Poverty and Tribal Development in Jharkhand: Issues and Challenges

Kiran Sharma

Abstract Ethnic Identity
Introduction Livelihood Strategies
Tribal Poverty and Food Security Development Challenges in Jharkhand
Profiles of the Poor Development Projects versus Displacement
Historical Background People’s Movement
Demographic Profile of Tribes Conclusions

    This paper attempts to analyse the poverty scenario and the problems and prospects towards tribal development in Jharkhand. The paper highlights the People’s movement against development-induced displacement, issues related to mining and loss of livelihoods of the indigenous people. The paper also outlines the development challenges that arise due to the mismatch of government policies and its poor implementation, political instability and unplanned exploitation of the minerals resources

1. Introduction
    Development is normally taken to mean change plus desired growth, that is, it has both qualitative and quantitative dimensions. These two patterns of changes are termed as development. Development theory recognizes a chronological change in the meaning of ‘development’ from 1870 to 1990. In the 1870s, industrialization was at the centre of developmental discourse, this changed in later periods, following rearrangements in the realms of production, distribution and in many other forms of economic activities. Between 1940 and 1960, Verrier Elwin and Jawaharlal Nehru took recourse to respective approaches for tribal development. While Nehru was busy in formulating a broad-based, effective approach for the development of the entire nation, Elwin insisted on a separate approach for the development of tribals, the most vulnerable population of India. His approach was known as the ‘leave them alone’, National Park’ or ‘isolationist’ approach. Literally it meant letting tribes live in their own way, not infringing on their economic space, and allowing them to grow in their self-created or self designed development paradigm (Rath 2006:73). Poverty is “pronounced deprivation in well-being.” The conventional view links well being primarily to the command over commodities, so that the poor are those who do not have enough income or consumption to put them above some adequate minimum threshold (WBI: 2005). This view sees poverty largely in monetary terms. Poverty may also be tied to a specific type of consumption; thus someone might be house poor or food poor or health poor. These dimensions of poverty can often be measured directly, for instance by measuring malnutrition or literacy. The broadest approach to well being and poverty focuses on the “capability” of the individual to function in society. The poor lack key capabilities, and may have inadequate income or education, or be in poor health, or feel powerless, or lack political freedom.

    It is against this backdrop, the paper attempts to analyse the poverty scenario and the problems and prospects towards tribal development in Jharkhand. The paper highlights the People’s movement against development-induced displacement, issues related to mining and loss of livelihoods of the indigenous people. Further, the paper outlines the development challenges that arise due to the mismatch of government policies and its poor implementation, political instability and unplanned exploitation of the minerals resources.

2. Tribal Poverty and Food Security
    Poverty as an existential reality is quite old, but its interpretation from a multi-dimensional perspective is something new. Specifically in the Indian context it is quite recent, in fact after 1970s. Prior to this, Nehru had a broad vision of Indian poverty, but that was primarily economic poverty. Since the 1950s, the Planning Commission, his brainchild, moved to eradicate poverty by introducing the revolutionary change of an ‘agrarian economy of continental dimensions into a self-generating modern economy within two or three decades’.

    The planning process started by Nehru was engaged in devising mechanisms to end what he perceived as poverty. His poverty alleviation was, therefore, not simply an ideal proposition but an emphasis on a planned effort for its solution. Elwin only talked about poverty to draw the attention of civil society as well as the welfare state to the issue, but his talk hardly led directly to policy making. Another important thing was that Nehruvian poverty addressed the concepts of caste, tribe and minority on a common platform, but Elwin’s concept of poverty was strictly confined to the tribe (ibid.68) Poverty and food security are complex and multidimensional in nature. Poverty leads to under nutrition whereas food insecurity limits poor people’s access to food. About three-fourth of India’s population living in the rural sector is reeling under abject poverty, illiteracy, ill-health, unemployment, low quality of life and so on. Food insecurity causes poverty, vulnerability and livelihood insecurity, but is at the same time also a result of these conditions (ESAF: 2007). It is widely accepted that poverty is currently the principal cause of food insecurity at the level of households. It is also clear that in several societies, households are not homogenous entities, since within a household, women and girl children often tend to be relatively more undernourished. Food security at the level of each individual is hence important. Millennium Development Goals (MDG) recognizes that hunger and food insecurity are the core afflictions of poor people, and specifically sets out to halve the proportion of extremely poor and hungry people in the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Food security, as internationally understood, involves physical, economic and social access to a balanced diet, safe drinking water, environmental hygiene and primary health care. Such a definition will involve concurrent attention to the availability of food in the market, the ability to buy needed food and the capability to absorb and utilise the food in the body. Thus, food and non-food factors like drinking water, environmental hygiene and primary health care are involved in food security. From the Global Hunger Index 2008 of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), it is found that with over 200 million people insecure about their daily bread, Indian scenario is ‘alarming’ in terms of hunger and malnutrition. The first ever Indian Hunger Index, released along with the Global Hunger Index, found that not a single state in India fell in the ‘low hunger’ or ‘moderate hunger’ categories. Madhya Pradesh had the most severe level of hunger in the country, followed by Jharkhand and Bihar. The 2003 Food Insecurity Atlas of Rural India published by the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation presents a map depicting Jharkhand as one of extremely food insecure states in India, thus requiring some “immediate attention”. In recent years there has been an increasing trend to incorporate the gender dimension in the analysis of poverty. The feminization of poverty is a term used to describe the overwhelming representation of women among the poor. As Diana Pearce coined the term, ‘feminization of poverty’ denotes a phenomenon where “women have always experienced more poverty than men”. Such conceptualisation of poverty is also helpful from the perspective of understanding and combating women's poverty. Following Atkinson, Stephen Jenkins suggests that a feminist concept of poverty can be described in terms of an 'individual right to a minimum degree of potential economic independence’. Naila Kabeer (2003) argues that household poverty is determined by poor women’s highly unequal role in the labour market. Female labour force participation is highest among the poorest households in countries such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, where social norms mainly constrain women to very insecure and poorly paid work in the informal sector. India suffers severe deprivations in education and health - especially in the Northern states, where caste, class, and gender inequities are particularly strong. Human development cannot be achieved without taking the role of women into account. Poverty often hits women and women-headed households the hardest, and women have fewer economic and political opportunities to improve their well being and that of their families.

3. Profiles of the Poor
    A World Bank report in 2007 entitled ‘Jharkhand: Addressing the Challenges of Inclusive Development’ has identified Jharkhand as one of the most poverty-stricken states in the country with a sharp contrast between rural and urban poverty. The incidence of poverty in the state stands at 44 per cent as against the all India average of 26 percent. The report highlighted the sharp contrast between rural and urban poverty. The incidence of rural poverty, assessed at 49 per cent in 1999/00, was the highest among all Indian states, with the second highest being Orissa (48 per cent), followed by Bihar (44 per cent), Assam (40 per cent) and Madhya Pradesh (37 per cent). In contrast, the incidence of urban poverty in the state is only 23 per cent, which is similar to or better than states such as Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra at 27 per cent, Karnataka (25 per cent), Tamil Nadu (23 per cent) and much lower than in Orissa (44 per cent) and Bihar (34 per cent). However, the report acknowledged the considerable progress made by the state in reducing poverty since the early nineties at the rate of about 2 percentage points a year. From the report it is revealed that Jharkhand’s nominal per capita income of Rs 14,147 in 2003-04 was below that of countries such as Bangladesh, and key social indicators such as literacy, enrolment, infant mortality and child nutrition were below the all-India average.

4. Historical Background
    The formation of the state of Jharkhand is the culmination of a 200-year old struggle by the people of the region. Statehood, however, may not ensure the development of the region’s original inhabitants, the tribals (Louis 2000:1487). In Jharkhand, the East India Company became the revenue-collecting agent of the Mughal Emperor from the year 1765 (Areeparambil 1997). Though invasion by aliens of indigenous people was going on in the past, it is from this period a systematic and sinister plan was devised in the name of ‘tribal well-being and tribal development’ to loot, rob, rape and steal and subjugate the peace-loving and freedom- loving tribal population. As a separate state of the Indian union, Jharkhand was formed by bifurcating the state of Bihar in 2000, with the objective of emancipating tribal peoples from Hindu upper-caste oppression. Throughout much of the twentieth century, local politics within the Jharkhand region of India was strongly influenced by a movement demanding the creation of a separate Jharkhand State. At first, this movement was dominated by tribal people (adivasis) and called for a separate State for the region’s tribal population. From the 1960s onwards, the movement had to broaden its scope as adivasis declined as a proportion of the region’s population. Thereafter, support hinged around the grievances created by economic transformation, which united otherwise disparate groups in opposition to exploitative and locally insensitive ‘dikus’ (outsiders). State sponsored natural resource exploitation and economic development more generally, thus created the ‘social pressures that led to the creation of a politically meaningful Jharkhand region and repeated demands for a separate Jharkhand state’ (Stuligross, 2001: 133). But the issues before the tribals of Jharkhand are in ensuring the restoration of their basic and long-standing alternative that is tribal self-rule. This alone in the long run will prevent interference by outside forces. Running after mainline political parties for support can be only a short-term objective.

5. Demographic Profile of Tribes
    The provisional 2011 Census data for Jharkhand reveals that the districts with overwhelming Adivasi population are West Singhbhum, Simdega, Khunti, Gumla and Lohardaga. All of them boast a better sex ratio. West Singhbhum leads the tally with an impressive ratio of 1,004 females per 1,000 males; the figure is 1,000 in Simdega, 994 in Khunti, 993 in Gumla and 985 in Lohardaga. The overall sex ratio in Jharkhand, however, is only 947, marginally better than the 2001 figure of 941 and higher than the national average of 940. At the other end of the spectrum, the worst sex ratio figures are from the coal belt districts of Dhanbad and Bokaro. The two non-tribal dominated districts recorded 908 and 916 respectively for 1.000. Deoghar and Ramgarh fared slightly better with 921. Another non-tribal dominated district, Palamu, also registered a poor sex ratio of 929 while Godda and Garhwa stood at 933 each. Giridih and Hazaribagh just managed to be close to the state average of 947 with 943 and 946 respectively.

    Among the 32 tribes in Jharkhand, eight are under PTG (Primitive Tribe Groups) and they are – Asur, Birhor, Birajia, Korwa, Parahiya (Baiga), Sabar, Mal Pahariya and Souriya Pahariya. The total tribal population constitutes 27 percent of the Jharkhand population of 2.70 crore. The PTG population is just 2.23 lakh as per 2011 Census. Santhal is the most populous tribe having a population of 2,410,509, constituting 34 per cent of the total ST population of the State. Oraon, Munda and Ho, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th largest tribes constitute 19.6, 14.8 and 10.5 per cent respectively of the total ST population of the State. Four other major tribes, Kharia, Bhumij, Lohra and Kharwar having population ranging between 164,022 and 192,024 along with Santhal, Oraon, Munda and Ho, constitute 89.1 per cent of the total tribal population. The tribes namely, Chero, Bedia, Mal Pahariya and Mahli in the population range between 75,540 and 121,174 and account for another 5.6 per cent; the remaining 18 tribes, along with the generic tribes constitute the balance 5.3 per cent of the total ST population. The ‘sons of the soil’ of Jharkhand were either ‘sadans’ or ‘tribes people’. Sadans were those people, typically lower-caste Hindus, who migrated to the region during the centuries before the twentieth century and were gradually incorporated both socially and economically into the fabrics of Jharkhandi village life. ‘Tribes people’ belong to one of 32 tribes in the region that are officially recognised on the National Schedule of Tribes.

6. Ethnic Identity
    Jharkhand evolved as a multi-ethnic society where, like other multi ethnic societies, it is said to have an overlap between religious and regional identities and economic functions, issues of economic insecurity and class contradictions are very conveniently transformed into ethnic, caste and regional issues (Basu 2006:144). In the past, four fundamental factors decisively contributed in the identity formation as tribals or Jharkhandis. First, the fact of being a tribal united all the various tribal groups (Louis 2000:1487). This further provided a common platform for political awakening and action. The slogans like ‘Jai Jharkhand’ (victory to Jharkhand), ‘Adivasi dishum’ (this is our land, adivasi land) that erupted in course of Jharkhand struggle led to political mobilisation, which in turn built up political consciousness. Second, the sense of being adivasis or the original settlers of the Jharkhand region also brought in a sense of being part of a confederation than of an individual tribal group. The term ‘Jharkhand’ is derived from two different words – Jhar (a cluster of thick forests) and Khand (a tract of land). Thus, Jharkhand suggests a land mass quilted with forests. It is not just the geographical territory that determines the identity of a Jharkhandi but also the entire socio-cultural life. Hence, even those tribals who have moved over to Assam tea gardens or to the Andaman Islands continued to maintain the identity of a Jharkhandi. The term itself has gone through a historical evolution. In the beginning, exclusively tribal organisations Chhotanagpur Unnati Samaj (1915) and Adivasi Mahasabha (1938) were formed. The term Jharkhand also came to be used in 1938 giving a much broader platform for political assertions of the Jharkhandis. With the formation of the Jharkhand Party in 1950 the identity formation reached its zenith. Third, Christianity in a latent way contributed in tribal identity formation by providing education. ‘It also gave them a history, a myth about the ‘golden age’; it accentuated the notion of private rights in land; it also emphasised the sense of separateness from the rest. Here religious conversion also aided social mobility by opening up avenues. Those educated by the church played the leadership role in mobilising resources for tribal educational development in the beginning that slowly caught up to spread to other areas. Finally, the ethnic sense of ‘we’ tribals and ‘they’ ‘dikus’ or the outsiders united the entire tribal population for a protracted struggle. Whether it is the Tatas, the coal mafia of north Bihar or the Marwaris, all exploited this region (ibid.). The tribals with their traditional wish ‘Johar’ welcomed with open hands and hearts to everyone who entered Jharkhand. But the upper caste non-tribals engaged in depredation and plunder. Hence, the tribals coined the term ‘dikus’ and began to resist and revolt against their exploitation. In this process, the tribals established dialogue with backward caste groups like the dalits and the Momins, the downtrodden Muslims who had settled in Jharkhand for a long period of time. With the Jharkhand movement gaining ground, these non-tribal groups too became part of the struggle. Thus, ‘Jharkhandi’ came to be known as ‘the land of the destitutes’ comprising all the deprived sections of Indian society. Hence, development of Jharkhand meant the development of the destitute of this region. Thus, process of identity formation that has been going on unabated nearly for two centuries contributed immensely to the Jharkhand movement.

7. Livelihood Strategies
    Jharkhand means the “Land of forests” and true to its name the state is endowed with vast forests and a rich assemblage of floral and faunal biodiversity. Few states of India can match the scenic landscapes and rich biodiversity of Jharkhand. The state is also home to a large tribal population who are heavily dependent upon forest resources for their livelihoods. Jharkhand has vast mineral reserves, with 33% of India’s Coal deposits, 47% of its mica and 34% of its copper. Creating a diverse and inclusive economic base calls for harnessing not just its comparative advantage in mining, but also the untapped opportunities for growth provided by tourism. During the lean season, the livelihood of many people depends critically on forest products for subsistence or supplementary income. The most destitute gather wood for sale. A major part of the wood that head loaders and bicycle loaders carry is meant for the urban markets. The degree of dependence on forests for subsistence or cash income varies from place to place and depends on the state of forests, access and presence or absence of other income generation opportunities. ‘Protect and Prosper’ this slogan should define the relationship of villagers with forests. This is particularly true of weaker sections with a low base of land ownership as non-timber forest produce (NTFP) can play a very important role in protecting them from poverty and hunger. In Jharkhand dominant people and contractors did not allow Mundas, Oraon and Ho tribals to have such a protective relationship with forest. They forced Tribals to carry out illegal work for them in the forests; in any government action against this, it was the tribals who were caught and punished. It is because of the near bonded type conditions that tribals could not say no to such risky work. When they collected various kind of non-timber forest produce, the traders and contractors got huge profits from this while tribals got minimal profit. In this overall exploitation and deprivation of tribals, their women had to collect firewood and sell in nearby markets – a trade which involved a lot of drudgery and carried great risk but brought very little economic benefit. In addition this is very harmful for the forests. The tribals get edible roots, fruits, vegetables, flowers, honey, birds and animals (monkeys, hares, pigs etc.) from the forest. The ‘Mahua’ flower is a staple food for the poorer classes, at least for a part of the year. It is also used for making liquor. Mahua seed is used for making oil, both for cooking and lighting purposes. It has been estimated that access to three ‘Mahua’ trees is adequate for the survival of a tribal household for over a year. The tribals also eat the fruits of the Palas, Ber, Piar, Jamun, Imli, Sarifa and many other wild trees. It has been estimated that for eking out their livelihood, the Birhore tribes depend to the extent of five sixth and the sauria paharia – the hill cultivators of the santhal parganas – to the extent of three – fifth on what is available in the forest. Nearly half of the population among the agricultural tribes such as the Munda, Oraon and Ho depend on the forest to earn a livelihood. The basket markers – Mahlis, get their raw material (bamboo) from the forest.

8. Development Challenges in Jharkhand
    As per Census 2011, the state of Jharkhand with an area of 79714 sq. km has a population of 32,966,238. Out of a total population, males are 1,69,31,688 and females 1,60,34,550. According to the provisional population totals of Census of India 2011, Jharkhand occupies the 13th position by population among all states and UT’s of the country. There were 18 Districts in the state of Jharkhand at the time of 2001 census. The number of districts in the state has gone up to 24 by census 2011. Jharkhand is rich in natural resources - forests, minerals and abundant land. It has a diverse population consisting of adivasis (27.7 per cent), scheduled castes (8.4 per cent), and other groups, as well as several religious denominations - Christians, Muslims, Hindus and animists. Yet, more than half its population lives below the poverty line, gaps between rural and urban areas are wide, as also between different groups of the population. Along with Bihar, it has been identified as the most food insecure state in the country (WFP/MSSRF 2001). The Vision 2010 document admits to a 52 per cent deficit in food grain production as well as 230 gram per capita daily availability as against 523 grams for India as a whole. The challenge of development includes both the elimination of persistent and endemic deprivation, as well as the prevention of sudden and severe destitution, a result of economic inequality rather than lack of food supply. In May 2002, a series of starvation deaths were reported in Palamau district of Jharkhand. Jharkhand is very rich in terms of availability of natural resources .It is adorned with some of the richest deposits of iron ores and coal in the world. Despite this, state is confronting challenges of underdevelopment, high incidence of poverty, unemployment, malnutrition and ill health. The vulnerable social groups like SC, ST, Women, and migrants are at marginal end. The indigenous groups comprising 85 to 90 per cent of the total population of Jharkhand have been the worst hit by the large-scale exploitation of the natural resources of the region through the development of mines, industries and commercial exploitation of forests. The majority of them are in a state of semi-starvation throughout the year. The remaining 10 to 15 per cent of the population of the area are immigrants who migrated to a mass wealth for themselves. The history of the indigenous people of Jharkhand is one of struggles against such outside exploiters whom they call 'dikus' (Mathew: 1989). These dikus have gradually reduced them to a non-dominant position. In order to meet these challenges, and to make existing sources of livelihoods stronger, result oriented and sustainable, the Government of Jharkhand, under the Rural Development Department, has formed an independent society named Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS) with financial support by UNDP.

  • Industrialization

    Because of the industrial and mining activities, Jharkhand is more urbanized than many of the major states. Even then the level of its urbanization is less than the national average and almost half that of the most urbanized states – Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Most of the districts in Jharkhand have a very low level of urbanization. Only four of the districts of this state are highly or moderately urbanised. Purbi Singhbhum (55 per cent), Dhanbad (52 per cent), Bokaro (45 per cent) and Ranchi (35 per cent) are the districts with more than one fourth population inhabiting urban areas. A comparison across districts reveals that the level of urbanization in the highly urbanized districts is comparable to the most urbanized states, while the least urbanized are comparable to the least urbanized states of the country. Urbanization offers opportunities for a variety of livelihood options. Migration is also influenced by the extent of urbanization. Households, which have temporary or seasonal access to work in nearby towns have higher incomes than those which lack that access (World Bank, 2007). Unfortunately not only is the level of urbanization in the state low but the pace of urbanization is also very slow. Annual urban population growth was 2.9 percent between 1991 and 2001 in Jharkhand compared to 3.1 percent at all India level. Dhanbad, which is severely insecure in food availability, is the only district in Jharkhand, which is food secure in terms of access to food. Dhanbad is a highly urbanized district marked by a high level of mining and industrial activities. A very small proportion of its geographical area is under agricultural operation and a very small part of the net sown area is irrigated. As a result, the per capita value of agricultural output is very low, which in turn has made it insecure in terms of food availability.

  • Infrastructural Issues

    Lack of access to infrastructure can be measured in terms of transportation, telecommunication, power, water supply and irrigation. The extent of deprivation is higher in Jharkhand as compared to the rest of India and higher in rural areas than in urban areas. Jharkhand (along with Bihar) has one of the poorest road connectivity among all Indian states, resulting in high transportation costs. Development of infrastructure is the key to poverty alleviation. In terms of road density the state ranks third lowest in this sub-sample, better than Bihar and AP, but much worse than the other states such as Orissa and West Bengal. The lack of telecommunication places the rural poor in Jharkhand at a clear disadvantage compared to other states. This is especially true as a third of the population lives in difficult high terrain where it is not easy to build routine road networks. The road network in the state is very poor. It has 21.40 Km per 100 sq, km road as against national average of 74.25 Km. In his speech, Arjun Munda 2005 said that ‘our Vision 2010’ envisages connecting all district headquarters with state capital, interconnecting district and block headquarters, strengthening and double laning of all state highways, connecting all tourist and religious places and providing all villages through all weather roads. This needs massive investments.

9. Development Projects versus Displacement
    Coal is the biggest mining industry of Jharkhand. Prior to nationalisation in 1971 coal was mined in a haphazard manner by private mine owners. After nationalisation the entire coal industry of the region was entrusted to Coal India (CIL) and its subsidiaries (excepting a few captive mines of TISCO and IISCO). Coal India owns and operates 494 mines and 15 coal washeries through its subsidiary companies. At present massive programmes in collaboration with multinational companies are going on for the exploitation of the coal wealth of Jharkhand. After coal, iron ore is the next important mining industry of the region. Mining of iron ore in Singhbhum area started at the beginning of this century. At present large-scale mining is going on at Gua, Jamda, Noamundi. Chifia, Manoharpur, Kiriburu and Meghahatuburu. These mines contribute about 40 per cent of iron ore produced in India. Most of the ore is consumed by steel plants at Jamshedpur, Bokaro and Durgapur. The Damodar Valley project (DVC) has displaced 93,874 persons from 84,140 acres of land in 305 villages. Of these 37,320 acres were cultivated lands (Singh 1985:223). Parajuli (2001) argues that the adivasi does not view humans as apart from nature, but rather views human, natural, and supernatural realms in terms of a relationship of interdependence between humans and the sacred landscape. He describes this interdependence in terms of an "ecological ethnicity" of the adivasi and a "mutual nurturing" of humans and non-humans

10. People’s Movement
    The history of Jharkhand is full of peoples’ protest movements and uprisings in forest areas against the colonial state. These movements may have been triggered by different factors, but most often the root cause was conflict over control of and access to the forests and their resources. The struggle was to establish control of local communities over their livelihood resources and their access to and control of natural resources (jal, jungle aur jamin: water, forest and land). Three major tribal anti displacement movements of Jharkhand are the Koel Karo Hydel Power Project movement, Khuntkatti Movement and Protests against the Arcelor Mittal Project.

  •   The Koel Karo Movement

    One popular movement against state development projects that is indicative of the struggles in areas of (relative) Christian tribal concentration in Jharkhand and the concert of political activism that has been brought to bear to hold off such encroachments has been the Koel Karo movement. It is a 30-year-old movement of Munda, Oraon, and other tribal (adivasi) villagers against the construction of two large dams of a hydroelectric project planned on the South Koel and Karo rivers. The movement was not organized by activists or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and although it is somewhat known to activists across India, it has received little media attention. The movement against Koel Karo Hydel Power Project since 1977 serves as a model for pan tribal, inter-religious cooperation, particularly at the grassroots level, to successfully resist state attempts to takeover land for development purposes (Aron: 2007). The project was supposed to have been completed by 1981 but it virtually made no progress despite various attempts to revive it. It came into prominence in February 2001, a tellingly ironical time i.e. three months after the formation of the Jharkhand state which the adivasis fought for, when eight people were killed and 27 wounded, all adivasis, after police fired on people gathered at Tapkara, near Torpa, to protest police brutality on a few tribals a day earlier. The project was planned by the Bihar State Electricity Board (BSEB) in 1973 in the Koel Karo area that lies 80 kilometres southwest of Ranchi, for the purpose of generating 710 megawatt of power for the benefit of Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Sikkim. The Koel River was to be dammed at Basia, near Majikhera and Tetra villages in Gumla district, and the north Karo River near Loajimi village in the Torpa block of Ranchi district. The two water reservoirs were to be linked by a 34.7-kilometer long canal. There has been no unanimity about the number of villages to be submerged. The detailed project report claimed that only 42 villages would be affected while a Collector of Ranchi, B. K. Sinha, estimated in 1986 that 7,063 households in 112 villages would be affected. The people’s organization, Koel Karo Jan Sanghatan (KKJS), estimates that 256 villages would be submerged with a total population of 150,000, 90 percent of whom are adivasis. The agitation against the Koel-Karo dams had begun to be conducted under the banner of Jharkhand Visthapith Mukti Sangh (Swain: 1997).

  • Khuntkatti Movement

    Since Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 has recognised the 'khuntkatti' system, the tribals claim that the forest department has usurped their ancestral lands in the name of reservation and protection of forests. When the British foresters came to this tribal area more than 600 Munda villages were already enjoying khuntkatti rights and had the control over management of the forests. The communities had formulated strict rules and regulations about how to manage and use the forests. Livelihoods depended only on that amount of produce including timber regularly harvested from forests that would be replenished every year. The guiding principle appears to have been what we now call sustainability. It was not a mere coincidence, therefore, that the British found vast areas of forest in prime condition. The basic colonial approach was to declare forests state property and curtail forest people’s rights to areas with commercially valuable species. Clear-felling of vast areas of forest was the method of forest operations, followed by complete closure to grazing and other human activities such as collection of firewood, fodder, medicinal plants, bamboo, etc.

    Land has been closely associated with the political struggle in Jharkhand. The connection existed not only in the nineteenth century peasant uprisings, but has continued to the present day. Forest issues have not got the same prominence as land. But it should be remembered that the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, enacted after the uprising led by Birsa Munda, recognised not only the right to land but also, in some places, the com-munity's right to the forests. These khuntkatti forests still remain under community and not under government ownership. In the mid-fifties Palamu witnessed a move-merit for 'jungle raj' led by the Kherwars, under Fetal Singh. In the seventies and eighties opposition to deforestation, monoculture of eucalyptus and the like appeared on the agenda. Surprisingly the question of higher prices for forest produce has not got the attention it deserves. Why this has been so requires analysis. The problem of deforestation has merged into another problem, the modern one of displacement due to dams, mines, factories, cantonments and so on. The sudden loss of the conditions of labour, land and forest has turned lakhs of Jharkhandis into destitutes, reduced to selling their labour power for a pittance. This movement was particularly strong in the khunkatti villages of Ranchi and West Singhbhum districts. The initiative also spread to other areas of Hazaribagh and Santhal Parganas inhabited by Santhal, Oraon and Ho tribes with no such khuntkatti rights. With the new Jharkhand Government not fulfilling the forest communities’ rights over forests, the movement took the formal shape of Jharkhand Jangal Bachao Andolan (Jharkhand Save the Forest Movement). With its objective of restoring community ownership and management of forests, the movement is spreading like wildfire in the State. Forest communities in non-khuntkatti areas are also demanding implementation of the same khuntkatti model in their areas and are resisting encroachment. Simultaneously, forest protection committees have been established in villages, which meet once a week and implement the ground rules established regarding usage of forest produce by the community including timber for fuel wood.

  • Protests against the Arcelor Mittal Project

    Another mass movement that has become visible, in Jharkhand, since 2005 is against the Arcelor Mittal Company. It is organised under the banner of “Adivasi- Moolvasi Astitava Raksha Manch”. The Arcelor Mittal Company had proposed to set up one of the world’s big­gest steel plants of 12 million tonne per annum (MTPA) capacity in the state at an investment of Rs 40,000 crore ($9.3 billion), which was expected to start operations by 2012. The Company faced resistance from the people, who did not want to yield even an inch of their remaining lands as “they need grains not iron for feeding their stomach”. On the other hand, the Company constituted the Arcelor-Mittal Foundation with the declared objective of investing in social programmes, and promoting its commitment to society and sustainable development, focusing in particular on the communities where it would operate (Basu: 2008). The Foundation sought to develop partnerships with non-govern­mental organisations (NGOs) to push through their programmes. But the hidden agenda seems to be to use the local NGOs in order to find a foothold in the project areas, with a large flow of funds to enhance its public image. The first move was to launch an industrial training institute (ITI) in Khunti, slated to open in 2009. Of the total candidates, 50% were to be selected by the state govern­ment and the rest by the company. Half the numbers of seats were to be reserved for tribal students and 50 scholarships were to be awarded on merit to deserving local students of the region. Such move was a radical departure from the Gandhian plan of a food-cloth-led development as the first priority; a plan wherein also steel, power and cement had a place but were to merely subserve priority sectors (Jain: 1988).

11. Conclusions

    Jharkhand suffers from political instability and unplanned exploitation of its mineral wealth without benefits accruing to the tribal population. The ruling elite in Jharkhand has a source of funds based on the state’s massive mineral resources and industrial potential. They can get a share of the rents or super-profits by using its powers to issue li­cences, etc. The well-known phenomenon ‘resource curse’, particularly observed in the case of Jharkhand where the ruling elite can earn large sums from leasing natural resources, whether for coal or mica, and other favours to the corporate sector. Development is ubiquitous, every society and individual now wants to be developed (Basu 2006:147). But in the case of Jharkhand the development evolves as a complementary force to ethnocide and the culture of silence, which the people of this area have been facing for a long time. Here, the development projects have been implemented at the cost of the people, who are displaced and thrown out of the boundary of the development paradigm. So what is needed in this context is to induce development that will go with and for the people, serve their purpose and ensure their direct participation. As per the Sachar Committee Report, 2006, Head Count Ratio (HCR) of SCs/STs within Hindu community from below poverty line in the urban areas of Jharkhand is higher; around 37% of them are poor. Similarly, HCR of Muslim and minority are the second highest categories in the state who constitute 32% and 27% respectively. Comparative poverty profiles across states shows that not only do SC groups have a higher poverty rate than other social groups, the tribal groups in Jharkhand have the highest poverty intensity in India – higher than the ST groups in other Indian states. The head-count incidence of poverty for the ST group is 56 percent in Jharkhand compared with Bihar 40 percent, as estimated by the present study from the NSS 55th round. As per the Planning Commission, Government of India estimation, the newly formed state Jharkhand has 40.3% population below poverty line in 2004-05. According to NSSO 55th and 61st (Consumer Expenditure) round, 1999-2000 & 2004-05, percentage of population below poverty line is significantly high for Jharkhand, much higher than that of India as a whole, although over the years. The HCR of Jharkhand is also higher than that of Bihar; the mother state. The HCR is very high in districts of Lohardaga, Sahibganj and Gumla where it is more than 70 per cent, showing the poor conditions of these districts. The lowest HCR is in the districts of Ranchi, Kodarma and Chatra where it is below 25 per cent. According to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 2000, the state’s key social indicators such as literacy, enrolment, infant mortality and child nutrition, are below the all-India average. The process of liberalization and economic reforms in India has a mixed impact on the on the mineral rich state of Jharkhand. Among the major challenges the ongoing Naxalite problem puts an obstacle on the path towards development. The weak institutional mechanism and lack of effective governance has led to the underdevelopment and concentration of high poverty in the state. Hence, sincere efforts need to be made at the policy level to promote tribal development and alleviate poverty in a sustainable manner.


  • Areeparampil, Mathew (1989): 'Industries, Mines and Dispossession of Indigenous Peoples: The Case of Chhotanagpur', in Walter Fernandes and Enakshi Ganguli Thukral (eds), Development, Displacement and Rehabilitation, Indian Social Institute, New Delhi.
  • Basu, Moushumi (2008): “Arcelor-Mittal in Jharkhand”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol xliv no. 50.
  • GoJ, (2002) ‘Draft Report on Status of Implementation of Food Related Social Security Schemes in Jharkhand’, Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, Jharkhand.
  • GOJ, (2008) ‘Jharkhand Development Report’, Jharkhand in its Eight Year: A Study for Prabhat Khabar, Jharkhand.
  • Jain, L.C (1988), “Poverty, Environment, Development: A View from Gandhi's Window”, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol. 23, No. 7 pp. 311-20.
  • Kumar, Anand, (2004), Political Sociology of Poverty in India: Between Politics of Poverty and Poverty of Politics, CPRC-IIPA, Working Paper -3.
  • Louis, Prakash (2000): “Jharkhand: Marginalization of Tribes’, Economic and Political Weekly, XXXV, 47, 18-24November, 4087-91.
  • MSSRF and WFP (2001): “Food Insecurity Atlas of Rural India”, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai and World Food Programme, India.
  • Parajuli, P. (2001): "No Nature Apart: Adivasi Cosmovision and Ecological Discourses in Jharkhand, India." In Sacred Landscapes and Cultural Politics: Planting a Tree, eds. Philip P. Arnold and Ann Grodzins Gold (2001), Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing.
  • Rath, G.C. (2006): “Tribal Development In India: The Contemporary Debate”, Sage Publications, New Delhi.
  • Basu, Sajal (2006): “Ethno-regionalism and Tribal Development:Problems and Challenges in Jharkhand” in ): “Tribal Development In India: The Contemporary Debate”, Sage Publications, New Delhi.
  • Swain, Ashok (1997): “Democratic Consolidation? Environmental Movements in India”, Asian Survey, Vol. 37, No. 9, pp. 818-32.
  • World Bank Institute (2005), Introduction to Poverty Analysis, Poverty Manual, p.8.
  • World Bank Report (2007), Jharkhand: Addressing the Challenges of Inclusive Development, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management India Country Management Unit, South Asia.


Kiran Sharma is a Doctoral Candidate at Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.