvasi land
Agricultural and forest lands are the sole sources of sustenance for the Adivasi/Moolvasi. When this land is forcibly taken away from them, the Adivasi/Moolvasi people become as orphans. What the government calls ‘national development’ is, in reality, the impoverishment of the Jharkhandi people. The following table illustrates this:
Total Land Acquired for Development schemes in Jharkhand (acres)
Category of Private % Common % Forest % Total %
Project Land Land Land Land
Water Resources 364646.0 71.7 94808.0 18.7 48498.0 09.6 507952.0 34.0
Industries 98525.59 56.1 63786.68 36.3 13435.91 07.6 175730.18 11.7
Thermal Power 2598.45 43.1 2534.38 42.1 894.04 14.8 6026.87 0.4
Mines 184169.0 35.7 156341.19 30.4 174614.40 33.9 515124.59 34.4
Defence Estd. 22543.61 20.1 11134.93 09.9 78610.57 70.0 112289.11 07.5
Misc. Schemes 152000.65 85.0 8941.21 05.0 17882.43 10.0 178824.29 12.0
Sub Total 824483.30 55.1 337528.39 22.6 333935.35 22.3 1495947.04 100.0
Missing Schemes 27550.0 55.1 11300.0 22.6 11150.0 22.3 50000.0 -
Grand Total 8,52,033.30 - 3,48,828.39 - 3,45,085.35 - 15,45,947.04 -
(Source: Development induced displacement and rehabilitation in Jharkhand, page 67)
This again is a very conservative estimate. The Land Acquisition Act of 1896 passed by the British colonial rulers is still in vogue. Acquisition of land for "public purpose" has and is being used to deprive the Jharkhandi People of their only source of sustenance. Added to that states like Bihar have amended the Act in such a way that any industry, mining can legally take over the land of the Jharkhandi with nominal effort.
Absence of basic health facilities – Women and Children the main victims:
Anaemia (women) 72.9 %
Anaemia (children) 82.40 %
Child Tikakaran – Total 8.8 %
Delivery Health Problem 44.7 %
(Source: National Family Health Survey, cited in Prabhat Khabar, January 16, 2002)
Young Adivasi women migrating to towns and cities
Apart from the forced involuntary displacements caused by large projects, several lakhs of Jharkhandis have migrated to the tea plantations in Darjeeling and Assam. Several thousands, especially young women, are migrating to large cities and towns. A recent report says that about two lakh Adivasi young women from Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal are presently working as house-maids in middle-class homes: 61,000 in Delhi, 42,000 in Kolkata, 36,000 in Mumbai, 13,000 in Bangalore, 26,000 in Goa. (Source: ‘Two lakh young adivasi women working as house-maids in big cities’, by Manoj in Hindustan (Hindi), March 24, 2003)
The reasons are not far to seek. For all practical purposes, employment opportunities in Jharkhand are nil. During the last five decades, it is estimated that as many as 40 to 45 lakh non-Tribals from north Bihar, particularly from Arrah, Ballia, Chapra, Dharbanga districts, have come and occupied Jharkhand. They have not only set up permanent homes but have also illegally usurped Adivasi land, taken over trade and commerce, and filled the government bureaucracy from top to bottom. Consequently, the economy of Jharkhand is not in the hands of the Jharkhandi Adivasi and Moolvasi but in the control of north Bihari outsiders.
Young Jharkhandi men and women are lured by "good jobs", taken out of Jharkhand and sold like cattle to contractors and brick-kiln owners. Severe exploitation, human degradation, sexual harassment are the order of the day. Adivasi women who are held in honour and respect in their respective communities are reduced to domestic servants in affluent homes in far away towns and cities. Another tragedy is that not all those who go out as contract labour do come back.
The Jharkhand government has kept its eyes closed on this entire issue. The Labour department has seriously failed in its duty to protect the interests of the working class.
When it comes to elections, it is important that political parties spell out in concrete terms not only their commitment to resolve these issues but also the precise steps they will take in this regard. They owe this to the people of Jharkhand.
(Stan Swamy is a human rights activist based in Jharkhand).
Copyrights © 2002, Sabrang Communications & Publishing Pvt. Ltd.