Saga of PVTGs in the background of mining activities: With special reference to Joda Block, Keonjhar, Odisha


This case study based on the Munda tribe belongs to the PVTGs community with special references to Joda block coming under Keonjhar district of Odisha. Keonjhar district of Odisha constitutes 44.5% of its total population as tribal, the Munda tribe being a principal among them. Munda were well-known for their distinct culture, livelihood and way of living. Keonjhar district is known for its high grade ferrous mineral ore deposition and hub of various multinational companies making a massive profit while extracting these ores. Largely, the economy of the district is in heavy industries, but the traditional economy is protected by the PVTGs communities such as Mundas, but due to the encroachment of their usual livelihoods and negligence of state, they have been pushed to the margins and live in most vulnerable condition having various health issues, livelihood crisis, migration, poverty and underdevelopment. Most of the children are suffering from malnutrition, deprived education and poor health care infrastructure. During our field visit to Odisha, we came across one of the villages in Joda block, named as Mankadhutting inhabited by the Munda tribe and acknowledged the backwash effect of the development activities going on in the whole region.

Physical Setting
Keonjhar Situated on the north-western part of Odisha bordering Jharkhand on the north, the district of Keonjhar is well known for its well-defined mineral ore deposition, especially iron and manganese ore including others. Specifically, among the distinctly defined geographic zones of iron ore deposition in Odisha, keonjhar lies on the Singhbhum- Bonai-Keonjhar belt. The district accounts for a total of 31.28% of the whole mining activities undertaken within the state of Odisha (Pradhan & Patra, 2014). In fact, the Bureau of Mines in 2005 reported that the district of Keonjhar owns around 75% of the total iron ore deposits of Odisha.
Administratively, the district is divided into 13 C.D. blocks, of which the Joda block has a heavy concentration of the iron ore mines. The occurrence of the mineral ore is in the Thakurani hills, Banspani hills, Sasangoda hills and Gandhmardhan hills in the district. Looking into the geological formations, the region consists of the Archean Crystalline hard rock while the structural and denudational hills define geomorphology with Domal granitic outcrops. The major drainage system is sketched by the Baitarani river, its tributaries,and distributaries that is majorly a dendritic pattern resulting from the fracture system in the area. With such a crucial mineral belt in the country, the district population is affected by the hydrogeology of the region that is expressed in the fractured and recent unconsolidated formations. In this context, the occurrence of the groundwater is in the fissured formations under unconfined conditions within the weathered residuum and under semi-confined to confined conditions in fractures at depth. However, the shallow near-surface aquifers yield fresh water in the entire district.

Livelihood Pattern:
Historically, the Munda tribe were depended on the forest and its related resources. However, with the time the livelihood pattern of tribes got effected when multinational companies entered into the territory of the Tribals. In the Joda block of Keonjhar district, most of the Adivasis are trapped in an explosion of mining industries. Majorly Tata has the license of extraction in nearby mining area, where Munda Adivasi reside, belonging to the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups in the country. This case study focuses on the livelihood pattern of the Munda tribes in Mankadhutting village, which comes under Bhuyanroida Grampanchayat of Joda block, Keonjhar district of Odisha. Mankadhutting village comprises of 59 households, having total population of 258, out of which 130 were female, and 128 were male. The village is at 7 K.M. distances from the Joda city/ municipality jurisdiction and 74 km distance from district headquarters, Keonjhar. Munda people do not have any land ownership and reside in an extremely deployable condition. Sources of livelihood from the forest have declined due to mining activities. The massive bombing has affected the lives of the community and marginalised them even more.
Due to the proximity of mining areas, cultivation/agriculture is a challenging task here. However, vegetables like Brinjal, Okra, Drumsticks, Papaya, Bitterguard, Cucumbers, Lemon, Chilly, and Corn, etc. were sown for domestic consumption and for selling purposes too. Due to absence of any land endowment, usually they are dependent on daily labour and work as a daily wage earner. The river Suna crosses Mankadhutting village, which supports the cultivation of kitchen garden vegetables and other crops.

Munda were traditionally woodcutters, by selling woods and vegetables, non-timber forest products they were capable to maintain their subsistence and meet the daily needs of their family. Both men and women were equally knitted in the work structure of the community. However, collecting non-timber items from forest usually is done by females. For socio-economic development of tribal people, there exists Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) in the district level and Odisha Tribal Empowerment & Livelihoods Programme (OTELP) is at state level still, the condition is miserable. Keonjhar was listed in the 250 most backward districts of the country by the Ministry of Panchayati raj in 2006 and currently receives fund under the Backward Regions Grant Fund program despite its huge economic wealth and industrialisation. Now the question arises, is this model of development adequate to fulfil the tribal communities’ needs and livelihood requirement? Interventions must focus on tribal culture and the overall development of these indigenous people.
Mangal Sigh Purti, of aged about 43, other habitants of Mankadhutting, says “due to shut down of OMDC mining, they lost their income sources, andit istroublesome for them to lead a healthy standard life.” However, collecting of woods, wood cutting & selling, non-timber foods from the forest and by selling of these things in the Joda market they were capable of earning something. People usually sell a bundle of woods in a cost of Rupees 60/-. For that, usually, women take a bundle of woods into their heads and walk for almost 6 to 7 kilometres. If they walk from mountain road, they have to walk for 4 kilometres, but that road is risky, anytime accident can happen.

Health and mining
Despite of such a heavy concentration of the mineral ores, the Central Groundwater board reports that no major groundwater problems exists in the district except few isolated patches consisting of higher Hexavalent Chromium. However, in a recent study by Patra & sethy, 2017 that evaluated the water quality of local streams in the Gandhmardhan iron mines area, suakati , Keonjhar District applying the correlation analysis of several physicochemical with the Water Quality Index (WQI) found that there existed a high positive correlation (above 0.7) between one or the other 14 Physicochemical entities present in the stream waters and the calculated WQI, wherein Oil & Grease, TDS and arsenic are the more evident.This refers to a dismal picture of the poor quality of the water available for the local domestic consumption as well as for drinking purposes. The effect of mining activities on the freshwater sources and surface water is very much obvious with the findings of the study. Other studies have shown that the surface water is prone to pollution from point to non-point sources contaminating the water and its adverse health effects by direct or indirect consumption. The consequences of metal contamination are hazardous in the long run for living creatures and human consumption of such contaminated water is both in direct and indirect form leading to several infectious and obstructive ailments. Also, from the same study it was inferred that the water sources in the mining areas have a high level of TDS resulting from the overflow from the OBDs and mining sites. Pradhan & Patra, 2014 have contributed a conceptual framework for the mining health that is a cause and effect relationship among the several factors, viz., Environmental changes for the local community, community health, employment, and occupational health, Factors of accessibility, Demographic and other socio-economic factors. The primary investigation revealed the spread of common diseases as Malaria, ARI, waterborne diseases, Fever, Typhoid, BP, TB, and jaundice.
This primary case study in the Mankadhutting village of Joda block, Keonjhar which is inhabited by the Munda tribes that fall under the PVTGs community in Odisha reveal their food consumption pattern which lacks necessary protein and essential nutrients. A nutritious and balanced diet is necessary for the first five years of a child’s growth when the child is especially depended on his food consumption on the family. Even though health is a basic Human right, not all humans enjoy access to basic healthy food which is again witnessed as significant differences in the health levels of human as in terms of various age groups and among genders.
Usually, they eat two or three times a day. Before going to work at morning time, during the afternoon and in the evening, they took their staple foods. It includes rice and sago (drumstick leaves also known as Moringa leaves). Lentils (dal) and vegetables are usually made twice (or thrice) in a week. Mundas prefer having Handia in various occasions and regularly too. The consumption pattern indicates low dietary intakes (energy and protein).
Calories are the measure of the energy required for different physical work and growth of the body. During childhood, the calories requirement is quite high that eventually decreases with age. The International Union of Nutrition has given kilo calories as the measure of calories/energy which is required in different quantities by different age groups. However, the swollen bellies and disproportionate growth of the body parts of the children in the villages of Munda tribes is a common scenario that indicates malnutrition. The poor socio-economic situation is the major reason behind such a dietary intake that causes stunting and wasting in children of growing age. The complete well being of a human has sufficient nutrients and calories rather than being devoid of diseases only. Moreover, the Anganwadi’s which have been assigned the task of meeting these requirements for the children and lactating mother under the ICDS scheme pan-India is lagging behind as the current village has a mini Anganwadi that does not provide such facilities. Also, the nearest PHC is at a distance of 10 km from the village situated at Joda, which is again not accessible immediately in case of emergencies.

The appearance of black spots on the bodies of the children was a curious inquiry whether it is something related to the mining activities and the water consumption, but the information received in this regard was a traditional taboo in their communit

Poonam one of our primary respondents, says “within their tribal culture they use their traditional beliefs, practices by 7 to 10 years back they used hot iron rods for curing of fevers, vomiting, diarrhoea, sickling, etc. do prevail especially in cases of children. However, now-a-days Munda people do attend Health Centres, Hospitals for healthcare amenities.” According to Mangal Singh Purti, “These indigenous rituals, beliefs and practices are no more in uses and not so adhere.”

Eventually, one thing came in the picture that of course, the children are suffering from such water-borne ailments which falsify the statement of the government reports on the quality of the groundwater in the area due to naturally occurring mineral deposition and their direct consumption without any treatment.

Here we conclude that, both affordability and accessibility to the proper minimum consumption of both domestic and public utilities is denied to these indigenous communities in the light of development. Instead of the spread effect of the economic development, they are reeling under the backwash current of the heavy industrialisation and mining, the whole region as evident from the case of this village which lacks in basic health, education and other physical infrastructure.

Note : Data collected in the month of September 2019

Sai Ankit Parashar and Dipti Kashyap is a research scholar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Pic credit : Sai Ankit Parashar and Rojaline Mohanty

– Sai Ankit Parashar
Ph.D. ScholarSchool of Rural Development
Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Tuljapur,Maharastra

School of Rural Development
Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Tuljapur,Maharastra

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