Demographic Profile of the STs
There are 32 tribes (2011) in Jharkhand of which Santhals are most numerous accounting for one third of the total tribal population followed by Oraon, Munda and Ho contributing more than 10% to the total tribal population. Other tribes such as Kharwar, Lohra, Bhumij and Kharia have a share of less than 3% each while Mahli, Mal pahariya, Bedia and Chero have share of 1-2% each. The tribes with less than 1% contribution to the state’s tribal population include Karmali, Gond, Chick Baraik, Generic tribes, Kisan, Sauria Paharia, Korwa, Kora, Paharia, Binjhia, Asur and Birhor. The most marginalized tribes with less than 0.01% are Savar, Birjia, Gorait, Baiga, Bathudi, Banjara and Khond. Among the districts Gumla, Lohardaga and West Singhbhum account for more than 50% tribal population. Certain tribes have been under special scrutiny on the basis of their levels of primitiveness, backwardness and extincting status like the Asur, Paharia, Sabar, Birhor, Birjia, Korwa, Mal Pahariya and Sauriya Paharia. Eight out of the thirty odd tribes of Jharkhand fall under Primitive Tribal Group (PTG). They are Asur, Birhor, Birajia, Korwa, Savar, Pahariya (Baiga), Mal Pahariya and Souriya Pahariya. Together they constitute 2.73 lakhs (2001) which is a very nominal part of the total tribal population. According to the reports by the health department Birhor, Birajia, Baiga and Souriya Pahariya are declining. Though the population size is statistically not significant for the analysis of individual tribe especially the communities with very small size of population, it is inevitable to examine their level of development for proper intervention and development action plan in terms of human development indicators. The sex ratio of the STs in the state is 987 and Binjhia, Kharia and Karmali have sex ratio more than 1000. Most of the other mentioned tribes have very poor sex ratio especially the Khonds and the Banjaras. However this is not a good measure for any estimation due to very small population of some tribes and also the high degree of male migration amongst certain tribes.
Here are the biggest issues of the tribal state that remain unaddressed even after 14 years of creation of the state.
None of the governments dared to bring a clear policy on domicile fearing loss of votes. When Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar 14 years ago, the tribal locals had a dream to regain their dignity. They had a dream that their aspirations would come to fruition and struggle for self-rule will yield results. The manipulation by Jharkhand’s political class on the domicile policy has led to distrust between the tribal and non-tribal communities.
This state was formed for the welfare of the indigenous tribals. Tribals have their own way of self-rule what one can call rural governance. Panchayats play an important role in such communities so development has to be tribal-centric.
Unfortunately, the methods adopted by governments have been widely considered to be anti-tribal so far. Tribals have been dispossessed of their resources by the state by creating an “illusory perception of development.” Over 7 million people have so far been displaced in Jharkhand in the name of development. Tribals have been the real owners of forests and agricultural lands and giving away their lands to big firms can never be appreciated.
There is loot of natural resources in Jharkhand. It’s the repository of 40 per cent of nation’s minerals but has no clear policies that are acceptable to indigenous tribals as well. From ArcelorMittal, Tata Steel to the Jindal Steel & Power, all have faced massive protests by the locals.
It’s considered that the mineral policy has more to do with profiting large firms. The royalty fixed by the central government for mineral mines is very low, thus benefiting private mining firms than the state.
Language and culture
In the last 14 years, there has been no effort to set up a language academy or an institute for cultural management. Cultural discrimination of tribals by the outsiders, called ‘dikus’, has been one of the major issues among these communities. The indigenous tribes demanded separate statehood to do away with years of injustice.
Political analysts say loss of land would naturally lead to loss of tribal identity. If government bulldozes farms with standing crops to make way for industrialists, it will not solve the purpose of a separate state.
Tribals can’t be called anti-industry or anti-development. They also want development but not at the cost of their rights over natural resources. To avoid unrest, the new government should make a clear stand on displacement and land acquisition.