01 September 2009

Orissa govt too lax in tribal welfare works In Koraput district of Orissa, life is still dark for tribals as they struggle everyday for work. Most of them live without proper meals. The government has not done much to provide land, jobs to them who chiefly rely on agriculture. By:BASANT RATH, JOURNALIST. merinews.com THIRTEEN YEARS of India’s independence, being bifurcated from erstwhile-undivided Koraput district (Orissa), has not done any good to this district, which continues to be plagued by poverty and backwardness, the fallout of worst kind of official apathy. The miseries of the tribals in this tribal-dominated district have compounded; the economic condition of most of tribals is miserable. They belong to the lowest strata of society and are simple, hard working and trustworthy. Although agriculture is the main source of livelihood, most of the tribals are landless and work as wage earners. Owing to their illiteracy, superstitions and conservative practices, they are deceived and exploited by moneylenders and others. Tribals who do not have a permanent income live in perpetual poverty. No doubt that the government is implementing a number of projects for the improvement of the socio-economic conditions of tribals, but due to illiteracy, they are unaware of several developments around them. This district is predominantly a tribal area. The prominent tribes here are Kondhs, Parjas, Bhatras, Gonds, Saoras, Amanatyas, Gadbas, Bhumias, Dhuruas, Halwas and Banjaras. The major Scheduled Castes are Dombs, Ghasis and Namagadras. According to 2001 census the tribal population of the district was 5.54 lakh, which accounts for 56 per cent of the total population of the district. There are as many as 15 tribal communities in the district. Most of the tribals earn their livelihood by engaging themselves in cottage industries and collecting forest produce. On the other hand, the state government has done little to give permanent ’pattas’ for the land to the tribals. Fifty per cent of the tribals in the district are still landless. While 40 per cent of them have less than one acre land on an average. The government is not taking any steps to provide land to them. Although the Supreme Court has directed the state government to provide land to them who were in their possession till 1980, as they have no right to the land where they work, they are not able to obtain loans from banks or avail of government schemes. The literacy rate among them is very low, that of women literacy rate only two per cent and in higher education the women literacy rate has further come down to .5 per cent only. Although the government has implemented so many programmes for improving their lots, their condition still remains bad. On the other hand, officials concerned with village leaders, contractors siphon off the money sanctioned for their development. Even after investment of more than Rs 1,600 crores they remain the same as before. The programmes have failed to bring any change in the socio-economic of tribal people. The socio-economic surveys conducted by a Non-Government Organisation show that the peoples of Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput (KBK) belt were employed in the agriculture sector for 130 days, the unemployment problem has assumed crisis proportions in this tribal dominated backward districts owing to failure of NREGS and other job generating schemes. Agriculture is the occupation in the district, more than 80 per cent of the total population depends on agriculture, poor irrigation, bad infrastructure has taken a huge tool on agriculture, the main source of livelihood. Unemployment has soared with even seasonal jobs under various schemes becoming scarce. Official sources say that the total workforce in the district comprises, three lakh agricultural workers and 2.5 lakh marginal workers who face a perennial shortage of work. Almost 55 percent of the total population are reeling under the poverty line even after 58 years after independence. Most of them do not even get a single meal a day due to acute poverty. Also, per capita availability of land continues to plunge, coming down to .20 hectares in 2004 from .50 hectares in 1954, out of which more than 50 per cent tribals do not have ownership rights on the lands, which they had been cultivating for generations. Due to lack of record of rights they were not able to obtain any loan from the bankers or benefit from government schemes. Most of the tribals were cultivating less than one acre land and there was no other livelihood other than cultivation in the past. They used resources, which were available in their areas and seldom left their places. Due to the practice of slash and burn farming locally called Podu, denudation of forest and forcible occupation of their land, they are compelled to go to other places in search of employment. Labour migration from the district has assumed a new and serious dimension and has become a matter of concern for the district administration. Though the government has undertaken a lot of development works, including NRGEA/OREGS unemployment continues to haunt the tribals. They were lured away by middle men. Joblessness has been growing. Though the NRGES is a law whereby anyone who is willing to do unskilled manual labour at the statutory minimum wage is entitled to being employed on public works and the employment guarantee is restricted to 100 days per household per year, due to the lack of publicity they are not in a position to avail the scheme. Even NRGES has not made expected progress owing to low utilisation of grant. When the scheme was launched in Nabarangpur district, hundreds of job-seekers rushed to the panchayats to get themselves registered. But, due to lack of coordination between the GPs and blocks the NREGA/OREGS failed completely.