Sunday, August 27, 2006

Chhattisgarh: Tribes on verge of extinction

Some tribes, particularly, Abuj Madias and Baigas are cut off from rest of the world as the areas inhabited by them have no infrastructure like roads, bridges etc, points out Abhinandan Mishra.

The centrally government aided schemes for the development of primitive tribes- Baigas, Pahari Korbas, Abuj Madias and Birhors in Chhattisgarh have failed to uplift the condition of the tribals staying in the jungles and hills of the state. The Centre had sanctioned Rs 100 crores three years back for their development and the state had separate development authorities for the primitive tribes' development with their headquarters at Bastar, Kawardha, Bilaspur and Jashpur, but the agencies failed in improving the lot of the aboriginal tribes, admit the officials.

A few weeks back, the district administration of Jashpur had uncovered a racket of defalcation of crores of rupees meant for the development of Pahari Korba who were served recovery notices from the nationalized banks for the loan which they had never taken. The primitive tribes are so backward that they are not even enrolled as voters in most parts.

The primitive tribals have been given concession in the family planning which is not imposed on them due to their fast declining population. The doctors and quacks have been warned against family planning on the primitive tribes as their number is not even 50,000 taken together all the primitive communities from Bastar to Surguja. The literacy rate among the Pahari Korbas staying near villages of Korba town is 2 per cent and for the Abuj Madias and Baigas, the Ramakrishna Mission have started "ashram pattern" schools near their villages. Among the Baigas of Kawardha and Bilaspur it is nil.

The then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi and Ms Sonia Gandhi had made an over night stay at Gugul, one of the villages inhabited by primitive Kamar tribals, but even after 20 years of the PM's stay, there is no change in the life of the villagers.

Some of the primitive tribes, particularly, Abuj Madias and Baigas are still cut off from rest of the world as the areas inhabited by them have no infrastructure like roads, bridges, dispensaries and markets.

They have not even joined the political activities and many of them have not even voted in the elections-from panchayats to the parliament. A couple of Pahari Korbas had voted in the last elections near a booth at Korba. The government intends to preserve their traditional culture and in the pockets of Abuj Mad, outsider's entry is still restricted. The area of Abuj Mad was not surveyed as yet and for the first time, the state has entered into an agreement with the ISRO for aerial survey with ground support as the entire area is Naxalite infested and they have their training centres too.

In certain pockets, food items are sent in advance for four months of monsoon as the villages have no pucca roads. Most of the Baigas are illegal settlers on the protected forest areas. The National Remote Sensing Agency-(NRSA), ISRO's unit at Hyderabad will start an aerial survey of the 6,000 sq metres area of Abuj amad, inhabited by 12,000 primitive tribes of Abuj Madis soon. This will be first survey of the area which remained cut off from all governmental activities so far. According to the agreement, 237 inhabited villages in Narayanpur, Dantewara and Bijapur (covering Abuj Mad) will be covered under the aerial survey to be done by two modified Super King aircraft which would get ground security support from the police.

The Abuj Mad area is literally under the control of the Naxalites of Bastar. The IG of police of Bastar has assured full protection to the technical staff of the NRSA, Hyderabad during the survey.

The NRSA has sought clearance from the three units of the defence- Navy, IAF and the Army for the aerial survey. The agency will get clearance from the union home ministry before starting the year-long survey. The ministry of railways will also have to give clearance for the survey though there are no railways installations in the area.

In each of the sorties, the defence ministry staff would accompany the agency team during the survey. All photographs taken from the height of 15,000 feet would be examined by the defence ministry before allowing it to be handed over to the state government. The defence ministry staff would examine the photos with their negatives and would have all authority to delete them as there are some defense installations in the Bastar.

The one-year long aerial survey would cost the state and the Centre Rs 5.50 crores. The ISRO would take Rs 1.50 crores as photography charges.

The photographs taken from the height of 15000 feet would give a clear picture of the trees, cattle-wealth, human population, their constructions, rivers etc in the area. The object of ten metres would be visible in the photographs taken from the aircraft with computer controlled navigation system. The Abuj Madias are scattered in the 237 villages of the region and they practice shifting cultivation. There is no road communication in the area.

The government will start physical verification of the findings made by the air for two years and this would help in extending the government schemes to the primitive tribes.

The exercise of aerial survey was used by the American defence ministry in Iraq, according to the NRSA scientists who claimed recently they completed the aerial survey of the entire islands dominated Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Abuj mad remained neglected so far.

While the NRSA will help know the details of Abuj Madias, the state government has prevented family planning among another primitive tribes-Baigas staying in Kawardha and parts of Bilaspur .The primitive Baiga tribes are on the verge of extinction and thanks to the efforts of family promotion schemes launched by the Government of India, the population has reached 29303 from 20,002 in ten years. Baigas still stay in the jungles and on the hills, still semi-naked and dependent on the minor forest produce.

The central government launched a special assistance programme for the Baigas in 134 villages of the district where 2712 families are staying. The centre has created a special Baiga development authority headed by one of the tribal leaders who is himself illiterate and is the titular head of the authority. The Rs 1.25 crores scheme is aimed at creating health facilities for them and opening food godowns, giving them tools and animals for farming.

The state government and the society is promoting live-in relationships among the primitive tribals too. Live- in- relationship (Pethu in local dialect)) is getting popular among the tribals of Bastar region as it has got social sanctions. Children borne out of these live -in relationships are recognized in the society and the couples marry even after the birth of children who attend the marriage of their parents. According to the sociologists engaged in tribal researches, 80 per cent of the couple have live in relationships.

At one such mass marriage of primitive tribals, 22 year old Van Kumar formally married his live in partner Rachnawati at Nagarnar village in presence of a priest and friends. The two had their two year old daughter Dhanwanti as witness to the marriage ceremony. They went to the local Shiva temple before joining the "mandal" in the local weekly market place.

Van Kumar admitted they were staying together for the last three years and both of them are from the same village-Kutabadan, 20 kms from the divisional headquarters of Jagdalpur. The boy said he had paid Rs 800 to the parents of the girl when he took her away from a local market. Acceptance of the "Mahala" was the approval of the live in relationship by her parents.
The tribals community has fixed Rs 2500 as Mahala (dowry to be paid to the girls parents by the boy). They can stay together for years before formalizing their marriage. Phool Singh Bogde and Padmawati, another young couple also married in the same fashion. Live in relations have got social and legal sanction too. This is common in entire Bastar. The "Udhalka vivah" (marriage after kidnapping) is common among the tribals here.

The system is more popular in Bijapur, Farasgaon, and Narayanpur blocks among the Gond and Mariya tribes.

Under the system, any youth can hold the arms of the girl in a public place, mostly in weekly haats or Madiyas, the festivals. If the girl does not protest, she agrees for the relationship. The boy takes the girl to his home and informs the society about the Udhalika vivah. Next day, he goes to the girls parents and gives the amount of Mahala (dowry). This may include money, liquor, goats, bulls or boars.

The Gonds, Mariya, Bhatra, Dorla and Maharla tribals prefer this system. However, the problem arises when there is no match of sub-castes among the tribal boy and girls. Bonjha Ram, father of the Lohaniguda janpad panchayat was arrested by the police as his son Satyanarayan (a Madia tribal) kidnapped a Murya tribal girl in the weekly haat. The Sub divisional magistrate took cognizance of the complaint and the boy and his father were arrested as the tribals do not encourage inter-sub-caste relationship.

The Pethu or Udhalikya marriages are improved versions of the "Ghotul" system, which is still common among the primitive tribals staying in Abuj mad area of Bastar. In the Ghotuls, which are make shift pre-honeymoon camps, young boys and girls stay together under the same roof for a fortnight and get training in post marriage social customs. In the western part of Kondagaon and Narayanpur tehsils, even now, the Ghotul system is prevalent. By evening, girls called Behla (in local dialect) invite their boy friends described as Sirdhar (in local dialect) in the beautifully decorated huts with carvings and spend their night together for a fortnight to know each other before they go for formal relationship.
The centrally government aided mid-day meal scheme and Antodaya scheme are also absent in the areas dominated by the primitive tribes. According to a report of the National scheduled tribes' commission, the administration did not provide Antyodaya cards to Pahari Korbas as per directions of the Supreme Court.
The commission made surprise checks in many villages of Surguja having many Pahari Korba families, and found several schools where mid-day meals were not being provided regularly. Over 200 complains about absence of several food schemes and land rights of the primitive tribes were received at Pandripani (Surguja) these were registered with the Additional Collector. The advisor to the Commission played a proactive role and personally collected more complaints from the Pahari Korbas.
The Pandripani episode raised the larger issue of non-compliance of states with the Supreme Court order to issue Antyodaya cards to all primitive tribes.
According to the report of the commission, Koriya district highlighted the dysfunctional state of the integrated child development scheme among the primitive tribes in the district. The Commission took the state government to task on this and this prompted the complete overhauling of the ICDS system in Manendragarh block of the district.
The union government had sanctioned Rs 100 crores for the development of primitive tribes like Pahari Korbas, Baigas, Abuj Madias, Birhors, Patalkot and Kamar because of their fast dwindling population. The centre has asked the state to provide at least 100 days employment to a member of these families in a year, besides providing seeds and other facilities for farming.

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