ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Food and Social Security at the Margins

The Parhaiyas of Jharkhand

A survey of all particularly vulnerable tribal group households in two blocks of Jharkhand reveals that their lives remain precarious due to disrupted livelihoods, limited access to education and other public services, and continued exploitation. The public distribution system has become a crucial source of support for them: most such households have ration cards and receive the bulk of their monthly food rations. Social security pensions also help, but exclusion rates are higher, and they have recently been disrupted by Aadhaar-related problems, as have a range of other schemes. Yet, despite these useful social security measures, food insecurity remains common among PVTGs.

This paper is the result of a larger team effort. The author would like to thank Jean Drèze for guiding it; the Sahayata Kendra in Manika for graciously hosting the survey teams and leading the data collection; Siraj Dutta and Sakina Dhorajiwala for generous guidance and detailed comments on a draft; Reetika Khera and Abinash Dash for their thoughtful comments; and importantly, the entire team of student volunteers and local activists for their spirited participation.

In small, ill-equipped hamlets, scattered across the hills and jungles of Jharkhand, reside the Parhaiya tribe. A landless family of five lives in one such hamlet in Bishunbandh gram panchayat. Despite toiling long hours in the field of a local landlord, the husband and wife are often unable to feed the entire family. Their two daughters live with them, but their 12-year-old son works at a nearby brick kiln during the week where he gets three meals a day and a place to stay, but no wages. The father says, “ek pet toh bhar jaata hai aise” (this way at least one stomach is filled).

Tribal communities in India share a common history of discrimination and exploitation but are a very heterogeneous group in terms of culture, heritage, livelihoods, languages, and distance from mainstream society. From 1975 to 1976, the Government of India began classifying specific communities as “primitive tribal groups” (PTGs) owing to their greater “vulnerability.”1 The term was modified to “particularly vulnerable tribal groups” (PVTGs) in 2005–06, to avoid the pejorative connotation of the word “primitive.” The Parhaiyas are one of the 75 communities classified as PVTGs as of today.

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Updated On : 2nd Feb, 2023
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