Kolkata

Poor living standards, social variations prevail among Adivasis of Bengal, says report by Amartya Sen’s Partichi Trust

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen releases the study report titled 'The living World of the Adivasi of West Bengal: Ethnographic Exploration' at Asiatic Society in Kolkata

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen releases the study report titled 'The living World of the Adivasi of West Bengal: Ethnographic Exploration' at Asiatic Society in Kolkata   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

The report has produced a picture of lack of understanding and appreciation about the humanity and culture of Adivasis

Even though there is an amount of romanticism with the Adivasi (tribal) way of life in Bengali literature the indicators of well-being like education and health suggests that they are lagging behind other groups of the population, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said here on Wednesday.

Releasing a research report titled ‘Living world of the Adivasis of Bengal’ compiled by Prof. Sen’s Pratichi Institute and Asiatic Society, he added that despite the “native talent, the achievements of Advasis have been constrained”.

The report, according to him, has produced a picture of lack of understanding and appreciation about the humanity and culture of Adivasis. Prof. Sen pointed out that as early as the third century BC Emperor Ashoka pointed to the need to pay attention to the rights of “forest people,” but that needed attention had very rarely materialised. In the introduction to the report, Prof. Sen writes that deprivations of the Adivasis arise not merely from the lack of private resources and the prejudices of society at large, “but also from the neglect of their interests in the governmental distribution of public facilities”.

The report, running over 288 pages, reflects in details the reasons for lower degree of educational achievement among the Adivasis, how the approach to the problem of healthcare of the Adivasis must take a “biosocial route”. On the issue of livelihood of the Adivasis, the document points out that the shrinkage of traditional livelihood opportunities resulting from the alienation of natural resources has finally left no alternative for the Adivasis but to become wage labourers. Prof. Sen recollected his own experiences of a child while growing up in Santiniketan, where he witnessed how tribals selling up their land in distress to work as agricultural labourers.

Work participation rate

Significant focus is also on the poor living standard of the adivasi population in Bengal. The researchers have recorded this while analysing the work participation rate (WPR) that denotes the ratio of the population engaged in income generating work. The WPR in tribal population is higher than average. “ Our survey also found a similar pattern with the WPR at 53 % which meant both children and elderly people were involved in earning,” the paper quotes

Among the tribal communities in West Bengal multiple variations in terms of access to food, literacy, availability of toilets and landlessness were observed across different tribal communities. The study points that about 12 % of the households among all tribal groups could not afford food more than twice a day (not necessarily full meals to fill the stomach) the corresponding figures for the Lodhas was as high as 47 %. Similarly, while the availability of toilets for all tribal groups was about 51 % for Lodhas the researchers did not find any access to toilet. Similarly, in terms of literacy, the Magh people topped the list with an 88 % literacy rate while the Gorait people are placed at the bottom with a literacy rate as low as 32% .

The variations did not depend on different tribal groups but also among the region – south Bengal or north Bengal or the districts. West Bengal has about 40 tribal groups. Adivasi population of over five million people form six% of the total population of the State.

“The vicious cycle of political-economic deprivation and social alienation continues to keep the Adivasis subjugated to the ruling modern. The politics of dominance, economics of immediate gain, and social outlook of separateness have charted out for the Adivasis as well as others a very different path,” the report states.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 12:43:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/poor-living-standards-social-variations-prevail-among-adivasis-of-bengal-says-report-by-amartya-sens-partichi-trust/article30867193.ece

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