The Primary Census Abstract 2011, released last month states that the population of the scheduled tribes dipped by 0.1 per cent in Jharkhand in the last decade. The same report stated 22.4 per cent increase of in the population of State in last decade.
As per this report the population of scheduled tribe is 26.2 per cent (86, 45,042) of the population (3,29,88,134) of State. And as per the census report 2001 tribal population constituted 26.3 per cent (70,87,068) of the population of the State (26,945,829). Thus, there has been a decrease of 0.1 per cent during the last decade.
Given that Jharkhand was carved out from Bihar for welfare of tribal people and also the fact that Jharkhand is termed as a “Tribal State”, though unofficially, how big a concern is the decreaseIJ And what are the reasons behind this decreaseIJ Gladson Dungdung, a human rights activist, who has written volumes on tribal issues and has been vocal in putting forward the voices of tribals terms this as a “big concern.”
“Given that Jharkhand is a tribal State and also the fact that tribal population here has inspired the tribal people from other States to continue their struggle this dip is a big concern,” he said.
He counted several reasons for the decline. “Tribal population undergo seasonal migration. The girls who get trafficked find it hard to get married. Many have to spend unmarried life. For some reasons tribal people drink to the limit of addiction. Consequently they become violent cutting and killing their own family members. Then there is also problem of witch-hunting. All these are reasons,” he said.
But quickly he adds, “There might be mistakes in feeding the data at the time of census. Or even the number might have been deliberately brought down so that reservation policy gets swung in favour of non-tribals.”
However his contention of mistake in compiling census report was denied by Sunil Kumar Barnwal, Director of Census Operations Jharkhand. “Accuracy and sanctity of the census is sacrosanct. We acknowledge (+-) 2 percent mistake. Besides, the data are unquestionable,” he said.
Some experts like Soma Singh Munda, Assistant Director at Jharkhand Tribal Welfare and Research Institute (JTWRI) feel that the population has been pushed to the corner because of industrialisation and the resultant influx of non-tribal labour in the State.
“Influx of non-tribes caused the loss of identity among native tribal population. At the same time the exodus native tribes to states like Punjab, Assam has also happened. Also pregnant tribal women have lesser degree of health awareness. They lack in nutritional food. Thus either embryo gets destroyed or weaker children are born. They die in early age,” he said.
He also held guilty the increased water pollution. “Tribal people had been pushed back to jungle. They consume water in jungles which has become hazardous with increased level of pollution,” he said.
Munda apprehended that the trend will continue because government have been unable to bring tribal population out of jungles. “They have been pushed into jungles. Jungles by virtue of being what they are make the population prone to pre-mature deaths,” he said.
Barnwal, however, said that the census office accommodates (+-) 2 per cent mistakes in census reports and the 0.1 per cent decrease was not that big a concern.