Tata-Dhan Academy: PDM

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Programme in Development Management

Red Card Application and Tribal Community Exploitation

By Shanti Gupta

This is the story of tribal communities in Latehar district where I saw the extent of exploitation. Before telling this story, I want to make readers familiar about the context of Latehar. Latehar is a district in Jharkhand where people have been facing drought from past 7 years. The majority of the population belongs to scheduled tribes; according to the Government of Jharkhand, there are 10 different tribes.

This tribal family went with no food for two days to save money to pay the exploitative charges set by photo- and copy-shop owners.

This story is set in the village of district Navadih. In this village, people are not able to get safe drinking water. After a discussion with some villagers, I was able to understand that the only source of water was a river on which 70% of the population depend not only for drinking, but for household work. I was amazed to see the situation of the poor people in this village. I was also not able to do anything about it because the exploitation was not being done by outsiders, but by others in the area.

Let me elaborate. The Government of Jharkhand announced that a ration card camp will be held for three days from 5 May to 7 May, 2011. Each household needed to submit their red-card (below poverty line) application form with the photographs of all their family members with identity proof. Tribal people were very excited because if they were able to get the red card, they could access government schemes like the public distribution system (PDS).

However, this excitement was quelled by the exploitation by local shopkeepers.

Photo studios and photocopy shop owners saw these three days as an opportunity to implement their monopoly power; being under-developed, Latehar district only had three such shops. These shopkeepers raised their prices for photographs from Rs. 20 to Rs. 100 (an increase of 400%), and their prices for copies from Rs. 2 to Rs. 20 (an increase of 900%).

I could feel the pulse of the people because Navadih’s villagers were asking me to take their snap because they couldn’t afford the new price. I also paid the same price as the villagers when I went to make copies of the interview schedule for my study.

“Why are you charging such a high price?” I asked one of the shopkeepers, who was not willing to take a paise lower than their new prices.

“The cartridge is very expensive, and machines are also very costly. That’s why I’m charging this cost,” came the reply. “If you do not believe me, you can ask the other shopkeepers.”

I went ahead and paid the amount he charged, despite not believing his claim. And, while paying this high cost did not affect me too much, some of the cases of the villagers touched my heart. There was one SC caste family who solely depended on forests for their livelihood; they did not eat anything for two days in order to collect money to pay for their photographs and copies. And this family was not alone–many families saw this sacrifice as the only way to save money in the hopes that after getting their red card, they will be able to get some benefits.

This experience highlighted to me why tribal communities are still backward and poor. Many people take advantage of these illiterate communities by giving them wrong information. If we really want inclusive development, we need to address awareness. If people are aware of the market price, perhaps they would be able to work together to challenge the monopolistic behavior of the shopkeepers.

What is also sad is that those who are even a little educated aren’t interested in seeing others develop, but are only interested in helping themselves, even if it means exploiting others and taking advantage of adverse situations. This leads to a situation of increasing inequality throughout India. This leads to a contradictory picture of India where, from one perspective, India is shining in terms of economic growth, while from another perspective, tribals are becoming poorer and poorer.

I am also upset because after coming to learn firsthand about just a few of the situations tribal communities face, I still feel I am not able to do much, and other institutions do not seem to be giving enough attention to these communities.

We should all think about how we can make develoment in India more inclusive…. Your suggestions are welcomed.

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Filed under: Fieldwork 2, PDM 11, , , ,

4 Responses

  1. shanti gupta says:

    Down to Earth has published one report which talks about tribal development. It gives some interesting facts.

    http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/poverty-begets-poverty

  2. shrawan says:

    yes defenitly we should do something for tribals…………..
    not only by helping them but also by educating them.
    wish u good luck

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