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

Liverpool, England


The last few centuries have seen great change and turmoil in the world. This has affected all humanity living in our planet. This has been more so since sixteenth century when societies living in different continents began to come in contact with each other on a regular basis.

During this period explorers, traders and conquerors linked up with the people living in different land mass and continents and their civilisations. These are

Americas, Africa and Australasia and was inhabited by 70 percent of the humanity.

The process of contact and integration was speeded up during last two centuries by the rapid technological advancement which made transportation and communication easier and faster.

The steam boat, railway engine, motor car, aeroplane, telegraph, telephone, radio, television, satellite, IT technology and even powerful rockets capable of sending men and women and various instruments and appliances to moon and other far flung planets of the solar system are at the command of the humanity.

The process of contact and integration is getting faster by the day interlinking the humanity and all the countries small and large making our planet a small place and the GLOBALISATION is a complete.

In this age of globalisation, we are all interdependent with each other whether we like it or not. We are all affected by what happens in other countries in trade, culture and politics

The rich and poor, weak and mighty, small and large, developed and underdeveloped, literate and illiterate, backward and forward, indigenous and non indigenous, we all are in it together.

There have been some very important land mark changes during the period while the globalisation has been taking place.

The slavery which was abhorrent, inhuman and degrading to the human being was abolished.

Two evil world wars were fought affecting the whole world and millions of people were killed

The cold war also came to an end and only one super power was left.

But poverty, illiteracy, ill health, exploitation and human suffering goes on even in this day and age.

The different countries have different needs and requirements for their people and have accordingly adapted different ways and means of meeting them. But at present there are only two main systems used by most of them.



A social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned. The state is separated from economics and religion. A free market economy where every one is on his own and can do whatever he/she likes to earn livelihood and enjoy. The survival of the fittest

is the way of life, perhaps at the expense of the weaker section of the society? There is a perception that in this system the wealth may not have been acquired through sincere hard work and initiative but from inheritance, exploitation, corrupt practices, monopoly, good fortune, gambling and political influence and so on.


It is defined as a centrally planned economy in which government controls all means of production. This is so to help fair and equal distribution of wealth among the people of the nation. There is some evidence that the socialist philosophy has produced greater economic equality in some countries and international aid has alleviated poverty in other less well off countries. But there is evidence that the system is less efficient and brings in equality in poverty rather than in wealth. There tends to be over regulation, heavy taxes and welfare right discourages initiative, innovation and hard work and makes people dependant on the state.


But there are some people who think and believe that there is another way including religious, traditional tribal systems and even dictatorship.

The globalisation has not only made different countries interdependent but even different communities living in the same country, state, region and village. With the passage of time the interdependency of different communities are going to be stronger and far reaching. The stronger section of the communities are going to grow stronger and faster and the weaker section including indigenous people are going to be left farther behind unless they take initiative themselves in their hands.

The initiatives are to cover the fundamental and basic rights of human beings to compete and eventually overtake the so called stronger section of the community and then try to safeguard, preserve and promote traditional values and virtues of indigenous people.

These are the basic needs of survival e.g. Food, clean drinking water, health and sanitation, education, language and culture


Traditionally indigenous people have depended for their food on land, forest, water and environment. But unfortunately they are being displaced from their natural habitat and this has gone on for centuries. This process has hastened during the last century and more so in Indian subcontinent after the independence in the name of the greater good and development of the country.

The some of the causes of displacement of the indigenous people are as follows;

  1. Natural erosion of land and deforestation and taking over of land and forest by the government and states.
  2. Acquisition of land by the government for road and office buildings, factories and heavy industries and power plants and mines.
  3. Displacement by construction of dams and thermal power stations without adequate compensation and proper resettlement in their familiar traditional communal environment.
  4. Division of the land over the generations to their off springs resulting in small holding for each family which is not enough to provide food for the family and the situation is going to get worse with the time and eventually the people will not even have a small plot of land to build a small hamlet.
  5. There are virtually no irrigation facilities in the tribal areas and are fully depend on the nature for the rain and most people can only cultivate crop once in a year and yields are poor and not enough to sustain and support the family.
  6. There is very little alternative employment opportunity in the tribal areas and the poor infrastructure and transport system prevents them from travelling to the nearest towns and cities to look for employment on regular and daily basis.
  7. This results in the migration of local people to the metropolitan cities and towns and neighbouring states for their livelihood. But this has adverse effect on their community and have become minority in their own land and the people who have migrated are also in minority in their new surroundings and losing their language and culture.


Although world has changed and still changing rapidly, there has been very little change in the tribal areas with regards to supply of clean drinking water and sanitation.

  1. The most villagers are still drinking water from the open wells with no arrangement for disinfectant and cleaning them. This is the common source of most of the gastro-intestinal diseases in the villages.
  2. The public health and sanitation is virtually non existent in the villages and they still void themselves in the open fields which is another source of infection and disease.
  3. The bored hole water supply in few lucky places are either broken down or were not working from the start and abandoned.
  4. The few which are working has no drainage system and are open sewerage harbouring and breeding mosquitoes, the source of malaria


The tribal people in the villages are still dependant for their health on God and medicine men and herbal remedies. There are still myths and prejudices prevalent in tribal villages. This is so, in spite of government’s effort to provide basic health care for them.

There are various reasons for this;

  1. Lack of awareness of their rights and privileges available to them.
  2. Failure of government agencies to inform and to educate local people.
  3. Inadequate resources and trained work force who are mostly from outside the areas and do not speak the local language.
  4. They have no understanding of the feelings and emotions of the local tribal people and are insensitive to their spiritual, cultural and linguistic needs.
  5. The child health and maternity care are inadequate in spite of government efforts resulting in high infant and maternal mortality.
  6. There is no provision for chronic disease and illness management and treatment.
  7. After suffering from birth to death, there is no provision for terminal care so that people can at least die peacefully.
  8. The majority of tribal people live in poverty and can not afford the modern treatment and rely on the traditional herbal medicines, mystical and witch craft rituals. This leads to early, premature and unnecessary deaths.


The education is an eye, ear and mind of any human being just like food and water are essential for the body and the survival of a life. The literacy in the tribal areas is still dismally poor even to day in this 21st century and is between10-30% in the adibasi populated areas. This is the main reason for the poverty and backwardness of the indigenous people and a great stumbling block to the present century.

The government policy of education has not benefited the poor and deprived people living in the tribal areas in spite of opening schools in almost every village.

The following are the some of the reasons for this;

  1. The profound poverty prevents the parents from sending their children even to the local schools. They are instead sent to look after cows and goats grazing on the fields as soon as they are school going age while parents are working hard for their livelihood.
  2. The lack of nursery school facility and maternal education during ante natal stage of pregnancy.
  3. The medium of primary and secondary education other than in their mother tongue.
  4. The teachers who are mostly from outside the areas are ignorant of the local language and are unfamiliar with the circumstances of the local community.
  5. The poor parents need educating about the importance of education for the advancement and development of their children and society.
  6. The tribal political and social leaders at various levels need to think hard and deep and to motivate and lead their people out of the primitive ways of life and poverty rather than just developing themselves.


The language and culture are the most important heritage of the indigenous people all over the world. But are threatened with extinction and in fact some of them have already been lost. However in India one of the largest tribal groups SANTAL have kept their language and culture intact to a great extent. Their language SANTALI is still widely spoken by the santal people living in the villages and towns. The traditional songs, dances and religious worships, rituals and cultures are practiced actively.

There has been a giant leaf forward in the status of the santali language recently and has been included in the scheduled 8 of the constitution of India not too long ago after years of hard campaigning by the santal people. The language has for the first time its own script OL CHIKI which can be studied up to the university level and can be used in the union public service commission examinations. The script was invented and developed by a farsighted and devoted santal philosopher and novelist late Pandit Raghunath Murmu of Orissa. The santal people are grateful to him for this very precious gift and is fondly remembered by them

However, this has not yet universally been accepted by all santal and some of them are still using other scripts Orria, Bengali, Devnagri and Roman. This will impede the development of the language and sooner they agree on one, so much the better.

So far we have talked about the basic needs of the indigenous people. Now I would like you to consider some of the practical ways and means of resolving and meeting these needs.


The poverty constitutes a denial of human rights and is characterised by the deprivation of resources, capabilities, choices, security and power necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living and other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights ( UN ‘s own guidance document on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty A/67/369).

The principles include identification of the poor, empowerment, the international human rights framework, participation, equality and non-discrimination, the progressive realization of rights and accountability.

The small practical measures can be taken at the village levels.

  1. Identifying and motivating a small group of people in every village and preparing them with awareness of their rights and privileges and how to secure them and prevent exploitation from others.
  2. They should encourage and convince the rest of the villagers that they can help themselves in so many ways if they are united and work together.
  3. The first priority is the means of the sustenance FOOD. This can be started by organising villagers in smaller groups and work like co-ops on traditional areas of cultivation of rice and vegetables and various farming including poultry and pig farming and other handicraft and marketing them. This can be built up as they grow in confidence and self reliance. They should try to take advantage of all the financial and technical assistances available from the local government agencies and financial institutions.
  4. Irrigation can be organised by harnessing the water from the local rivers, brooks and wells and the yield can be increased by the use of fertilizers and modern way of farming.
  5. Small scale industries need to be encouraged and supported.
  6. They also need help with marketing of their produce.


The drinking water is as essential as food for survival of the human being. But dirty water can be killer of human life as most of the common diseases are water borne. The clean drinking can be provided in every village with minimum investment and effort.

  1. One or two bore holed sources of clean water are sufficient for the most villages.
  2. The local people can be trained to maintain and look after these.
  3. The waste water can be channelled and used by the village co-ops for the purpose of irrigating allotments and growing vegetables and flowers etc.
  4. The water from wells can be used for other purposes like washing, cleaning and irrigation.
  5. They can be encouraged to boil drinking water to prevent simple and common illness.


The health is a wealth of a person and need to be looked after and cared for the wellbeing and happiness. Apart from healthy eating and living, people need health and disease prevention education.

  1. Good anti, peri and post natal care of the mothers are the foundation of a healthy society.
  2. This reduces and prevents maternal death and infant mortality.
  3. Child health care and immunisation is the basis of healthy future generation.
  4. Health and disease prevention education of the poor people.
  5. Life style education and smoking and alcohol related disease prevention.
  6. The alcohol use is the part of the lifestyle of indigenous people which is seriously damaging their health and wealth and is holding them back from development and progress. A serious and concerted effort is needed to bring about changes in their social, cultural and life style.
  7. Treatment for acute and chronic diseases need to be available at the easy reach of the local people and the authorities should make available sufficient resources and skilled manpower.

The sanitation is an important aspect of healthy living and prevention of diseases and can cheaply be provided.

  1. There have been innovative ideas and methods to provide cheap toilet facilities at the reach of common and poor people and they need to be aware of the benefit of these.
  2. The waste water should be put to good use and avoid pooling of such water to prevent harbouring of disease spreading and causing insects.
  3. The public health education needs to be given to the poor and needy people living in the villages.


The education is a life long process starting from childhood, adolescent and old age and never ending.

  1. Childhood education starts at home with and from mother even before nursery age and nursery facilities should be universally available to all.
  2. Primary and secondary education should be universally available to all.
  3. The medium of education at primary level need to be in their mother tongue and secondary education could be bilingual.
  4. Adult education should be available to the people who missed out during childhood.
  5. Old age education for the people who have worked very hard all their lives and raised families and want to enjoy the remaining life by reading and watching audio visual materials.

This can help keep them engaged physically and mentally and give them spiritual satisfaction and happiness.


The language and culture can only be preserved by their use and practice by the people and community. As education spreads amongst the indigenous people, they tend to move to the metropolitan towns and cities to look for better prospect and life. This takes them away from their people and natural environment.

  1. Their mobility brings them to new places and environment and has no one to speak their language outside their family.
  2. The children who are born in these places go to the local schools where their mother tongue is an alien language.
  3. The parents tend to speak the local or regional language with their children to help them cope better in the schools with the wrong notion that their children will get confused by leaning two languages at the same time. But there is no evidence of this.
  4. By doing this even the parents start speaking language other than their own.
  5. With increasing mobility and globalisation young indigenous people are more likely to have mixed marriages and preserving of their language and culture is going to be more and more difficult.
  6. The development and progress of indigenous people are likely to affect their language and culture adversely unless they are careful.


The globalisation and the spread of education and changing environment are likely to change the perception, aspiration and daily needs of the Indigenous people and there is a real danger of loss of their language, culture and identity.

The indigenous people have to be pragmatic and realistic and accept that the changing world around them is bound to affect them and their society in so many ways. They should accept the good changes taking places around them like education and try to avoid bad things and prepare themselves to compete with the people of other communities and try to preserve the core values of their heritage and identity.

References:The Earth Is But One Country by John Huddleston. Indigenous Perspectives, Volume V11, Number 1, A journal of Tebtebba Foundation.



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