`Condition of Birhor tribe in West Bengal vulnerable`

Despite the state government`s initiatives, the socio-economic condition of the Birhors, an endangered primitive tribe, is worse in West Bengal than in other states, a case study has said.

Last Updated: Feb 24, 2011, 12:06 PM IST

Kolkata: Despite the state government`s
initiatives, the socio-economic condition of the Birhors, an
endangered primitive tribe, is worse in West Bengal than in
other states, a case study has said.

In the Fifth Five Year Plan, the Union Ministry of Home
Affairs identified the Birhors as a Scheduled Primitive Tribe
and the government has taken up development projects to uplift
their condition but so far, the projects have had little
effect on the living condition of the nearly extinct tribe in
the state, the study says.

The study was conducted by the West Bengal Tribal
Development Cooperative Corporation Limited (WBTDCCL).

Apart from West Bengal, the Birhors are found in
Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.

"Though the West Bengal government has taken many
programs to uplift their condition, still their social and
economic standard is not upto the mark," Professor Sreerupa
Roy, a member of the study team, said.

"The problem is not with the government initiatives only.

Rather, the tribals living in West Bengal are reluctant to
give up their nomadic life and come to the main stream," Roy
said.

For instance, as a part of a development project in 2008
when the government was setting up the Purulia Pump Storage
Project after deforesting a portion of the Ayodhya hills, the
government provided them with concrete hut-shaped structures
but the Birhors preferred to live in the jungles, she said.

"On the other hand, the Jharkhand government has been
successful in sensitising the Birhors and naturally they are
getting the benefits of development," Roy added.

According to the 1991 census, of the estimated 10,000
Birhors in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh,
855 were in West Bengal.

The census report says that 271 of the total number found
in West Bengal live in Purulia while the rest are scattered in
the jungles of Bankura and West Midnapore. They are considered
to be an offshoot of the Mundas of Chhotonagpur plateau.

"In the last two decades following the census, the
population of the Birhors spread across three blocks -
Baghmundi, Balarampur and Jhalda-I in Purulia - has increased
to only 327 or 80 families," Roy said.

"Among the primitive tribes living in the state, Birhors
are the most underdeveloped. So we initiated a project to make
them aware about development," WBTDCC director Sudhir Dutta
said.

"Besides government developmental projects, several NGOs
are working for the economic uplift of this nomadic tribe.

But
all these projects need to be synchronised properly so that
the community gets the maximum benefit out of the development
projects going on in the area," Dutta added.

PTI