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Dr. Dhuni Soren, “Boarijore”33 Longmeadow Road, Knowsley, Liverpool, England.

Patron, International Santhal Council, India


Adivasi people are the original inhabitants of India and constitute 8% of the present day population of more than a billion people. Most of them live along the long corridor of western, central and eastern states of India. The majority of them at present live in Jharkhand, Bihar, Orrisa, Chattisgarh, West Bengal and Assam. They are still most deprived, marginalised and poor in India. Over the last few hundred years different administrations have tried to help develop them but nothing seems to have worked.

The British Raj at least provided them with homeland in Chotanagpur and Santal Pargana area of old Bihar with certain safe guard to their land, water and forest. They also recognised and respected their culture, languages, traditional customs and practices and preserved them. They left India in 1947 and the Independent India took over the responsibility of developing them and the areas through 5 years plans of developments. They tried variously starting with top down approach with the hope that if the nation and big businesses generate incomes, it will trickle down to the poor and marginalised and all will benefit. It did not work. Then the government tried bottom up policy but it did not work either for Adivasi people. And at last in the present Eleventh Five Year plans, they have added new twist to the development of Adivasi people. They called it CULTURE CENTRIC development of Adivasi people and they hope it might work. Since Independent of India 63 years ago, nothing has worked for majority of ordinary Adivasi. The worse has happened since creation of Jharkhand 9 years ago. Only political leaders including tribal have benefited. In its very short history, jharkhand had 6 governments headed by 4 Adivasi leaders and now the case is being made that Adivasi people are not fit to run governments as already shown by these leaders.

So what’s the solution for this? I have some suggestions to make for further discussion, debate and actions. But before that I would like to make some observations about development of Adivasi people.

They are;

  1. Adivasi people were never consulted about their developments during last 63 years.
  2. They were not involved in their own development and were just given out whether they needed or not.
  3. The Adivasi people have their own way of life style, culture and traditions handed down to them over the centuries by their ancestors.
  4. They are peace loving people with independent mind and are proud of the way they live in community.
  5. They have their own ideas of development and too proud to ask for anything from others, let alone governments.
  6. They also have mistrust of non tribal and have certain age old beliefs and prejudices.

So if this CULTURE CENTRIC development plans have to work. The people and in particular governments and their agencies have to understand all the above things about Adivasi people. They need to talk to them about the benefits of development and the modern day amenities of life with them sensitively and with respect and dignity. By doing this they can gain their confidence and consent.

On the other hand the Adivasi people have to change their mind set and be proactive towards development. They need to come out of their inward looking world and try to seize the amenities, opportunities and benefits of the modern day life and pass them on to their children and grand children.

Some of the modern day educated Adivasi young men and women and retired people can play an important role in this connection. Here are some of the ideas that can be considered to achieve such goals.

  1. Identify certain villages for actions, may be our own villages.
  2. Identify say half a dozen young or not so young people in the village who can be trained, empowered and supported.
  3. Such people are going to work as a nucleus in the village and will be vital for the success of any development work for the villagers with their consent.

The following practical approaches may be useful and provide benefit to the villagers within a short period. These are probably already available at block level .But have not reached them due to lack of information and ignorance and corruption in government agencies. This nuclear team can demand and secure them with the support of the united villagers.

  1. Infrastructures like good connecting roads and irrigation facilities for agriculture work.
  2. Availability of clean drinking water which can reduce the health problem by one 3rd.
  3. Good and well run village schools to be monitored by the villagers that the teachers and students attend regularly.
  4. Ensure energy supply through electricity which is produced locally but is at present taken away to other parts of India for greater good of the nation leaving behind the villages in darkness. The electricity supply can help create small scale industries and job opportunities and also remove darkness from the villages and the people who live there.
  5. Secure regular health care, maternity and childhood immunisation services
  6. Means of regular livelihood like the one they are good at and familiar with.
  7. Advocacy, give them voice to speak up for their rights, privileges, benefits and fair justice of their human rights.

These can be made available to villagers without too much capital investment through government schemes. But of course need a lot of time and dedication of the nuclear team to convince and empower the men and women of the villages and motivate them to do some thing for themselves.

Once they see the benefit, they can be encouraged to develop other means of livelihood generation and entrepreneurship by working together. These could include formation of village co-operatives to improve their financial income to become independent and self sufficient and not become dependent on the local money lenders. Through these co-operatives, they should develop the things they know best and have been doing for generations. For now few can be mentioned here but could be many more in good time as they gain confidence and enjoy the benefits of their efforts.

  1. Agriculture and forest produces including rice, lentils, vegetables and Mahua, fruits and patras (plates of leaves)
  2. Goats, pigs and chicken related products
  3. Animal husbandry products like milk, curd (dahi) and Ghee (Butter).
  4. Handiya making and marketing in moderation.
  5. And many more others can be explored in due course.

The resources for all these are available at the block level for Adibasi people and only things need doing are to secure them for the innocent and simple Adivasi folks who have been exploited and cheated all these times by every body. If we can help facilitate such developments at the village levels with the help of the nuclear team, there will be a holistic development of all people living in that village.

Next stage is going to be easier as people will learn from the example and will take their own initiatives and demand from the government and other agencies who are at present only pretending to help without any real benefit to the poor, neglected and marginalised Adivasi people

The investment from the well wishers of Adivasi people and NGOs is minimal in this. They only need to identify a nuclear team in the village and prepare, train and empower them and provide a living wages for the initial period. They will eventually earn their own living along with the rest of the villagers.



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