Dealing with challenges for Adivasis in states having widely different human development indicators – Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha & West Bengal

Image © PARI People’s Archive of Rural India reporting on Covid-19 >>
Related posts: how India’s tribal communities cope with the pandemic >>

Covering the human cost of Covid-19
The nationwide Covid-19 lockdown that started on March 25 [2020] has triggered distress for millions of ordinary Indians – stranded migrant workers, farmers, sugarcane cutters, Adivasis, Dalits, sanitation workers, construction labourers, cancer patients staying on city pavements, brick kiln labourers, pastoral nomads, and others. While many are on the brink with no work, income or food, several continue to work amid extremely hazardous conditions | Read about them in these PARI reports from across the country >>

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed how rooted structural imbalances are between rural and urban, male and female, rich and poor, even in the digital world. | Read the full report in >>

[…] While 66% of India’s population lives in villages, only a little over 15% of rural households have access to internet services. For urban households, the proportion is 42%.

In fact, only 8% of all households with members aged between five and 24 have both a computer and an internet connection. It is also useful to note that as per the National Sample Survey definition, a household with a device or internet facility does not necessarily imply that the connection and devices are owned by the household. […]

In states like Delhi, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Uttarakhand, more than 40% households have access to internet. The proportion is less than 20% for Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. The gender divide in internet usage is also stark.  […]

Source: “Indian education can’t go online – only 8% of homes with young members have computer with net link” by Protiva Kundu, (5 May 2020)
Date visited: 23 June 2020

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Image © The Hindu for “The Adivasi in the mirror” by Nissim Mannathukkaren >>

[…]  The sculpture of Madhu points to the fundamental but hidden truth of Indian modernity and development: that it is built on an unprecedented dispossession of, and violence against, the nation’s Adivasi communities.

Sadly, this feature equally marks Kerala, the State with the highest human development indicators (with Adivasis making up 1.1% of the population), and ‘backward’ States like Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand which have substantial tribal populations. Thus, Madhu is not, unfortunately, alone. The Madhus of the world suffer violent deaths not because we failed to modernise them, but because of the intrinsic connections between their terrible fate and well-being — in 70 years after Independence, post-colonial governments have virtually replicated colonial government policies towards the Adivasis.

Various estimates put the number of development-induced internally displaced people in India over 50 years between 20 and 50 million. Of this, tribals, who are only 8.6% of the population, probably make up more than half the number. They are the sacrificial lambs that the dominant majority society offers at the altar of development. Dispossessed, they become a part of the army of cheap, daily wage labour. […]

Behind the (justifiably) much-lauded secular model of development in Kerala lies the hideous reality of racism/casteism in which an Adivasi or a Dalit becomes the other. Adivasis are a constant butt of jokes in commercial cultural productions like the 2002 low-brow Malayalam comedy film, Bamboo Boys.

Again, this is something that has national resonance. Adivasis are not full persons, but mere exotic props in mainstream films. The contact with mainstream society is absolutely damaging for the cultural self of the Adivasis. Their children are often traumatised because of persistent discrimination in schools. […] 

Crimes against Scheduled Tribes in Kerala increased substantially between 2014 and 2016.

There cannot be a mere developmental/economistic solution to the Adivasi ‘problem’. But that has been the dominant approach to mitigating their condition. Nearly ₹5,000 crore has been allocated in the Kerala State Budgets alone (excluding Central government and other project funds) in the last 10 years but with hardly any demonstrable results.

Adivasis cannot be equal citizens until they are considered holistically as a part of cultural and ecospheres with unique customs and practices, and not just as welfare recipients receiving doles. Further, there cannot be the liberation of the Adivasi until the fundamental material issue of land alienation is addressed. But that is precisely what is being hidden. […]

Nissim Mannathukkaren is Chair, International Development Studies, Dalhousie University, Canada

Source: “The Adivasi in the mirror: The lynching of Madhu in Kerala must shock our conscience into recognising the dispossession of India’s tribals” by Nissim Mannathukkaren (The Hindu, 3 March 2018)
Accessed: 9 March 2021

“Casteism is the investment in keeping the hierarchy as it is in order to maintain your own ranking, advantage, privilege, or to elevate yourself above others or keep others beneath you …. For this reason, many people—including those we might see as good and kind people—could be casteist, meaning invested in keeping the hierarchy as it is or content to do nothing to change it, but not racist in the classical sense, not active and openly hateful of this or that group.” | Learn more about the effects of “casteism” on tribal communities >>

Source: Book review for “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson, Dilip Mandal, The Print, 23 August 2020
Date visited: 10 November 2020

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