The makers of modern India wanted to build an inclusive society by minimising many forms of inequality across social groups and within communities through planned economic development. In order to address the development of the most vulnerable sections amongst marginalised sections such STs, the Central Government has implemented a slew of micro projects since 1975 for as many as 75 ParticularlyVulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) out of notified 700 ST communities in the country.The PVTGs are identified on the basis of stagnant/low population growth, low literacy, subsistence level of economic status and dependent on pre-agricultural level for livelihood. A majority of PVTGs are inhabitants of the Central India.
The largest number of communities in the country listed as STs and PVTGs are in State of Odisha. There are 62 tribes and among them 13 are PVTGs which include Chuktia Bhunnjia, Birhor, Bondo, Didayi, Dangaria Kondha, Juanga, Kharia, Kutia Kandha, Langiasaura, Lodha, Mankidia, Paudi Bhuyan and Saura.
As per a State Government survey their population was about 90,000 in 2015 who were spread over 20 blocks of 12 districts. Though small in number, these PVTGs are with distinct culture, language and belief system but have been on the edge with low literacy, economic backwardness, isolation and distress condition.
There are as many as 17 micro projects started for the PVTGs between 1976 and 1995 and these schemes are still continuing with involvement of the Central and State Government, corporates, NGOs and international donors such as IFAD.
The State Government has taken a loan of Rs 312 from IFAD for its Rs 800 crore project for PVTGs empowerment and livelihood improvement. Recently, during the Covid pandemic the Government of Odisha has supported the PVTG households with special Covid assistance, ration kit and labour assistance. There are a host of activities for education and economic development going on for a long time by the State department with support of the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA). There is a National Council for Tribal Welfare headed by the Prime Minister where the Chief Ministers having of 5th and 6th Scheduled areas in their States are members.
The Tribal Sub Plan has been implemented for last 40 years aiming to bridge gaps between the tribals and rest of the social groups. It is to bring larger socioe-conomic equality and building an egalitarian society but certainly not to appease the tribal community. They deserve all rights as fellow citizens and dignity as human beings.
The resources for tribal development comes from a host of sources which include special Central assistance to TSP, Articles 275(1), TSP component of the State and Central Governments ministries ,institutional finance, CSR fund from corporate bodies, UNO, international agencies, District Mineral Foundation fund, OMBADC and CAMPA fund etc.
There are also a number of NGOs, religious bodies, private trusts and educational institutions engaged in tribal development for a long time. As per sources, the MoTA supports 200 NGOs with 300 projects. There are 38 Ministries and departments of the Central Government having Tribal Sub Plan component. The grant to the States under Article 275(1) of the Constitution of India is 100 per cent to States on the basis of the ST population of the State to the total tribal population of the country.
The micro projects in Odisha have almost completed about 30 years of its operation and no one knows how long they will go further,but in spite of spending a huge among why the socio-economic indicators such as women literacy, child mortality rate, infant mortality rate, women with anemia, children with sickle cell anemia, student dropout rate etc do not improve is a moot question. The PVTGs are still below than other STs of the State and far below the State and national average and much below other social groups in all these indicators.
A majority of them have no basic amenities for life such as habitat rights, house, drinking water, sanitary facility and linking road to their hamlets. The vulnerable condition of PVTGs in Odisha has attracted national attention on the issues of their extreme economic backwardness, malnutrition, diseases, hunger death, child labour, displacement due to mining and distress migration. There have been no sign of improvement in the standard of living and quality of life of these groups in spite of special projects and micro projects.
There may be examples of very insignificant success of a few individuals or households from among them but the socio-economic and educational status of the communities as a whole has not changed much at par with other social groups.
The approach of ongoing project model and cluster method must be relooked. In the changing condition slowly many of them are migrating from their homeland to outside in search of livelihood and mostly they get engaged in odd jobs, low paid works and join in slums as scavengers and housemaids in the cities.
Unfortunately for a long time, they are being exhibited as museum materials in most vulgar and undignified manner in the State sponsored Adivasi exhibitions and Melas, wall paintings in the cities and decorated as statues in traffic islands.
Is it decent to show a human beings--men, women and children--in such a fashion before others? How such exhibitions are going to help in building a positive image of such communities in public needs a pondering.
They struggle to cope with external changing conditions which are quite challenging for them. The fact is mostly non-tribal actors play a major role in the development of PVTGs of the State. The over domination of non-tribals persistently continue in all spheres.