February-March  2004 
Year 10    No.96

Cover Story

Dignity and basic rights for Jharkandis

Political parties contesting the elections must declare their intentions with regard to several critical survival issues that face native Jharkhandi people


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

          National Parks

          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

                11-14             4,78,058

Total                             13,83,596

(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).

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