Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes Research and Training Institute (SCSTRTI), Bhubaneswar, 751003
Recently a good deal of emphasis is laid on the scientific approach to tribal welfare. Since independence, tribal welfare work in our country is being done by official and non-official agencies. Prior to independence some of the erstwhile provincial Governments used to formulate a few special programmes for tribal welfare. The plight of tribals particularly their economic and social backwardness leading to considerable indebtedness was widely decried. Their debts mounted to such a degree, that they were obliged to bind themselves as serfs (Goti or Sagri) to their creditors. They first their lands to the cunning non-tribals, and the regulations forbidding alienation of their lands in practice were of little help to them. The plight of the tribals, who were defranchised under the government of India Act, 1935, was. ventilated by eminent social workers like late A. B. Thakkar. Mahatma Gandhi lent his full support for the cause of the tribals. From early thirties, selfless and dedicated social workers organised welfare work among the tribals in various parts of the country which provided background for the present expanded tribal welfare programme of the State.
Thus, we find today social workers under Bharatiya Adimjati Sevak Sangh. Banabasi Seva Mandal, Bhill Seva Mandal, Nabajiban Mandal and Sarvodaya Mandal, etc, are engaged in tribal welfare work in various parts of the country. However, after independence the State has come forward to safeguard the interests of tribals keeping in line with the Directives of the State Policy and other mandatory provisions in the constitution. The non-official workers are no doubt encouraged through financial help from the State, but the main bulk of the development programme is implemented by the State Governments. The Central Government provide liberal financial assistance to the States for this purpose under Article 275.
In addition to these agencies, there is a third and quite an important one., i.e., the Christian Missions. The missionaries had penetrated into the tribal areas quite early. They used to be patronised by the foreign rulers. The represented the tribals in the legislatures. Thus, the missionaries still hold their sway over the tribals who are converted to Christianity. The Christian Missions control social and political life of the converts and even orient their economy. They also receive some grants from the State in addition to the funds they receive from international channels.
Thus, today we find that all these three forces are working in tribal areas and each in its own way introduces changes in tribal areas. Nevertheless, there still remains a gap to be filled up. How and why particular groups react differently to the introduction of a new scheme, why a particular group adapts a change, and another neighbouring one does not in identical situations bewilder the official and non-official agencies.
That is why our attention is focused on scientific approach to tribal welfare. Recently, there was an annual meeting of Utkal Nabajivan Mandal at Tabarda near R. Udaigiri, Ganjam. This. non-official body is the principal organisation of social workers in the State of Orissa in the field of tribal welfare. Shrimati Malati Devi and Shri Nabakrushna Chaudhury are intimately associated with this institution. The Mandal receive grants from the State Government to implement various schemes. The workers of the Mandal are in charge of centre in different parts of the State. The deliberations in the three days' conference showed the enthusiasm and sincerity of the workers in tackling various problems of the tribes. Discussions highlighted the problem of exploitation of the tribals by money-lenders, landowners, liquor vendors and officials. In spite of very sincere work done among them by the non-officials the fact remains that the tribals do not very much respond to the changes.
The conference, therefore, discussed pros and cons to find out the cause of tardy progress. It took into consideration the need of scientific approach to the problem of tribal welfare. There was a working group to discuss it. In our country Anthropologists have been engaged in studying various tribes and their social and economic conditions since half a century. No doubt earlier scholars of Anthropology were permeated with the idea of collecting romantic and quaint customs and practices of the tribals and advocated the theory of segregation of the tribes. They are not to be wholly blamed for this approach. The time was such that the over-all concept pervading in all quarters was to segregate the tribes from the main stream of social and political life of the country. The conception of partially excluded and excluded areas, with separate administrative machinery were the outcome of that philosophy. No doubt the conception was changed with the changing time. The policy of segregation and the theory of loss of nerves by tribes by coming in contact with outsiders have been found to be untenable.
Segregation kept the tribals isolated, and their development was thwarted for all those years. After independence as a counter to that policy many advocated a policy of complete assimilation of the tribals. The opening of tribal areas all over the country, the extension of normal administration to tribal areas, opened for tribals flood gates of varied contacts with outsiders. Tribals, many of whom were still in state of primitive economy were instantly exposed to those contacts. They learnt many things, some good and some deleterious. It was noticed from studies of those changes among various tribes, that, whenever the changes are abrupt, and the stimuli do not penetrate into the hard core of their culture there is frustration and maladjustment. Those lead to breaking of traditional life of the tribals and they turn to be marginal men. This is one thing which the Anthropologists do not want to generate. This is different from the idea of segregation of tribals from others.
The social workers, with their sincerity to improve the tribals, often try to introduce spinning, prohibition, etc. Those are good. But by their sudden enthusiasm they approach the tribals without understanding their cultural norms, and, their efforts turn infructuous. Similarly the bureaucratic machinery introduce new schemes like colonisation, cooperatives, purchase of their produce, without gauging values and attitudes in those traditional societies. When those schemes do not produce desired result in the funds are wasted.
These are the reasons for which the social scientists are so keen to advocate a scientific approach to develop tribals keeping, in line with their values, traditions and social background. There was a time when Anthropologists were misunderstood by all. But now that should not be the position. After independence the barrier between official agencies and non-official workers has been narrowed down. All the forces aim at generating common good keeping in view the ultimate development of tribals. We appreciate the move in the recent annual conference of Nabajiban Mandal. To give premium on the scientific approach to tribal welfare. This is a happy augury. If our social workers and missionaries take into confidence the social scientists to advise them on right approach, their sincere and devoted efforts would not be fraught with any hazard. We, therefore, welcome this move initiated by Nabajiban Mandal and hope that other institutions in the country would not lag behind in enlisting the co-operation of social scientists in devising ways and means to develop the backward tribals in right lines.