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A tribe lost in transition

Sep 26, 2008

Paharias: The Struggle of a Tribe for Recognition, a joint study by India’s Ministry of Rural Development and UNDP, analyses reasons for the tribe's marginalisation in eastern India and suggests measures to improve their livelihoods.

Paharias: The Struggle of a Tribe for Recognition

Publisher: UNDP, 2008

It is estimated that around 1500 Paharia families live in and around forest areas of Nuapada, Kalhandi, Bolangir and Bargarh districts and are among the most marginalised in Orissa.


A project tiled: Social Mobilisation around Natural Resources Management for Poverty Alleviation was launched in December 2003 by India’s Ministry of Rural Development and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

As part of this project that ended in December 2007, Lokadrushti, an NGO partner in Nuapada district of Orissa, worked with the Paharias, a group that was recognised as a scheduled tribe under the British rule but lost this status with the formation of the state of Orissa in 1936.

The purpose of this study was to prepare a socio-economic profile of the Paharia community of with an analysis of their human, financial, social, physical and natural capital base and specific vulnerabilities.

The Paharias languishing in extreme marginalisation follow primitive methods of living. All families of this community are below poverty line with a literacy rate of 18.1%.

Living with the forest, they are not oriented to live out of it and fail to cope with the outside world. Simultaneously, they are in a state of transition and need to be supported through the process of change.

Paharia women form a sizeable part of the work force in bamboo works and the agriculture sector. Despite their vital economic role not only outside the household but also within, they face varied types of gender-based inequalities.

Concrete steps for their upliftment could not be undertaken due to lack of information and research on this community.

A few NGOs, like Lokadrushti, have intervened in some villages through the formation of women SHGs. The aim is to develop the natural resource base through women’s groups so as to improve access to resources and livelihoods and to foster partnership with the government and its agencies.

Suggested measures

  • Need to adopt a participatory approach to their development in which they are enabled to become a partner rather than a mere beneficiary of development policies and programmes.
  • Need to be accorded Scheduled Tribe, rather Primitive Tribal Group, status, at the earliest to promote all-round development of the Paharias.
  • The government needs to provide patta of homestead land to the landless Paharias. In addition, the government should provide agriculture support in the form of subsidies and loans for buying agriculture inputs like seeds, bullocks, and land improvement.
  • Train for skill upgradation of bamboo crafts (Swaranjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana may help).
  • Provision of training and resources for taking up alternative self-employment and semi/skilled wage works– especially animal husbandry, goatery, etc.
Source : UNDP
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