Human Development Report of Tribal Communities 2010 – Kerala

Roy Mathew, The Hindu, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, September 30, 2010

Land alienation continues to be a major issue among tribal communities, according to studies done by the State Planning Board.

The Human Development Report of Tribal Communities in Kerala, prepared by the Planning Board under a project sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme and the Planning Commission, says their land is lost to settlers and encroachers. In the process, they lose their livelihoods as well. “The excessive dependence of tribal communities on land for their income and employment makes land alienation and landlessness a major livelihood concern of the tribes.”

(Though a law was enacted in 1975 to restore alienated land to tribes, it has never been enforced effectively. Subsequently, its clauses have been diluted through fresh legislation.)

The average size of landholding among traditionally landowning communities such as Kurichya, Kuruma and Malayarayan and communities such as Muthuvan is much above other tribal communities. This is seen to be associated with their better levels of development.

The study reports that noticeable differences exist between forward and backward communities in their livelihood options. The majority of the tribal communities depends on the primary sector for their livelihood. The spread in main sources of employment is higher among the forward communities.

The backward tribes, such as Irula, Kattu Naika, Paniya, Urali and Adiya, depend almost entirely on agriculture, agriculture labour and non-agriculture labour. Nearly 15 per cent of the tribes report the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) as their main source of employment.

“The fact that almost one person out of every nine tribal people have indicated the MGREGA as the main source of employment raises concern about the sustainability of the traditional livelihood options of tribal people. […]

This is indicative of the fact that income and employment generation schemes introduced by the government are more popular and effective mainly among the forward tribes.” […]

A disturbingly high percentage of the tribal population reports borrowings as the main source of meeting hospital expenditure. They cite financial incapability as a major hindrance to using health-care facilities. This is so when treatment is free in government hospitals and cultural aspects are found to be not roadblocks in accessing health care. The problem is their inability to meet incidental expenses such as travel, bribes to doctors and boarding and lodging of bystanders associated with treatment. The situation takes a huge toll on the health status of the backward communities because of their lower creditworthiness and lack of assets to pledge, the study says.

Poor health

It further says that substance abuse, unhygienic living environment and malnourishment are major factors that contribute to poor health indicators for tribal communities.

The ignorance about the severity of many medical conditions and problems of affordability to modern medical facilities expose the tribal communities to health risks and eventually lead them to high morbidity and mortality situations.

The tribal communities continue to be educationally backward with visible gender differences. While women lag behind their men counterparts in literacy, men lag in education.

Major factors hindering literacy include inaccessibility, language barrier, cultural barrier, lack of tribal sensitive functionaries, lack of libraries and reading materials and alcoholism. The dropout rates of tribal students are high at the high school and higher secondary school levels.

Source: The Hindu : NATIONAL / KARNATAKA : Land alienation still haunts tribes: study

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“It was assumed that tribal people have same health problems, similar needs and hence the uniform national pattern of rural health care would be applicable to them as well, albeit with some alteration in population: provider ratio. The different terrain and environment in which they live, different social systems, different culture and hence different health care needs were not addressed.”– Abhay Bang, Chairman, Expert Committee on Tribal health (2018 Report of the Expert Committee on Tribal Health)

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