PATNA: A recent survey conducted by the state department of SC and ST welfare on the "Status of Primitive Tribal groups of Bihar" gives warning signals.
"Deprived of benefit of any welfare schemes of the government, entire tribes have shifted their loyalty to Maoists and can be seen reading Red literature," said Prof S Narayan __ an Anthropologist and consultant of the surevy conducted by the state government.
Prof Narayan pointed towards the shifting of primitive tribe groups (PTGs) from Munger to the adjoining Naxal-invested Jammui district, a marked "command area" of Naxals.
The study report, which has already been submitted to the government, is the first study on PTGs in trauncated Bihar and focuses tribal groups such as Birhor, Korwa, Mal Paharia, Parhaiya Sauriya Pahariya and Sawar who are scattered across 34 of the 38 districts of Bihar. Prof Narayan during his study found the areas having PTGs not visited by government officials and completely under Maoists sway.
The study points to the deplorable conditions the primitive tribes live in. In Gaya, the study refers to children "dying due to excessive eating of soil as their parents on the job of hunting and herbal collections could not feed them".
Incidentally the study says only 46 per cent of the primitive tribals go to the forest to collect its produce and just 25 per cent of them sell the produce in the market-indicating that a major share is consumed by the tribals themselves. The major occupation of these tribals is preparing country-made liquor for sale.
The study also points that only about 18.5 per cent of the primitive tribals are beneficiaries of the Indira Awas Yojna 'pucca' houses, while over 60 per cent live in thached houses. Incredibly even as the nation entered the 21st century, over 7 per cent of the primitive tribals were residing in houses made of palm leaves whose walls and roofs are not strong enough to give them security from wind, storm and heavy rain.
Regarding their economic status, the study says that over 50 per cent of tribals do not own a single inch of land. They do not have homestead land and reside on government or zamindar land.
The illiteracy rate was found to be as high as 81 per cent with another 14.5 per cent of them just completing their primary education. Less than 2 per cent are able to reach the graduation stage. In 40 per cent of the tribal families none of the children go to school.
The report also shows poor health conditions of tribals and their none accessibility to government primary health centres.The child mortality rate is high and 25 per cent of the children die before they reach the age of two years, the study says.
.The major reasons for death are cholera, diaorrhea, fever, malaria and kala-azar. Against this background, the study indicates that the government officials are "less concerned, ignorant and reluctant" about doing anything for the welfare of these tribals. No wonder they appear to have more faith on the Naxals than the government.