Deprived of Tribal Status, Paharias to Boycott Polls - The New Indian Express

Deprived of Tribal Status, Paharias to Boycott Polls

Published: 03rd February 2014 11:41 AM

Last Updated: 03rd February 2014 11:41 AM

The Paharia community has decided to boycott general elections this year as it is yet to be accorded tribal status by the Central Government. Though Tribes Advisory Council (TAC) of Odisha under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister has recommended their inclusion in the tribal list to the Centre, there has been no response.

There are around 2000 Paharia households in Nuapada, Kalahandi, Balangir, Bargarh and Nabarangpur districts. Majority of them are landless and do not have proper dwelling place with virtually zero literacy rate, said Indra Paharia of  Kamajari hamlet in Bargaon village of the district at the State level convention held recently.

A memorandum was also sent to the Chief Minister urging him to request the MPs to raise the issue in Parliament and initiate a special project for development of Paharias. Besides, they raised demands related to housing, land allotment under Forest Rights Act (FRA) and land development under MGNREGS.

The Paharias are primarily bamboo artisans and stay near forest where bamboo is available. They live in small clusters of houses and each cluster does not have more than 12 households.

After the tribal status to Paharias was mentioned by Dr Fanindam Deo in his research work in 1983, the issue was raised in the State Assembly in 1985, but no action has been taken yet. Ironically, Paharias enjoy the privileges of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

Although the TAC has been raising the issue repeatedly with the Centre, it has failed to evoke any response. Sukal Paharia, the only college pass-out of the Paharia community of Odisha recently filed a case with the National Human Rights Commission which has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary to furnish detailed information on the community.

“We hope the NHRC will direct the Central Government to resolve the matter,” said Saubhagya Paharia, another educated Paharia.

“Our livelihood revolves around preparing bamboo baskets, but non-availability of bamboo these days has seriously affected our livelihood. Most of our people are now migrating to different parts of the country and are exploited by the labour contractors and employers,” said Sukal. With Secretary to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs Hrusikesh Panda scheduled to visit the district on Monday, all eyes are set on him to expedite the matter.

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