THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: `Wayanad Initiative’, a situational study undertaken by the Centre of Excellence under the Indian Institute of Management-Kozhikode (CEx-IIMK), has come up with a Rs.127.65-crore project for the comprehensive development of Adivasi communities of Wayanad. The study, commissioned by the Department of SC/ST Development and the report of which was submitted to the Government last month, has said that provision of land to Adivasi communities as declared by the Government and as agreed between the Adivasis and the Government is a precondition for their development and cited absence of regular income, poor health conditions and educational disadvantages as the key issues confronting the Adivasi population. The focus of any development package for Adivasis should be on livelihood issues, the study says.
The study has pointed out that owing to fluctuation of agricultural product prices, agriculture alone might not satisfy the livelihood aspect of the community and that there should be attempts to look at the rural non-farm sector. Since Wayanad is rich in bamboo, it should be used for the livelihood development of the community. There must also be a community-based tourism initiative and steps to rehabilitate existing projects such as Priyadarshini Tea Estates and Thirunelly Powerlooms. Animal husbandry and related activities, particularly production and marketing of milk and dairy products must get adequate attention, it adds.
The situational study, which has some interesting findings about the actual living conditions of the tribals of Wayanad, reveals that a majority of the tribal population in Wayanad is below 40 years of age and that the Adivasi communities, barring the Kurichians and the Kattunaickans, show favourable female to male sex ratio. For the Kattunaickan and the Kurichian, the female ratio is alarmingly low. For Kurichian, a community that is relatively better off, the sex ratio is as low as 886 for 1,000 males. This, the study says, calls for deeper investigation. According to the study, 79 per cent of the tribal families in Wayanad have permanent dwellings, the average plinth area of houses being within the range of 100 to 300 square feet. However, most of the houses lack basic amenities. Only 31 per cent of the houses have electricity and 32 per cent have toilets. Drinking water is available to 76 per cent houses.
According to the survey, 65 per cent of the Adivasi population here is literate. There is a small section of the population (3.64 per cent) that does not have any formal schooling, but are literate. Literacy attainment peaks at primary school level with 32.84 per cent having completed primary education. But thereafter there is a steady tapering off. Only 24 per cent have reported completion of high school and 2.46 per cent completion of pre-degree level education. Only 1 per cent of the population has completed graduation. The percentage of technically qualified post-graduates/ professionals is much low at 0.5. Though it is generally assumed that non-timber forest produce collection is a major economic activity of the Adivasis of Wayanad, the baseline survey has shown that it is an economic activity for only 5.63 per cent of the Adivasi population. Nearly 8 per cent of the Adivasis are engaged in forest labour and 75 per cent in agricultural labour. Only 2.88 per cent of the population works in the Government sector and 1.51 per cent with the private sector.
The average monthly income of an Adivasi family has been worked out to Rs.1,276. Of this 50 per cent is spent on food and 16 per cent on medicines, the latter figure suggesting high incidence of morbidity among the tribals and failure of the free healthcare system to cater to the needs of the Adivasi population. A significant portion of the income also gets spent on tobacco and alcohol. For almost seven months every year, most of the working population of Adivasis do not have any significant source of income. Landless families hardly have two meals a day during these months. Around 45 per cent have 5 to 10 cents of land, revenue from which is negligible.
Nearly 37 per cent have land holding above 50 cents. Nearly 50 per cent of the land holdings of Adivasi families comprise `koottupatta’ (joint title).
The study has also found that most of the Adivasis of Wayanad have strong political sympathies and are aware of the social and political issues faced by them. Community members respond positively to Panchayat Raj institutions and activities of the SC/ST Development Department. Inter-Adivasi interaction is minimal compared to their interaction with non-tribal communities, particularly with settler farmers, and there is no conspicuous discord between the Adivasi and non-Adivasi populations in this district, the study says. Any intervention for the benefit of Adivasis must be multi-dimensional in nature and involving private-public participation, Panchayat Raj institutions and also NGOs.