In the caste based social system of the country, tribals are also a big exploited class. In 70 years of independence, their constitutional needs do not seems to have been met. I am of the opinion that the tribals have a different lifestyle and culture and it should be cherished and preserved. But depriving them of the development ensured by the Constitution in the name of preserving culture is utterly reprehensible.
Statements like: tribals who live in the forests and mountains are very happy in their own life despite lack of facilities, are made. But the question is, has the government taken any efforts to make them aware about their right to such facilities? Until and unless they know that electricity, roads, education, internet, health services are their right, then the only option before them is to live a happy life without any expectations.
The way a citizen in the capital of the country can live enjoy all those entitlements, the last man in the forest, in the mountains, should get the same facilities. Only then can we claim the existence of term ‘Equality’.
Some laws are made when there is no need for them, but other laws are not made even when there is a need. The same thing happened with the Forest Rights Act. It is unfortunate that this law came into existence in 2006, a long time after independence, when people had to agitate for enforcement of the law. It’s been 14 years since the law came into existence but the speed of implementation is very slow. Lakhs of community and individual claims on forest rights are still pending. The motto of the act is to preserve or to hand over the traditional tribal lands to the tribals who are living there for decades. Instead of fulfilling the motto of the act, the government is proposing mining projects in that same traditional forests. All these things can called as planned exploitation of tribals by the system.
Only while proposing mining projects government promises employment. It can be clearly seen that government talks about our development only when they see their own benefit. Why doesn’t the government talk about education from which we are kept deprived for so many years? We will solve our employment problem ourselves if you guarantee quality education. But these things are not considered in the process of planned exploitation.
The question also arises: when the government wants to talk about the development of the tribals, then why only Sharma, Verma, Mittal, Ambani and such high caste, wealthy established people are given mining licences? Why doesn’t the government want us to be the ruling class? This is because their ultimate aim is to keep the social structure as it is, where we should always remain at the lowest level and they should continue to exploit us.
This mentality has remained with the post-independence ruling class.
The ruling class is not just the politically governing class. It means the class which has control over cultural, educational, political, medical, business and all other fields on the basis of their ‘caste’.
Non-profit organizations or social organizations are needed for development work but the upper castes form the ruling class in that field too. As it can be clearly seen in the rural and tribal areas, that in the name of tribal and rural development, social organizations of the upper castes have been created, which don’t even let others work in those areas. However, it is not clear what development has been achieved these organisations in the tribal areas by taking money from the government and common people for many decades.
It is a matter of admiration that a lot of research has been done in the field of medicine in a tribal-dominated district like Gadchiroli, but have the social organizations working in the medical field demanded that a government medical college be started for the tribal students of Gadchiroli? No. Providing health services through institutions and organizations is a temporary interention but educating the tribals and making them doctors is a permanent solution.
Even today, the requirement of 33% forest cover in the state is being fulfilled only in the tribal majority areas. It is true that Jal, Jungle, Jameen (Water, Forest, Land) are part of tribal life, but does government want the tribal just to continue to fulfill the requirement of forest cover for the state instead of talking about quality education and other facilities? Today the government needs to realise that it is the tribals’ right to get quality education and other facilities along with the preservation and conservation of their culture and traditional forests.
Recently, we received the very shocking report about tribal scholarships from Integrated Tribal Department, Kalwan, Nashik district, through RTI. In 2018-19, 8 crore 46 lakhs were sanctioned for scholarships but only 2 crore 74 lakhs were spent on students. While 4692 applications were received in 2020-2021, it is very unfortunate that not a single rupee has been allocated in this academic year.
The total provision and expenditure of Post Matric Scholarships during 2015-2020 was almost the same i.e. Rs. 62 crore. Only Rs 10-15 crore has been increased in this five year period. On the one hand, the Tribal Training and Research Department that is holding its Golden Jubilee. On the other hand, the total number of beneficiaries is only 22093. Then the question arises: where exactly did the money go under the name of tribals? Why there is no discussion about their quality education?
There are issues of their hostels, there are issues of holistic development, but if the funds sanctioned for it are being swallowed by government itself, then there is no hesitation to say that the ruling class is pushing the tribal community backward.
Bodhi Sham Ramteke is from Chamorshi, Gadchiroli. He is a final year law student at ILS Law College, Pune. He is a recipient of Samata Fellowship of CORO India and is working with HR Activist Adv. Asim Sarode, Pune.