On 4th May, 2019, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of organizations formed to facilitate efforts to defend people’s right, brought the stories from Sabar community of Jharkhand to attention through a twitter thread. The community belongs to the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG), a category defined on matrix such as forest-based livelihood, pre-agriculture level of existence, extremely low literacy, subsistence economy, and a stagnant or declining population.
Thread on severe hunger and destitution in PVTG Sabars of Jamshedpur LS constituency. Worrying levels of undernourishment. Widespread denial of pensions and ration due to lack of Aadhaar. Both MLA and MP from BJP. Elections on 12 May, but Sabars missing from electoral discussion. pic.twitter.com/KCyWcWyWkw
— Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (@JharkhandJanad1) May 4, 2019
The thread highlights severe hunger and destitution in PVTG Sabars of Jamshedpur Lok Sabha constituency. This is not the first time, the issues of worrying levels of undernourishment, widespread denial of pensions and ration due to lack of Aadhaar in the PVTG communities have been raised by the media. The Sabars depend on the forest and the odd manual labour jobs for their livelihood where a hard day’s labour gets them Rs 100. NREGA is non-existent and they live a hand to mouth existence. Sleeping hungry is common and every day is a fight for survival. None of them has an Aadhar card, hence they get no ration card nor any PVTG pension.
Govt schemes fail to benefit the tribes
To understand the issue better The Logical Indian reached out to Mr Asharfinand Prasad, a representative from the Jharkhand Right to Food campaign. The Right to Food Mission works for the issues related to Food security including Midday meal, Anganvadi, Pension, and Maternity nurturing entitlement by spreading awareness among the community and trying to establish a channel of conversation by communicating the needs of the PVTG communities to the government and policymakers.
He informed us that, “There are eight PVTG communities in Jharkhand namely Asurs, Mal Saharia, Korwas, Birajias, Birhors, Parahiyas, Souriya Pahariyas, and Sabars. These are the tribes who primarily live [and sustain themselves through the resources available from] forests and the foothills of mountains. They live in remote regions and it is difficult to reach these places. And this is not just now, they have been living in these regions since before the 1960s.”
“There have been numerous government schemes that have been aimed at elevating the living conditions of the poor and destitute, but the effect of these schemes is not visible within these communities. Either they have not reached to them or they are implemented only partially.”
Confirming to his statements, a research published in BMJ Global Health in 2016 stated, “Among the PVTG [in Jharkhand], 67% of pregnant women were left uncovered under the Janani Suraksha Yojna. In Jorsa, East Singhbhum district, pregnant women ware totally unaware of the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojna. When considering the child population, we saw that 50% of the 6 months – 3 years rarely, and 25% of the 3–6 years never visited the Anganwadi centres under the Integrated Child Development Scheme. Among children of school-going age (6–14 years), 62% received Midday Meal service, but 21% rarely visited and 17% never visited or had dropped out.
When looking at household food security, we found that 9% of PVTG households don’t have a Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) ration card at all. Particularly new households, i.e. when sons get married, have difficulties in obtaining a TPDS ration card. Moreover, 50% of the potential beneficiaries do not have a job card under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA).
Not receiving entitlements is a constant feature in all three pensions schemes: 53% under Old, 52% under Widow and 58% under Disabled respectively. A prime way to avail entitlements – viz. Maternity Benefits, wages under MGNREGA, and Nation Pension Benefits – is having a bank account, which is not the case for 50% of the PVTG.”
Mr Asharfinand informed of a recent addition to these schemes, the Dakiya Scheme of 2017. According to the Dakiya scheme, more than 70,000 PVTG families are entitled to get 35 Kg rice packets/ month, delivered to their houses free of cost. The members only need to show either their Aadhar Cards or Ration Cards to avail the scheme.
“But the packets never reach to them”, said Mr Asharfinand, “…because first the delivery doesn’t happen door-to-door as promised and the people themselves have to go to the distribution centres but, even then, they don’t get it since most of the families do not possess Aadhar or Ration Cards.”
“Among those few who do get it, there is a cut in the amount of about 1 to 3kgs by those distributing the packets.” “As far as pension is concerned, in all the families both women and men of the families are entitled to pensions. The government had made an announcement that from April 1st a pension of Rs.1000 would be deposited monthly to their accounts, but yet there hasn’t been any implementation.”
The tribes need employment and food
“Anemia, malnutrition, and being underweight are the major problems that the women and children of these tribes face. Only sustainable access to work and food can solve these problems. Earlier they used to sustain themselves through resources available from the forests. Wickerwork and ropes were the main income sources for them. But widespread industrialisation and deforestation have taken that away from them. Since they are unskilled or untrained for any other jobs, they do not get employment when they need it. The Sabar tribe and all other PVTG tribes of Jharkhand are struggling at multiple levels: deforestation and industrialisation have destroyed the small livelihood opportunities they had based on their ecology. Even farming is not an option since there is little rainfall because of the changing climate and there is only one season in which crops can grow, in the remaining three quarters of the year the people have to rely on the schemes but the digital processes of Aadhar and ration card keep them away from accessing the resources they are entitled through the Govt. schemes.”
In November 2017, the Govt. circulated a notification which said that the people who do not have Aadhar, they can show an ID card, sign in an apvaad register and take the ration, but the dealers at the local level, do not execute this order.
Mr Prasad doesn’t lose hope and says, “There is no Aadhar, no ration card, but we can’t lose hope. The Govt. is making schemes, but it is not being executed properly. The media is engaged with these problems and constantly bringing them to light. We have to bring them in the notice of the government and make them understand. We have written to the CM asking for a better strategy for the implementation of these schemes at a local level. We asked them to include dal and oil along with rice in the packets and to provide employment which these tribes are entitled through NREGA. We have been told that as the election period for the election gets over, we will hear from them.”