ADIVASIS AND CHALLENGES IN THE MODERN AGE

FOR

PROGRESS AND PROSPERITY

The modern age is a period in human history that spans from the 20th century beginning with the period after the end of the first world war and ending with the advent of the digital revolution. The period saw the improvement of contemporary weapons and technologies in the middle of instability and ravages of the second world war, as the world began to move into a more technical but more destructive age.

According to the United Nations Organisation (UNO), there are around 370 million Adivasis, the indigenous people in the world. 70% of them live in South East Asia alone (Indian Sub-Continent, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Laos, Brunei, and East Timor) which comes to 259 million. They have valuable and distinctive identities with hopes and aspirations which are unfulfilled in this age of knowledge, technology, and globalization. And one wonders why? There are indigenous people in Latin American countries as well. There have been a few very important changes like the abolition of slavery and industrialization and few of these people have moved to urban areas. But they have been deprived of their natural habitat.

We Adivasis (tribal people) are known for our simplicity, sincerity, honesty, trustworthiness, straightforwardness, easygoing nature, and enjoyment of simple life with traditional songs, dances, and home-brewed Handia (Rice Beer). We Adivasi people rightly pride in these virtues and are happy and contented with whatever little we have. The non-tribal look at these attributes as our weaknesses and take advantage of our simplicity to exploit us in every possible way.

To appreciate these attributes, we have to go back briefly to nearly 250 years of the history of the Adivasi and Jharkhand region. Here I would like to concentrate on the plight of Adivasis of the newly created state of Jharkhand. Although the same principles apply to all Adivasis living in other parts of India and beyond. The tribal population of India is 84.3 million which is 8.2% of the total of 1028.6 million is (2001 census). The total tribal population of Jharkhand is 70,89,068 out of a total of 2.69 crores. The anthropological survey of India in its ‘People of India Project’ (Singh 2002) listed 623 tribal communities out of which 573 are notified as Scheduled Tribe. Tribals speak 218 languages out of which 159 are exclusive.

Jharkhand is a state situated in east India curved out of Bihar in2000. The city of RANCHI is the capital and DUMKA is a sub-capital. The state is known for its cascade slopes and sacred spots. The state is rich in minerals and is supposed to be the richest state in the country.

Education: The literacy rate is 67.6% with Ranchi locale being most literate at 77%. The tribal-dominated region with 28% of the population and the main tribes are Santhal, Munda, Kharia, Oraon and Bhumij, and others.

The Hindi is the official language of the state but has many own Vernaculars in the state.

The region was brought under British Rule by military might at the early stage of British Raj.

1771-1819: British attack on Palamau and Chero revolt.

1780-85: Tilka Manjhi led a tribal revolt injuring British Army Chief and he was hanged to death in Bhagalpur at a place popularly known as Tilka Manjhi Chowk.

1797 and 1800-02 Munda revolts under Vishnu Manaki and Bhukan singh respectively.

1833: Damin-E-Koh established

1832-33: Kherwar revolt under the leadership of Bhagirath Manjhi, Dubai Gosal and Patel Singh.

1855-56: Santal Hul under the leadership of Sido and Kanhu brothers and a homeland for Santals was created during the same time (22nd Dec. 1855) and Santal Pargana Act 37 was enacted.

1895- 1900: ULGULAN under Birsa Munda.

1908: Introduction of Chotanagpur Tenancy Act.

1912: Bihar separated from greater Bengal and some parts of Chotanagpur merged with Bengal.

1936: Odisha separated from Bihar.

1947: India became Independent and the British Raj came to an end.

1949: Santal Pargana land Tenancy Act was codified.

Apart from these and other revolts by the tribal people, many social and political groups sprang up under various tribal leaders to campaign, preserve and promote tribal customs, traditions, and heritage and also to assert our rights. Some of these leaders are Paul Dayal, Joel Lakra, Jaipal Singh Munda, N.E. Horo, S.K. Bage, Bagun Sumbrai, Debi Soren, and Shibu Soren.

1929 was a landmark year when for the first time a memorandum was submitted to the Simon Commission for a separate state of Jharkhand.

15th November 2000: A new separate state of Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar. In spite of this and nearly 250 years of struggle and revolts, there has been very little progress and prosperity of tribal people in Jharkhand. The central and state governments have spent a lot of money and time in the name of the development of the Adivasi people. Unfortunately, due to mismanagement and poor implementation by government agencies such development has not reached the people.  The indifference of the people who work in these development projects is also to be blamed since most of them are non-tribal from outside.

Agriculture: 80% of the rural population depends on agriculture. There is no adequate arrangement and facilities for irrigation and is fully dependent on the rain water which is not always reliable and is only one season crops are cultivated. The agriculture to be more productive requires the irrigation facilities to be improved and modern methods of cultivation to be introduced to improve the productivity of the lands.

Healthcare: The health care system needs to be improved. Although the healthcare system has reached to the village level since the independence of the country in 1947 the quality of service is not adequate and needs to be improved and better staffed. The primary health care centres need to be fully staffed with doctors and auxiliary staff and should have enough stocks of medicines. There are many community hospitals have been opened recently but not fully staffed and not being run properly. There were only 3 medical colleges in Jharkhand until last year but this year 3 more have been started one each at Dumka, the sub capital of the state, Hazaribagh and Palamu but they are still in the process of building. The infant mortality rate and maternal mortality has improved but not enough.

As regards the tribal people, the majority of us have very little or no education at all, we are not aware of our rights, we cannot speak up for ourselves, we are unable to voice our opinion. The long exploitation and subjugation have made us weak, helpless and apprehensive. We have lost self-respect and have no confidence in ourselves.

Problems/Issues

  1. Lack of or poor-quality schools in primary and secondary schools in village and block levels. Now a days there are schools in almost every village but they are not fully staffed and supervised. There are many trained teachers in Jharkhand but they are not employed due to lack of vision and foresight.

The teachers who are employed are also not very particular and do not come regularly to teach, the gram Sabha who are supposed to look after and supervise the quality of teaching are themselves not competent and capable as they are not adequately educated and competent themselves.

Apart from these basic problems there is no government policy until now that ensures education to all upto the level of 10+2 and then to encourage them to go for skill oriented further education to earn livelihood and only very bright and able students need to be encouraged for higher education.

Poverty: In spite Jharkhand being the richest mineral state in the country, there is poverty in the land of plenty. This is a major handicap now a days as there is a parallel education from the very beginning. Apart from going to schools the pupils of the rich have a private tuition as well which goes all along the education systems and the poor pupils are greatly handicapped.

Lack of empowerment in the village levels due to lack of education and awareness of what’s available for them from block levels for the villagers.

Voiceless-The villagers have no voice as they are not educated and cannot speak up for their rights and privileges.

Solution- Education, education and education to all so that they can see what’s their rights and ask for them which will provide voice and will empower them.

PROGRESS AND PROSPERITY

The progress of Adivasi people is multipronged as at the moment we need help in all aspects of our life. The first and foremost our people need food to survive for which we have to learn new skills as we have only one or two skills at the moment which are seasonal and dependent on the weather and rain falls and the other is the back-breaking labouring work which are also not available locally. The government need to improve the irrigation facility and create jobs opportunities locally to stop migration.

To open our eyes and mind and to empower us and have voice we need education and education.

And at last we need good housing with modern amenities, clean drinking water and caring healthcare for all and new skills to compete in this new world of technology and globalisation. 

CONCLUSION

A time has come for the tribal people to think big and plan long-term plans. We should come out of the traditional comfort zone and change our attitude and mind set to survive and compete with the mainstream community in the modern world. This can be done without forgetting the virtues, customs, traditions and cultural heritage.

Apart from the progress in the fields of EDUCATION, LIFE STYLE, HEALTH CARE, SANITATION and LIVELIHOOD, we need to be encouraged and inspired in the following mental and psychological spheres:

  • Activism: Adivasi people have more or less been static for last couple of centuries except occasional bursts of revolts under heavy pressure of exploitation and subjugation. We need to get out of this mode and be on move working hard with bursting zeal to keep pace with the rest of the mainstream communities.
  • Dynamism: we need to develop energetic, forceful and go-ahead attitude in all aspects of our life.
  • Innovation: Develop new, changing and innovative work pattern to cope with the rapidly changing world.
  • Inventiveness: we need to explore and try new ways and means of livelihood rather than sticking to the primitive ways of agriculture and cultivation.
  • Competitiveness: in this age of globalisation and technology where the fittest survives, we need to develop the sense of competitiveness to excel and win to survive.
  • Forward looking: traditionally tribal people have been backward looking and priding in our past glories and heritage. This has to change and a new culture of forward looking and foresight ought to be embraced without forgetting our traditional virtues. 
  • Compassion: Traditional kindness, fellow feeling and helping each other in the community do not need to be forgotten to achieve progress and prosperity which will in fact enhance the human values.
  • Motivation: We should not only hunger for food but also for ambition, desire and drive to move forward to better ourselves and our children and future generations.
  • Dedication: We need to encourage and practice commitment and devotion for the progress and prosperity of our family, friends and community at large.
  • Entrepreneurship: to develop a sense of adventure with caution to try new ways and means of income generation to keep up with the rapidly changing modern trends and methods.
  • Hopes: As we can see from our history, we have had nothing but struggle, subjugation and exploitation which has left us without hope for our future. So therefore, we must have hope without which we cannot move forward.
  • Aspirations: It’s about time, Adivasi people awake from the deep slumber and start thinking and dreaming big and aspire and aim for high living and prosperity.

Once we achieve these attributes of life and daily living, our way of thinking, outlook and life style will change. We will be empowered and will have a voice of our own and can stand on our own feet and speak up for ourselves. That will be the day when we will be listened to by the mainstream community and the governments. The Adivasi people will then walk tall with heads held high, with pride and dignity without losing our customs, traditions, culture, heritage and identity. Such changes are bound to come with time whether we like it or not and with these we have to produce new leaders with vision and foresight who will fight for the benefit, progress and prosperity of Adivasi people. 

The tribal intelligentsia and our educated people have an important role to play in this connection by inspiring and setting examples. We need to spare some of our valuable time to help our community to achieve these wherever our social and political leaders have dismally failed over the years.

HUL JOHAR