Lodhas of West Bengal : A Case Study

Santanu Panda
Abhijit Guha


Demographic scenario of the Lodha population in the three blocks


The age-sex composition

About the schemes Development Inputs and their Utilisation
About the Lodhas Patta Land
Objectives of the study House
Materials and Methods Solar Cell
  Case Study 1 & 2


In this article, we have made an attempt to study the impact of various types of development inputs on the socioeconomic life of the Lodha community in the three administrative blocks of Paschim (West) Medinipur district in West Bengal. The study was conducted in connection with an Impact Assessment Survey under the Rastriya Sama Vikas Yoyona (RSVY) and Indira Awas Jojana (IAY) Schemes. The present study revealed that the major constraints of the implementation of the developmental inputs among the Lodhas lie in their landlessness and poverty. It was found that the distribution of patta land to landless Lodha families by the Government was not done properly. On the other hand, developmental inputs like brick built houses were not properly planned and suffered from lack of maintenance. Some of high technology developmental inputs like solar cells distributed to the poor and landless Lodha families were found to be of no use to the beneficiaries since many of them sold the solar cells to the wealthy neighbours. Finally, we recommended some suggestions in the concluding section of the article for better implementation of developmental inputs given under the RSVY and IAY schemes.

Keywords: Rural development; Development inputs, Implementation, Lodhas, Marginalised community.


In India about seventy percent of the population lives in rural areas. To improve the socio-economic conditions of the rural people, Government of India launched many schemes through the planning commission of India such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Rastriya Sama Vikas Yojana (RSVY), Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY), Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP), Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA), etc. All these schemes are aimed to reduce the gap between rural and urban people, which would help reduce imbalances and speed up the development process.

In this article, we would present our empirical findings and analysis on the implementation of macro-level development programmes like Rastrya Sanma Bikas Yojana (RSVY) and Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) schemes in a micro situation. The micro-level situation consists of three administrative blocks of Paschim (West) Medinipur district of West Bengal, under a specific development scheme, which was launched by the Planning Commission of India and is known as the Rastriya Sama Vikas Yojna (RSVY). It may be relevant to point out that the Government of India has earmarked Paschim (West) Medinipur district of West Bengal as a ‘Backward district’ Another scheme launched by the Social Welfare Department of Government of India to provide housing for the rural poor is known as the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY). The Paschim (West) Medinipur District being identified as a backward district and to it was released a grant from the RSVY scheme during the annual plan period 2003-2004 (Planning Commission 2004). Another component of our micro situation is a scheduled tribe of West Bengal, named Lodha. This tribe, among others, was put under the category, viz. Primitive Tribal Group (PTG) since 1971 (Verma 1990: 277). In the following section, we describe as to how the two above said rural development schemes were implemented on the marginalized Lodha community.

About the schemes

RSVY ( Rastriya Sama Vikas Yojana)

The scheme was launched during the period 2004-2005. The scheme aimed at focused development programmes for backward areas, which would help reduce imbalances and speed up development. Under the RSVY scheme, the Central Government aimed to cover 100 backward districts in India. Already 50 backward districts were covered during 2003-2004 and a sum of Rs.15.00crore per year was provided to each of the district for a period of three years, that is a total of Rs. 45.00 crore per district have been released to the State Governments on hundred percent grant basis in installment. The plan document revealed that the main objective of the RSVY scheme would be to address the problems of low agricultural productivity, unemployment in the rural areas, and to fill in the critical gaps in the physical and social infrastructures of the ‘Backward region’. There is a scope in the scheme to make plans to improve the socio-economic conditions of the ‘poorer pockets’ and/or specific disadvantaged groups and communities.

The RSVY plan document has mentioned the special focus areas of development, which should be undertaken in the district plan. These special focus areas are: (i) Land and water management including check dams, revitalization of traditional water structures, small lift irrigation projects, mini diversion weirs, etc. (ii) Health infrastructure, particularly strengthening of women and child development centers and provision of facilities for institutional deliveries. (iii) Educational infrastructure, which would aim towards vocational training and skill development (iv) Increase in income from agriculture and allied activities through intensification of agricultural and horticultural practices. (v) Rearing of domestic animals, poultry birds and pisciculture, etc. through back-up of veterinary facilities and marketing infrastructure. (RSVY, Planning Commission doc. Govt. of India. Accessed through Google on 06.07.2011).

IAY (Indira Awas Yojana)

This scheme started operation since 1985 as a sub-scheme of Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme (RLEGP) and continued as a sub-scheme of Jawahar Rozgar Yojana (JRY) since it’s launching from April 1989. But later it was delinked from the JRY and was made an independent scheme with effect from January 1, 1996.

It is a Government of India social welfare programme to provide housing to the rural poor. It is one of the major flagship programs of the Rural Development Ministry to construct houses for BPL (Below Poverty Line) population in the villages. Under the scheme, financial assistance worth Rs. 45000/- in plain areas and Rs. 48500/- in difficult areas (high land area) is provided for the construction of houses. The houses are allotted in the name of the woman or in the joint names of the husband and wife. The construction of the houses is the sole responsibility of the beneficiary and engagement of contractors is strictly prohibited. The guideline of IAY scheme is very explicit about it when it says: The construction of the houses should be done by the beneficiaries themselves from the very beginning. The beneficiaries may make their own arrangement for the construction, engage skilled workmen on their own and also contribute family labour. The beneficiaries will have complete freedom as to the manner of construction of the house, which is their own. This will result in economy in cost, ensure quality of construction, lead to satisfaction on the part of beneficiaries and acceptance of the house. The responsibility for the proper construction of the house will thus be on the beneficiaries themselves. No contractor is allowed in the construction of IAY houses. If any case of construction through contractors comes to notice, Government of India will have a right to recover the allocation made to the State for those IAY houses. The house should not also be constructed by any Government department. Government departments or organizations can, however, give technical assistance or arrange for coordinated supply of raw materials such as cement, steel or bricks if the beneficiaries so desire. The spirit of the IAY is that the house is not to be constructed and delivered by any external agency; on the other hand, the house is to be constructed by the ultimate occupier of the house. (pib.nic.in/achieve/flagship/faq_iay.pdf?. Accessed through Google on26.10.2013) the broad purpose of the scheme is to provide financial assistance to some of the weakest sections of society to upgrade or construct a house of respectable quality for their personal living. The vision of the Government is to replace all temporary (kutchcha) houses from Indian villages by 2017. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indira_Awaas_Yojana. Accessed on 09.11.2012)

About the Lodhas

The Lodhas are now treated as one of the denotified communities by the Central Government. In West Bengal, Lodhas are mainly concentrated in the districts of Paschim (West) Medinipur and Purba (East) Medinipur. In the pre-Independence period they were treated as a Criminal Tribe till the revocation of the Criminal Tribes Act in 1952. In the first Census of India after Independence, the Lodhas were recorded as a scheduled caste and their total population was returned to be 8,346 only in West Bengal (Mitra 1953: 89). According to the Census of 1951 the Lodhas were found to be distributed in the districts of Burdwan, Birbhum, Bankura, Midnapore, Hooghly, Howrah, 24 Parganas, Calcutta, Murshidabad and Jalpaiguri. In 1951, they were not found in the North Bengal districts like Nadia, Maldah, West Dinajpur, Darjeeling and Cooch Behar. In the same Census the total number of Lodhas in erstwhile Midnapore was 7040, that is 84.35 percent of the then total population of Lodhas in West Bengal. (Ibid: 89-90). The Lodhas of Midnapore are said to be identical with Savars and Sahars but in Orissa they are different. They marry young but they do not practice widow remarriage or divorce. Their traditional occupation is collection of jungle produce, but in Midnapore they also work as agricultural labourers and firewood collectors and sellers (Ibid: 77).

The Census of 1981 shows that the total population of the Lodhas including the Kharias and the Kherias of West Bengal was 53,718. The Lodhas were concentrated in erstwhile Midnapore District and their total number according to the Census of 1981 was 16,534. Besides West Bengal, they are also found in the Mayurbhanj and Baleswar districts of Orissa, Originally, they inhabited hilly rugged terrains covered with jungle. Their mother tongue is Lodha, which is close to Savara, an Austro-Asiatic language. They are fluent in Bengali. Traditionally, they were forest dwellers but now they have started cultivation either as owners of land or as agricultural labourers and are also engaged in hunting and fishing. More than 80 percent of them follow Hinduism with traditional belief in spirits and nature (Mandal, H.et.al. 2002:32).

At present the Lodhas do not live exclusively in the forest covered areas, but have spread out in other deforested regions where they are found to be working as agricultural and non-agricultural labourers. But their main economy is still based on collection of minor forest products, such as leaves for preparing leaf-plates for sale. According to Bhowmick, the Lodhas were found to collect edible roots and fruits for household consumption and sell the surplus in the local markets. They are also found to be engaged in the collection of tussore cocoons and sell them in the market for cash. Lodhas also catch snakes and lizards and sell their hides and consume the flesh of these animals. They also catch fish and tortoises from the water bodies for domestic consumption as well as for sale. (Bhowmick, 1981: 6).

Objectives of the study

1. To identify the beneficiaries who received some development input under RSVY and IAY.

2. To assess the impact of the various developmental inputs under the two rural development schemes and their implementation.

Materials and Methods

The primary data for the study have been collected from the three administrative blocks of Paschim (West) Medinipur district in West Bengal, viz., Binpur II, Nayagram and Narayangargh. The fieldwork was conducted during 2005-06 and 2008-2011. The total number of Lodha households covered in our sample is 332 and the total population turned out to be 1382 souls.

The quantitative data collected for this research have been analysed by using simple descriptive methods (e.g. frequency distribution tables, bar graphs, histograms and polygons) with the help of Microsoft excel programme. The qualitative data have been analysed through descriptions supported by some representative case studies.

Demographic scenario of the Lodha population in the three blocks

These Lodha settlements have recorded an overall small household size (4.2), which is generally found among all the hunter-gatherer and landless poor families of the rural areas. Among the three blocks, Narayangarh shows the highest mean household size, which is higher than the overall mean household size of our sample. (Table 1).

Table 1 Block-wise household and population of Lodhas

























Figures in parentheses represent percentages out of the column total

The age-sex composition

The age-sex composition of the sample population reveals higher number of younger persons including children belonging to 0-4, 5-9 and 10-14 age groups. The female population in the higher age groups, particularly beyond the reproductive age, i.e. after 49 years, is, in general, larger, than the male population in the corresponding age groups. l. But no female beyond the age group 65-69 has been found, whereas only 10 males beyond the age of 69 are found in the male population of the chosen sample. The interesting aspect about the demography of the Lodhas in this sample is the preponderance of females in almost all the age groups (the sex ratio being 1100). This fact is most revealing in all the younger age groups from 0-4 up to 35-39. Only in the age groups, 40-44 and 45-49, we find a predominance of males over females. The population pyramid of our surveyed households is given below.

Fig-1: Population Pyramid of the Lodhas in the study area

Development Inputs and their Utilisation

In the following table we have identified all the development inputs given to the Lodhas under RSVY and IAY schemes in terms of their source and percentage of the beneficiary families. It is notable that only 24.53 percent of the Lodha families’ out of total population in the study area received some kind of development inputs from the Government under the RSVY and IAY, more than half of the Lodha populations were not being covered by the developmental schemes. It is revealed from the scenario of development inputs that Government’s attention was mostly directed to provide house, digging pond and installation of solar cells to the beneficiary families. More than fifty one percent of the beneficiaries (nearly thirteen percent of the total population) were given financial assistance to build their houses and around thirty one percent of the beneficiaries received solar cells (Table.3). The developmental inputs under the Rastriya Sama Vikas Yojana (RSVY) and Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) schemes included (i) patta land[1] (ii) non-refundable cash loan for building house, (iii) solar cells for domestic use and (iv pond.

The nature of distribution of developmental inputs by the Government shows that emphasis was given to cash loan for house building and high technology solar cells. Through our observation and interviews with the beneficiaries we have found that most of the houses were built in a hurried manner and seemed to be weak in structure. The beneficiaries also expressed their dissatisfaction with the newly built houses. We have also found that the majority of the beneficiaries who received solar cells either sold them against cash to well-to-do neighbours belonging to other communities or could not use them properly (Panda & Guha, 2009:69-75).

Patta Land

Only fifty five households (16.22%) received patta land out of three hundred thirty two households but 61.81 percent beneficiary families utilized the patta land out of the total number of beneficiaries, whereas 38.18 percent beneficiaries could not utilise the patta land (Table 2 Fig. 2). During our fieldwork, we have found two major factors behind the non-utilisation of patta land by the beneficiary families, viz., (i) in a number of cases it was found that the patta holder has received the official papers but could not cultivate it since the land is being utilised by members of other powerful and dominant communities, and (ii) the patta holder is not being able to cultivate the land owing to lack of agricultural implements, irrigation facilities and training. (Case study 1)


The financial assistance for the construction of house presents a better scenario than distribution of patta land to the Lodhas. A little more than half of the total number of beneficiary families received financial assistance for house building. But what is interesting is the percentage of full utilisation of this development input. More than fifty eight percent of the families have fully utilised the aforesaid financial assistance while 41.71 percent of the households could not use the financial help properly. The major reason behind the non-utilisation of constructed houses lay in poor and non-participatory nature of planning towards the construction of the houses by the concerned department of the Government. In most of the cases, the houses in which the Lodhas were found to live properly were being planned in a participatory manner. There were cases of Lodhas living in houses not planned in a participatory manner as though they were given directly the financial assistance either by the Government officials or by some NGOs, they were not given the liberty to plan and construct the houses according to their needs and demand. (Table 2, Fig.2 and Case study 1).

Solar Cell

The solar cells were distributed to the Lodha beneficiaries in the study area under the RSVY scheme for using them for domestic purpose. We have found during our fieldwork that out of 105 families 64 were found to use the solar powered cells to glow lamps in their house but at the same time it was also found that about 39.05 percent of the families have either sold them at a low price or those gadgets were lying non-functional. Solar plates containing very costly batteries required good maintenance and none of the beneficiary families who were given this sophisticated gadget had undergone any training as regards their maintenance.

Moreover, since the Lodha families were very poor and were badly in need for cash for their daily subsistence, sale of these solar cells served them very well. Many of the Lodha beneficiaries reported to us that these solar cells fetched them a good amount of money, since their well-to-do Santal and Mahata neighbours were ready to purchase those gadgets (Table 2, Fig. 2 Case study 2)

Table 2 Utilisation of Development Inputs under the RSVY and IAY Schemes Among the Lodhas of three Administrative Blocks of Paschim Medinipur District

[ ] Represents percentage out of total beneficiaries ( ) Represents percentage out of column total.

Sl. No

Name of Development inputs

Number of Beneficiary Who received the inputs

Utilised the Development inputs

Could not utilise the Development inputs


Patta Land


[61.81] 34(16.66)















[60.95] 64(31.37)







Fig-2: Utilisation of development inputs

An incomplete house of a Lodha family in Nayagram block constructed with mud & bricks under the IAY

A landless Lodha of the Binpur II block showing his patta record who had never seen his plot.

Case Study 1

Name of informant: Tapan Sabar (First name changed) Age: 44 Sex: Male

Village: Amlasole, JL. No: 25 Block: Binpur-II

According to the respondent there are six members in his family. They are dependent on forest resource collection and daily labour. He had received a record of right on patta land from the Block Land and Land Reforms Department in 2004. The family has also received financial assistance for house building in 2004. All the family members are living in the house but it is not suitable for living as the roof is damaged. Tapan said : ‘Our house is in a very poor condition because it was built by bricks with mud and thatched by tin with a single door made by plain sheet of tin and there is neither any window nor any ventilation system. The house was constructed by a contractor under the supervision of some government official and they did not consult us regarding the planning of the house. Moreover, if the house requires repair we will not be able to do it without the help of the contractors who made the construction.’ Tapan also added: ‘I have received patta land on paper in 2004 and the amount of the land is 0.15 acre only, but till now I have not seen the land or the plot which has been allotted under my name. May be some other person is cultivating the land. The government official who gave the patta paper to me did not show the actual spot where my piece of land is located’.

Case Study 2

Name of informant: Madhu Sabar (First name changed) Age: 43 Sex: Male

Village: Chirakuti, JL. No: 91 Block: Binpur-II

According to Madhu Sabar there are four members in his family. The family did not possess any agricultural land and no patta was given to this family by the government. They totally dependent on minor forest produce collection for survival. Madhu, told that he is not a member of the Forest Protection Committee under the joint forest management programme of the forest department. He received a solar cell in 2004 from the Government under the RSVY scheme although he had to deposit Rs. 500/- to the Panchayat Pradhan for receiving the solar cell. No money receipt was given to him. Madhu did not think that it was illegal. He frankly admitted ‘Once I received the solar cell, I decided to sell it. After a few days, two men came to me from Ghatshila of the neighbouring Jharkhand state and wanted to buy the cell. I agreed to sell it at a price of Rs. 1000/- . Then there was a bargain and finally I sold it at a price of Rs.700/- since I was badly in need of some money. Already I deposited Rs.500/- to the Panchayat Pradhan.’ Madhu further added ‘I sold this gadget because it had no use for a poor man like me. My net gain was Rs.200/- and still I was happy because I decided to purchase some utensils which was more useful for the family and I was looking for the money since long.’ However, when I pointed out that the actual price of the solar cell was between Rs. 8000/- to Rs.10, 000/-, Madhu was really surprised. In fact, he had no idea about its price, since nobody told him about the market price of the gadget and the government officials did not give him any training for using the gadget.

Solar cell kept in an unprotected place in front of the house of a Lodha beneficiary at Nayagram

The rainwater harvesting pond without water under RSVY scheme at Sankhabhanga village in Binpur in 2006


Rural development generally refers to the process of improving the quality of life and economic well-being of people living in relatively isolated and sparsely populated areas. This study reveals that the implementation of development inputs under some rural development schemes is in a very poor state, in the three administrative blocks of Paschim (west) Medinipur district. The distribution of land by the Land and Land Reforms Department to the landless Lodha families has largely remained an unfinished task. Our finding in the field shows that the distribution of land to the Lodhas by the Government was rarely taken up seriously as one of the major and fundamental tasks towards their socio-economic development. The Government land department issued patta to the Lodha families without any follow-up as regards the utilisation of those lands. The Land and Land reforms department officials had also neglected in providing any guidance to the beneficiary families about the location of the land. So the Lodhas have received the patta record in paper. In this context it may be recommended that the Lodha families to whom patta land has been issued on paper should immediately be given by the district administration the actual right of possession and the panchayat should be responsible to provide l protection to such lands against all kinds of encroachment.

This study also reveals that the house building schemes were not properly implemented as per guidelines of the IAY. Contractors were employed by the concerned Government department to construct houses for the Lodhas and the beneficiaries were not even consulted as regards the plan of the house. As a result, the houses under this scheme in most of the cases were not suitable for living. It is recommended that the financial assistance for house building under IAY scheme should be made in consultation with the beneficiaries themselves to give honour and importance to their specific needs.

The landless marginalized Lodha community received solar cells as a development input from the Government under RSVY scheme, but they had no idea or knowledge of the use of this high technology gadget. It is therefore recommended that solar cells should not be given to individual Lodha families without enquiring into their socioeconomic conditions. Only those families who have some land and belong to a better economic condition may be given solar cell after providing a basic training regarding the proper use and maintenance of the gadget. (Unpublished Report, 2006).


We are grateful to the members of the Lodha community of the selected blocks for their help and cooperation while the first author collected the data in the field and we also express our gratitude to the government officials of Paschim Medinipur district. We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers and the editor of Tribal Tribune for their valuable comments and criticisms on the first draft of the article.


  • Bhowmick P.K. 1981. Rehabilitaion of a ‘Denotified Community’ The Ex-Criminal Lodhas of West Bengal. Royal Anthropological Institute Newsletter. 44: 6-8.

  • Mandal, H., Mukherjee, S. and Datta, A. 2002. West Bengal, in India: An Illustrated Atlas of Tribal World. Anthropological Survey of India: Kolkata.

  • Mitra, A. 1953. The Tribes and castes of West Bengal: Census 1951. Calcutta: Land and Land Revenue Department Govt. of West Bengal.

  • Panda, S. and Guha, A. 2009. Development Inputs among the Lodhas in a District of WestBengal: Problems of Implementation and Recommendations. Journal of the Indian Anthropological Society. 44: 69-75.

  • Panda. S and Majumder, A. 2013 A Rural Development Programmes in India, International Journal of Research in Sociology and Social Anthropology, 1(2): 37-40, 2013.

  • Report on the Assessment of the Impact of Developmental Programmes on the Socioeconomic Condition of the Lodha/ Sabar Community of Binpur-II & Nayagram Block of Paschim Medinipur, 2006. (Unpublished): Department of Anthropology, Vidyasagar University.

  • Verma. R.C.1990. Indian Tribes through the ages. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Govt. of India.

Web References

  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indira_Awaas_Yojana.

  • pib.nic.in/archieve/flagship/faq_iay.pdf?

  • RSVY, Planning Commission doc. Govt. of India

Corresponding author: Dr. Abhijit Guha. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


[1] Patta is a Persian word which is still in vogue in the Land Records Departments in West Bengal.It refers to a kind of land in which the record of ownership right is given to a landless poor family by the government as part of land reform measure.Patta land however cannot be sold by the beneficiary family.