First published here: https://www.villagesquare.in/2018/08/27/munda-tribes-of-jharkhand-desire-inclusive-development/
By Tripta Sharma works as a senior project manager at ACCESS Development Services, Delhi. (Views are personal)
Once self-sufficient, the Munda farming community in Jharkhand has accepted changes in governance that promises social and economic development. But, inclusive development has eluded them
The image of a Munda in his dhoti is a familiar sight in the fields of Khunti district in Jharkhand. However, the future of Munda tribal community is uncertain, threatened by the impacts of a developing nation. With development taking place at a fast pace, the tribal communities in the interiors of Jharkhand face greater challenges to their economy and their way of life than ever before.
From being an isolated self-sufficient agricultural economy to a group seeking new economic opportunities as social, political, economic and environmental conditions change, the transition of Munda tribal community is evident. The transition shows the struggles of tribal communities in today’s time.
Some consider Arki, an administrative block in Khunti district, a red corridor since citizens raised their voices against the government, seeking their rights. Amendments to the Chotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act and Santal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act in the recent past sparked anti-government protests in the block, with the protestors questioning the governance of the state.
Police firing on protestors that led to the death of a tribal farmer in Khunti district and similar incidents in other districts of the state brought basic rights and entitlements of the tribal communities in the country to the limelight.
Dwindling livelihood opportunities
Data collected in Arki block as part of a research indicate the vulnerabilities of the Munda tribes when it comes to their livelihood.
In Arki, out of the total population of 80,589, the working population including women is 44,987 as per the Census 2011 data. While 67% of the workers describe their work as their source of livelihood (employed or earning for more than six months) — referring to it as main work, 33% are involved in marginal activities that bring an income for less than six months.
Of the 44,987 workers engaged in main work, 20,589 were cultivators who owned or co-owned their fields, 6,680 were agricultural laborers. The others migrate or practice non-farm activities such as poultry and animal husbandry.
With water becoming scarce, the Munda tribes have not been able to cultivate rice, their staple food. With agriculture being the Mundas’ main source of livelihood, the rate of migration has become significantly high in the region.
Missing social protection
The elders in the village who are totally dependent on their pension suffer the most. The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) that came into effect on 15 August, 1995, is meant to provide social protection to senior citizens, widows and the disabled.
However, the elderly in the Arki block do not enjoy the benefits of pension scheme. Their children are not able to support them due to various reasons. Selling hadiya, an indigenous rice beer, in the local markets is their only source of income; in some rare cases, they earn from farm and non- farm activities.