Hunger and Coping Strategies Among Kondh Tribe In Kalahandi District, Odisha

Dr. Gadadhara Mohapatra

Abstract 4. Results and Discussion

1. Introduction

2. Studies on Hunger and Coping Strategies

3. Area, People and Methods

Socio-Economic Profile of the Respondents Indebtedness
Literacy Functioning of PDS
Health Status Benefit from Government Schemes
Child Labour Land-holding System
Economic Condition Food Security
  Food Consumption-Related Coping Strategies
5. Mining induced Displacement
6. Conclusion


This paper presents the field notes about the local coping strategies adopted by the tribals and forest dwellers to escape from hunger in the forest-based and mining areas of Kalahandi district of Odisha in Eastern India. It analyses the methods, which the poor people employ to combat recurrent drought conditions and food shortages in the study area. The paper also highlights various aspects of the tribal households and villagers such as: the social identity and livelihoods of Dongaria Kondh, health and nutritional status, food consumption-related coping strategies, functioning of PDS, benefit that the villagers received from different government schemes, land-holding system, indebtedness, impact of mining on people, and perception of villager’s about the food security situation over the past 10 years. The paperprovides a critical appraisal of development in these tribal regions in the lines of rights based framework and further suggest strengthening the livelihood strategies of the local people.


Key Words: Hunger, Chronic Poverty, Coping Strategies, Food Security, Rights-based approach, Shifting Cultivation, Bauxite Mining, Tribal, Kalahandi, Odisha

1. Introduction

In many parts of the world, hunger is pervasive and chronic; persisting even when weather is good and global agricultural production is adequate. Those who are undernourished in normal times are overwhelmingly the poor in the developing market economies of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Near East.[i] For these people hunger is fundamentally a reflection of poverty embedded in unequal distributions of wealth, income and power within their societies and among nations.[ii] Hunger is an important aspect indicating food insecurity. Hunger is not just an expression of poverty, it brings about poverty. The attainment of food security therefore involves eliminating current hunger and reducing the risks of future hunger. Hunger has chronic and seasonal dimensions. Chronic hunger is a consequence of diets persistently inadequate in terms of quantity and/or quality. Poor people suffer from chronic hunger because of their very low income and in turn inability to buy food even for survival. Seasonal hunger is related to cycles of food growing and harvesting. This is prevalent in rural areas because of the seasonal nature of agricultural activities and in urban areas because of the casual labour, e.g., there is less work for casual construction labour during the rainy season. This type of hunger exists when a person is unable to get work for the entire year. According to Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze, “Hunger is intolerable in the modern world” in a way it could not have been in the past, because it is “so unnecessary and unwarranted.” (The Hindu, October 24: 2006). India is a poignant example of how food sufficiency at the aggregate level has not translated into food security at the household level.[iii]

Despite rapid economic growth in the past two decades, India is unlikely to meet the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of cutting the proportion of hungry people by half. Per capita availability, as well as consumption of food grains, in India has declined since 1996; the percentage of underweight children has remained stagnant between 1998 and 2006; and the calorie consumption of the bottom half of the population has been consistently declining since 1987. Endemic hunger continues to afflict a large proportion of the Indian population (Saxena 2011). Though poverty headcount ratio has declined over a period of time, food insecurity remains unchanged. In fact 79.8 per cent of the rural India is below the prescribed 2400 Kcal in rural areas. Explicit hunger is especially severe in rural Odisha, West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Bihar. Non-availability of two square meals a day peaks in the summer months from June to September with longer duration suffering in West Bengal and Odisha (Mehta and Shah 2002). A study conducted by UN World Food Programme (WFP) in 2008 in association with the Institute of Human Development (IHD), New Delhi shows that in the state of Odisha there is a contiguous zone of acute food insecurity – all the districts of the Eastern Ghats and the adjoining coastal districts. Further, within this zone there is a group of four districts that require urgent and sustained attention – the districts of Kandhamal, Malkangiri, Gajapati and Rayagada. This is the ‘geography of hunger’ in the state of Odisha. The politics of relief in Odisha ensure that by the time relief is undertaken, a community has become disempowered and at the final stages of hunger (i.e. visible destitution or starvation). Although some rural people jokingly refer to drought relief as teesra fasl (the third crop)[iv], there is a complex progression of coping mechanisms that are enacted well before drought relief would be available.

1.1 Studies on Hunger and Coping Strategies

There is a growing literature on diversity of rural livelihoods in low income developing countries, particularly in difficult situation (Ellis, 2000). The major determinants of diversification are seasonality, risk, labor markets, credit markets, asset strategies and coping strategies. People residing in drought-prone areas acquire, over time, an ability to deal with food shortages and loss of income, and the complex methods for tackling hardship and ‘preserving assets which are needed to sustain a living in the future’ usually fall under the broad category of ‘coping strategies’ (Young and Jaspars 1995: 6–7). The nature of such strategies employed varies depending on types of livelihood, land use patterns, the system of trade, marketing, credit, etc. and local populations ‘learn through experience of drought and famine which specific strategies are best in their situation’ (ibid.: 7). Literature on coping mechanisms adopted by India’s poor households is limited in nature. Few studies highlight the change in the food consumption pattern, diversification of income generation in to non-farm activities, distress sale or mortgage of land and household assets, dependence on common property resources for raising livestock, seasonal migration to other areas are the most favoured mechanisms in semi-arid rural India (Rani and Dodia, 2001, Mishra, 2007, Banik, 2007). Other coping strategies to combat food insecurity involve the consumption of less preferred food, limiting the portion size of food, borrowing food or money, ‘maternal buffering’ (practice of a mother deliberately eating less to ensure children have enough to eat) and the skipping of meals for whole days. The use of tobacco and the consumption of locally brewed liquor (from mahua flower and date palm juice) also serve as important coping strategies against hunger (Banik 2007.) The most dispossessed communities like the Musahars of Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh search for undigested grain even in the dung of cattle and in the stores of field rats as survival strategies while coping with hunger (Harsh Mander, 2006).

It is in this context, an attempt has been made to provide an understanding of the socio-political roots of chronic poverty and hunger in Kalahandi district in Odisha. The empirical part of the study highlights the current livelihood strategies of the Dongria Kondhs and forest dwellers and the effect that mining has had on their lives and livelihoods in Niyamgiri Hills with special reference to bauxite and other mining operations. The main objective of the paper is to analyse the coping mechanisms developed by the tribal villager’s to overcome food insecurity and hunger.

2. Area, People and Methods

The present study has been undertaken among the Kondhs (Dangaria and Kutia), primitive tribal groups and other forest dwelers in Niyamgiri hills of Lanjigarh block in Kalahandi district. Niyamgiri is a hill range, about 250 sq. km. in area lying between 19.33 degree N lat. and 83. 25 degree E longitude (Patnaik, N. and Daspatnaik, P.1982, 1984). It forms the northernmost hill in the massif of the cluster of hills called the Niyamgiris or the Dongaria Kondh country. There are two tribal groups such as Dongaria Kondh and Kutia Kondh notified by Government of India as ‘Primitive Tribal Groups’ and thus eligible for special protection. While the Kutia Kondh inhabit in the foothills, the Dongaria Kondh live in the upper reaches of the Niyamgiri hills. The Dongria Kondh call themselves Jharnia meaning those who live by the Jharana (streams) confined to Niyamgiri hill tracts covering the blocks of Kalyansighpur, Bissamcuttack and Muniguda in Rayagada district. The immediate two neighbours of Dongaria Kondh are Kutia and Desia Kondhs. Kutia Kondhs are hill dwellers live in Phulbani and Kalahandi districts while Desia Kondhs are plain dwellers. Dongaria Kondh, whose total population is 7952 according to the 2001 census includes 3458 males and 4529 females. They are regarded as an endangered tribe. Schedule V of the Indian Constitution, which enjoins the government to respect and uphold the land rights of Scheduled Tribes applies to the entire Niyamgiri hills region. There are also two tribal development agencies working for their welfare – for some 35 years now. These are the Kutia Kondh Development Agency (KKDA), Lanjigarh and the Dongria Kondh Development Agency (DKDA). The ethnic groups closest to the Dongaria Kondh and in constant touch with their socio-economic life are the Domb. The Domb are a scheduled caste Hindu community. They have been co-settling with the Dongaria since long. Along with the Dongria Kondhs, the Dombs may also be considered as forest dwellers. It is held that in the beginning, the Domb were visiting Dongaria settlement as traders and in course of time, settled down in the Dongaria localities.

This study adopted multiple methods of data collection, which undertook during December- January 2011. Initially census of the village is undertaken. Subsequently, the quantitative data were collected from interviewing the heads of the household with a structured interview schedule (n=105). The qualitative data were collected through observation and case studies. Also, data was collected from the key informants, which include: head of the household, Sarpanch, village officials, schoolteachers and others through formal and informal discussions. The data were collected with reference to the details of livelihood and coping strategies during the post harvesting period in the year 2011.

3. Results and Discussion

3.1 Socio-Economic Profile of the Respondents

The present study was conducted in the remote and multi-dimensionally deprived villages under Lanjigarh block of Kalahandi in the western tribal region of Odisha. This region is one of the most backward districts in India and is largely inhabited by tribal populations. It is known for chronic hunger, deprivation and food insecurity, and consequently its abysmal human development index (HDI). Very often, it makes the news headlines only for the hunger related deaths that routinely take place here and in its neighbour Bolangir district. A peaceful tribal resistance to bauxite mining is going on in the Niyamgiri region of Kalahandi district.

This section deals with the villages under study and the basic facilities available in the village. Seven tribal villages were selected from Lanjigarh block of Kalahandi district with different agro-climatic and socio-economic conditions. Thus, the villages selected were Kenduguda, Rengopali, Bandhuguda, Trilochanpur, Khemundipaddar, Phuldumer and Palberi. Out of the 182 census households (2001 Census) 105 households were surveyed through formal and informal interviews.

Social composition of these seven villages shows that there are 100 per cent tribal households in Palberi, Phuldumer, Khemundipaddar, which is situated at the high altitude of the Niyamgiri hills. Whereas, villages under Trilochanpur have mixed kind of households comprising Dangaria Kond (PTGs), Domb (SCs), Goud or Sundhi from other backward classes (OBCs). However, the Dangaria Kondhs are claimed to be the original inhabitants of these region, where as the people belonging to Dombs, Goud and Sundhi have mostly migrated from the plain areas and settled in this area over a period of time.

Most of the sample households lie below poverty line. About 82.9 percent households (both BPL and Antodaya) are below the poverty line, 12.4 per cent households are not having ration card. Hardly 4.8 per cent households are APL households. Ration Cards issued by the Government, provide the means to purchase subsidized food grains from designated shops. The BPL and AAY cardholders, those who have ration cards, use to get rice and kerosene on monthly basis from PDS shops.

Occupational profile of the sample villages shows that the villagers in the foothills like Kenduguda, Rengopali and Bandhuguda mostly depend on agriculture and wage labour and collection of non-timber forest produce (NTFP). Hardly, two persons from Kenduguda and Bandhuguda reported that they are employed in the Vedanta alumina plant as labourers. Villages in the high altitude of Niyamgiri hill are mostly forest dependent as they practice shifting cultivation (Dangar chas) and collection of NTFPs and firewood and sell them in the nearest local market in Lanjigarh. Out of the surveyed villages, 5 respondents were getting pension of Rs. 200 per month for disability

3.2 Literacy

The tribal villages like Phuldumer, Palberi and Khemundipaddar in Lanjigarh block are 100 per cent illiterate. Chronic poverty, the absence of local teachers, inadequate number of institutions, poor communication facilities, involvement of children in economic activities, that is, the prevalence of child labour, and lack of awareness about the importance of education are the major reasons for such a situation. The Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDM Scheme) has not succeeded as an incentive for bringing children into school as the implementation of the scheme is poor, funds are siphoned off, and poor quality food is given to the students. The tribal children lack access to primary education despite the Constitutional adoption of the Right to Elementary Education and the implementation of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) (Tripathy, 2010). Ashram schools and residential schools established for tribal children from a cluster of habitations, and three such schools established at convenient places of DK settlements (Kurli, Parsali, Khambesi)are run by the Department of Welfare, Govt. of Odisha, with all sorts of facilities like free food, free reading- writing materials and other basic requirements like sitting mat, uniform, blankets, beds etc.. Despite this, enrollment, attendance and achievement of students are far from satisfactory. The DK children tend to drop out from schools and assist their parents in domestic and agricultural activities (Kanungo 2004).

3.3 Health Status

None of these villages have electrification, sanitation or access to safe drinking water facilities. Lack of access to health care facilities and if available, reluctance to utilize them due to social barriers and taboos have increased severity and duration of illnesses, besides making them vulnerable to specific endemic and communicable diseases. The PHCs situated in this region are quite inaccessible. In the absence of the medical health care system, the tribal villagers employ traditional knowledge of the causes-cure of ailment, and consult their Disari, the medicine man, at times of need. Tribal villagers from Rengapalli and Bandhuguda villages adjoining to the red mud pond of Vedanta plant are facing many health hazards since 2003-2004 when the mining activities started in this region. According to the villagers of these two villages, about 16 people have since died in T.B, and many more are suffering from T.B, skin disease and dust infection.

3.4 Child Labour

Percentage of child labour is high in the tribal dominated districts because of poor socio-economic conditions. In Kalahandi and Koraput it is 12%, which is more than double the state average of 5.87%. Bolangir comes next to Kalahandi and Koraput with 5.82% of children employed in labour force.

3.5 Economic Condition

The Dongaria Kondhs extensively practice the slash and burn (swidden) type of rotation cultivation. The hill slopes are clearly marked by areas under swidden cultivation. They are also able horticulturists along hill slopes and grow pineapple, banana, sago-pam (salap), citrus fruits, guava, papaya etc. (Table 1). Besides horticulture, they earn their livelihood through forests and animal husbandry (Sahoo, 1992). Rice, maize, ganja and ragi are main crops, besides various types of pulses (red gram, black gram, kandul, masur, mung, chana), and oil seeds (, alsi (naizer), castor, mustard). The fruits of jamu, harida, bahada, amla, mahua, kusuma, kendu are of economic importance. Gathering of forest produce like siali creepers, kendu leaf, sal leaf, seeds of karanja (Pongnamia glatera) and mahua (Madhuaka latifolia) is made for daily domestic requirements (Dash et al., 2008). They raise livestock for their own use on ritual occasions.

3.6 Indebtedness

The DK in Niyamgiri area are at the level of indebtedness due to their poverty, disbeliefs and illiteracy. Villagers depend on credit for 4 to 5 months. The loan is taken in terms of money and food grains. If somebody lends Rs.1000, she/he has to pay Rs.500 as interest at the end of the year. If five mana (mana unit of weighing 1 mana= 3 to 3 ½ Kg) food grain is borrowed, then one is supposed to return 10 mana rice at the end of the year. If the loan is not repaid at the end of the year, one has to pay 2 per cent interest including the amount borrowed. Now-a-days villagers are taking less amount of loan from the moneylenders. Earlier villagers were not required to keep anything in terms of mortagage for getting loan. But presently they have to keep utensils’, silver, gold, land documents in terms of mortgage to get loan from the village moneylender.

Table 2 shows the sources of food management of the villagers throughout the year. The agriculture or podu cultivation provides food security only for 150 days in a year; for another 157 days people are dependent upon forest resources. They collect the non-timber forest produce such as Jhudang, Kandul, Kating, Alsi, mustard etc. Public works like construction of road, watershed works etc. provides wage employment for 25 days in a year. To meet food requirements, during the agricultural lean period, villagers take loan from the local moneylenders. For seventy days in a year villagers are dependent upon loan to purchase food grains. Villagers take loan during agricultural lean period from the moneylender and return it during the harvesting period i.e., in November to December.

Source: Based on focus group discussion by the author with the villagers during field visit to Niyamgiri hill, Lanjigarh in 2011.
*People take loan during May-June and repay during next December- January-February.

3.7 Functioning of PDS

The public distribution system (PDS) is in a woeful state. The 1997 BPL survey lost its validity in 2002, and the last BPL survey in the state was undertaken in 2002. But the 2002 BPL list has not been published as yet. Although the rules stipulate that the BPL survey has to be conducted every five years, the 2007 survey has not been carried out so far. Another setback to the poverty amelioration programme in the region has been the erroneous identification of the poor, with corruption playing a big role in the faulty distribution of BPL cards. People who are above the poverty line (APL) such as government schoolteachers, owners of big houses, middle class traders, big farmers, and contractors have managed to obtain BPL cards through manipulation. The Ministry of Agriculture is now talking about piloting the Food Security Act, under which the government intends to make available every month 25 kg of rice to each BPL family at Rs. 3 per kg. However, the effectiveness of the act is doubtful due to rampant corruption.

3.8 Benefit from Government Schemes

The Central Government’s flagship rural employment scheme viz., Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)has not been satisfactory on the ground as indicated by widespread evidence in the area. Either the authorities stop the NREGA work abruptly or the workers are not paid the due amount for their labour. Even workers do not get unemployment allowance, which is stipulated under the Act. Hardly any progress has been made on the proposed NREGA work so far. Generally, there is very little awareness among Dalits and Adivasis about the rules that govern the Act. Many villagers have not received the job card yet, and most of the job cardholders do not have any work at all. Due to lack of closer monitoring and proper auditing of the scheme, fudging of records and corruption have become the norm in the implementation of the scheme.. Contractors and junior engineers exploit villagers. The new proposal of the Rural Development Department to set up an ombudsman to oversee NREGA complaints deserves appreciation.

3.9 Land-holding System

An exploitative land holding system is also responsible, to a great extent, for fostering poverty in the region. Land ownership and occupancy rights have a long and complex trajectory in this region. In legal terms, tribal land rights are well defined, though the land tenure system has several failings. Firstly, there is a lack of awareness amongst adivasis about the land right. Secondly, over time, tribals have lost control over much of the better land in the lower valleys. Consequently, Adivasis are left with only very steep hill slopes for carrying out agriculture. Again, after the arrival of VAL to Lanjigarh and acquiring lands for mining activities whatever land the villagers had in the plain areas have almost been sold to Vedanta company at a throw away price, which caused number of landless villagers rise since 2003-04.

3.10 Food Security

Food insecurity is directly linked to the defective land holding structure and the Gountia culture in the region. Landlessness, marginal and small land holdings and lack of irrigation facility in the sample villages are the major cause of food insecurity. A major portion of the sample households was in food stress for 3 to 5 months in a year.Dongaria Kondh face acute shortage of food in the post-sowing monsoon period (July-September) and again around March when the kharif harvest is exhausted. In such situations, consumption of mango kernels is the usual practice to compensate the staple food shortage. It is being used after a series of cleaning procedures to get rid of its toxicity, which is added to the mandia preparation in place of rice. For generations as coping measures of food insecurity, they were also taking local alternative non-food varieties like wild tubers, leaves, mushrooms, tamarind seed powder that passed as rainy days foods. Moreover, the powder from the pith of sago palm is very commonly used. In the past, they were able to cover most of the shortfall with foods gathered from the forests. Due to depletion of forest resources and aggressive mining activities, the livelihood base is shrinking and compels them to depend upon purchased foods to meet the food deficit. Many households are caught in a debt trap because of the precariousness of food security. The government schemes such as the targeted PDS, special schemes under food safety net and rural development schemes like SGRY, MGNREGS, and OTELP etc have limited impact on poverty and food security in this region. Food security is defined in terms of availability, access and absorption. As subsistence agriculture is the source of livelihood of the tribals and Domba’s in the surveyed villages, in most cases it is forest dependent. During the course of primary survey it was observed that the tribal households ensure food security for 4- 12 months depending on the asset base. The existing food security as assessed from household survey shows that about 13 households (12 per cent) have reported that they have secured food for 12 months. However, a major portion of the sample households was in food stress. About 52 households, which constitute 50 per cent of the total households, have food insecurity for 3 to 5 months in a year. Similarly 33 per cent households have deficit of food grains and the period ranges from less than 3 months to 6 to 11 months in a year. Five households reported that they usually experienced food stress for less than 3 months. Landlessness, marginal and small land holdings and lack of irrigation facility in the sample villages are the major causes of food insecurity.

Figure 2: Period of Food Security

3.11 Food Consumption-Related Coping Strategies

The WFP in a participatory poverty profile study in the district of Bolangir[v] has developed the following illustration of these coping mechanisms as practiced in Odisha.

Consumption of the people varies significantly between normal year and the crisis period. People of all income groups, especially the most vulnerable, reported long-term trends towards eating foods that are less preferred as a means of adopting to lower income levels. The sources of food in these villages are own production, market, nature (forest) or support from individuals and organizations. For example, in Phuldumer, Palberi and Khemundipaddar village during the period of crisis, villagers depend on wild tubers, wild leafy vegetables and poor quality of rice. Similarly, they collect mahua flowers and tubers for their own consumption. Maternal buffering is common across all the regions. This is the practice of a mother deliberately limiting her own intake in order to ensure children get sufficient food. This period is common across all the social and economic groups in the study areas.

In most villages of these tribal villages, agriculture and shifting cultivation provide the primary source of food during the period August–January, as harvesting of the first period ( Banik, 2007: 52). Starting in the month of November, a large portion of the income generated from the sale of agricultural produce is also used to repay food grain and cash loans taken up earlier in the year. From mid-January and until May–June, the forests provide a secondary source of food. Sal seeds and kendu and palas leaves are also collected from forests since they fetch good prices in the open market. Borrowing money for the food or directly borrowing the food from money lenders and traders generally leads to the permanent indebtedness, and it shows how a short-term coping strategy can put a household in a more vulnerable position with regard to long-term livelihood options. Starting in March–April, loans from moneylenders assume importance and food is purchased with the help of loans until August. The moneylenders charge exorbitant interest rates often as high as 50 per cent per month. Assistance from immediate family members residing in the vicinity is also an important coping strategy. If such assistance is unavailable, other relatives, friends, neighbours, patrons, large farmers and charitable organizations are approached. These networks function as ‘shock absorbers’ in times of crisis. An alternative strategy – and an important contribution of some NGOs in Kalahandi – is to form local ‘self-help groups’, where villagers contribute a fixed amount of money and/or food grains every month so that local ‘cash banks’ and ‘grain banks’ can be created. In times of acute need, any member of the group can withdraw a sum of money or grain from the common fund. Self-help groups, claim NGOs, also provide the most effective weapon against the stranglehold of moneylenders. Antodaya, an NGO working in Thuamul Rampur block, appears particularly successful in organizing tribal women to form such self-help groups, and within a span of three years the organisation claimed to have organised over 900 women in both small (5–6) and large (10–15) groups (ibid. 53).

Another common coping strategy, particularly during severe drought years, is distress sale or mortgage of assets like draught animals, cows, goats, poultry, cheap ornaments, kitchen utensils, etc. In hopeless situations, the only possible option or the strategy, both during drought and non-drought years, is migration, which, of course, is more seasonal in nature. Once the harvesting operations of the kharif crop are completed, small and marginal farmers together with landless labourers are left with no employment opportunities in the lean season. Instead of sitting idle, they migrate to other places in the country to work in sectors like agriculture, construction and transport and return towards the end of May or early June with the onset of the monsoon rains (ibid.54).

4. Mining induced Displacement

The report of the four-member committee on Mining in Niyamgiri hiils[vi] explored that the PML area is intimately linked, by way of economic, religious and cultural ties, to 28 Kondh villages with a total population of 5148 persons. The affected include about 1453 Dongaria Kondh, which constitutes 20 per cent of the total population of this tribe. The present well-being of the Kondh, who continue to have access to the resources of the PML area and adjoining forests is in stark contrast with the status of the Kutia Kondh and Dalit households in Rengopali and Bandhaguda villages, whose lands have been acquired by the Vedanta aluminium refinery. In both villages, Kutia Kondh and Dalit households have sold their agricultural lands to the company, and are left only with their homestead land. Officially, they are classified as Project Affected Persons (PAPs), who lost their agricultural land but not their homes. ActionAid’s study (2007)[vii] questions the issues pertaining to the impact of the mining activities on the local environmental quality, including air pollution, noise pollution and contamination of local water supplies. Displacement is defined vary narrowly in the VAL project, a large number of people in the mining site have lost their jobs as they were depending upon the forest resource for their livelihood.

5. Conclusion

The Dongaria and Kutia Kondh largely rely on hunting, gathering and shifting cultivation in the Niyamgiri hills for survival. The landless Dalits (Domb) who live in these villages are mainly dependent upon the forest produce for their livelihood. Due to depletion of forest resources and aggressive mining activities, the livelihood base is shrinking and compels them to depend upon purchased foods to meet the food deficit. Largescale mining in this proposed mining lease area has been depriving these two primitive tribal groups and the Dalits of their rights over land. The government schemes have hardly any impact in improving the living conditions of the poor villagers in this region. They face acute shortage of food in the post-sowing monsoon period (July-September) and again around March when the kharif harvest is exhausted. People of all income groups, especially the most vulnerable ones, reported long-term trends towards eating foods that are less preferred as a means of adopting to lower income levels. The sources of food in these villages are own production, market, nature (forest), credit from the ration-shops and local moneylenders. When other coping strategies fail due to recurrent drought, land alienation, debts and high levels of food insecurity, distress migration to neighboring districts of the state and outside appears as final option for the villagers. The health status of these tribal villagers is poor due to high level of poverty, poor environmental sanitation and hygiene, and increased morbidity from water-borne and vector-borne infections. Malnutrition is fairly common, especially among young children and women that debilitates their physical condition and lowers their resistance to disease. Therefore, a multi-pronged approach for sustainable livelihood coupled with improvement in their literacy levels is necessary for their economic and social empowerment. There is an urgent need to protect the land rights of those tribal’s who are under continuous threats of eviction from their homes and lands.


  • [i] See the UN Preliminary Assessment of the World Situation (Rome, 1974) as cited in Cheryl Christensen (1978:745).
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  • [iv] Sainath (1996: 317).
  • [v]Participatory Poverty Profile Study, Bolangir District, Odisha, June-Aug, 1998, DFID- Praxis in WFP (2000: Chapter 5).
  • [vi] Saxsena, N.C. (2010:24-40).
  • [vii] Actionaid (2007:8), Vedanta Cares? Busting the myths about Vedanta’s operation in Lanjigarh, India.


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