Saturday, July 26, 2008

Economic constraints of tribal development in KBK

Merinews, July 26, 2008
by Basant Rath

Koraput, Balangir and Kalahandi (KBK) are the poorest regions of the country comprising mainly of tribals. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood. Still rooted in ancient beliefs the tribals do not make serious attempts to raise their wealth..

THE UNDIVIDED districts of Koraput, Balangir and Kalahandi popularly known as KBK is one of the poorest region in the country. The KBK regions have been divided into eight districts, ie Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Balangir, Sonepur, Kalahandi and Nuapada. These eight districts comprise of 14 subdivisions, 37 tehsils, 80 CD blocks, 1437 gram panchayats and 12,104 villages, Almost 75 per cent of the total population is reeling under the poverty line even after 58 years after independence.

The KBK districts account for 19.72 per cent population for over 30.59 per cent geographical area of the state. About 89.89 per cent people of these districts still live in village and remote areas. As per 1991 census about 38.72 per cent people of KBK districts belong to the Scheduled Tribe (ST) and 16.63 per cent of the population belongs to Scheduled Castes (SC) communities. Literacy rates are far below the state as well as national averages. Female literacy is only 24.72 per cent. As per the 1997 census of Below Poverty Line (BPL) families about 72 per cent families live below poverty line. Nuapada ranks as the district with highest number of BPL families of 85.70 per cent and Bolangir ranks as the lowest with 61.06 per cent of BPL families. As per an estimate based on 1999-2000 NSS data 87.14 per cent people in southern Orissa, are below poverty line.

Agriculture is the main source of livelihood. Nearly 80 per cent of the tribal workers earn their living as cultivator and agricultural labourers only 10 per cent of the people work in construction trade and commerce, nine per cent of the people works in mining, quarrying and the rest of the population is engaged in house hold and manufacturing. The traditional occupation was agriculture, hunting and gathering forest products but now they depend on wage labourers. They work as agricultural and casual labours. A few of them have their own agricultural lands.

Basically the tribal people believe in eat, drink, and be merry principle. There is no place for economic competition, due to free availability of land and minor forest produce followed by low population pressure, the competition has not been felt by the tribals.

Tribal economy mainly comprises of subsistence farming, wage earning from forest works and government sponsored programmes. Subsistence farmers grow food crops barely enough to meet their own farm and family requirements. Diffusion of technological changes in agriculture does not take place properly as this is the main constraint.

More than 80 per cent of the total population depends on agriculture; most of the tribals are landless and work as wage earners. Owing to their illiteracy, superstitions and conservative practices, they are deceived and exploited by moneylenders and other non tribals. Tribals who do not have a permanent income live in perpetual poverty. No doubt that the government is implementing a number of projects for the improvement of the socio-economic conditions of tribals, but due to illiteracy, they are unaware of several developments around them.

On the other hand poor irrigation, bad infrastructure has taken a huge toll on agriculture, the main source of livelihood. Unemployment has soared with even seasonal jobs under various schemes becoming scarce. Almost 75 per cent of the total population is reeling under the poverty line even after 58 years after independence.

Most of them do not even get a single meal a day due to acute poverty. Also, per capita availability of land continues to plunge, coming down to 70 per cent. Due to the practice of slash and burn farming locally called Podu, denudation of forest and forcible occupation of their land, they are compelled to go to other places in search of employment.

Want of an organised marketing is a big bottleneck of tribal economy, weekly markets are held in big villages and small villages on roadside but remain defunct for six months in a year. Retail traders and hawkers visit these markets and purchase agricultural and forest produce. In return they sell manufactured items of daily requirements to the local tribals. There is complete absence of profit motivation in the tribals with the result the tribals cannot enter into commercial undertaking in any sale.

In a recent tour to different parts of KBK region revealed that in most of the villages there are several traders and businessman who have found their roots in the shops, also purchase of agricultural and forest products. But to ones surprise none of these are of tribal origin, all are new settlers who have come either from Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, West Bengal, or other parts of Orissa. The landless agriculturist are either with zero ownership or ultra marginal ownership of land. Rural poverty of ST and SC population is rampant and 75 per cent were found to be land less and living below poverty line. The growth of tribal population and the rise in the burden of agricultural workers on land also made them landless workers. Social values of the tribals play an important obstacles for raising wealth capital and income.

The tribals of KBK region believe in ghosts, ancestors worship and also believe that the fortune of man is controlled by their super natural power. Hence they do not make serious attempts to raise wealth. What ever they produce on their lands 90 per cent of it is consumed as food and drink and seven per cent of the produce is utilised for meeting other expenses, three per cent on clothing. Food, shelter, sex and clothing are the only important wants of the tribal people. These wants are locally satiable without paying any substantial cost. Education, modern medicines and conveyance are still far cry, which could hardly catch the imagination of most of the tribal peoples of KBK region.

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