Academic journal article Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences

Trapped in Poverty: Chronic Poor in Remote Tribal Areas

Academic journal article Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences

Trapped in Poverty: Chronic Poor in Remote Tribal Areas

Article excerpt


Author: D.C. Sah and Ashish Bhatt

Rawat Publications, Jaipur, 2008

An extension of a pilot study by D.C. Sah and Amita Shah on chronic poverty in remote areas in India, this study narrows the focus further by examining the tribal areas of the South-West Madhya Pradesh. Stating at the outset that this analysis of poverty was not from an economic perspective, but represented an attempt to understand why people remained poor for many years, and the forces that kept them in poverty, the authors called this experience "multidimensional unfreedom" a term they used to describe the many diverse "shocks" that the poor people encounter that prevent them from constructing creative livelihoods, forcing them instead to find ways to cope with the stresses of these critical situations.

There was slow growth in the economy in Madhya Pradesh in the period 1993-94 to 2003-04, but the slowest growth was in the agricultural sector. Decline in agricultural capital formation, poor irrigation infrastructure, and the inability of small and marginal farmers to invest in new technology were some of the reasons for the poor performance of agriculture. Three-fifths of the households in the remote areas of Madhya Pradesh were designated as poor. Among the reasons cited often for their condition were; failure to gain access to agricultural production resources, population pressure and the decline of landholdings, loans from bania moneylenders, and the inadequacy of state interventions. A multitude of factors trapped villages in the remote tribal belt in chronic poverty. Remoteness was a factor in low agricultural production because less remote villages found ways to reduce poverty.

The state defined poverty as income poverty, an income that is equivalent to a minimum necessary calorie intake. This was known as the head count ratio of poverty. The authors insisted that this measure was inadequate to understand the various facets of poverty. They argued that "apart from economic opportunities, well-being equally depends on individuals' access to education, health, and other social and political freedom." (p. 4). About 68 per cent of the population of South-western Madhya Pradesh lived in poverty, and the area faced problems of scarce resources, social inequality, geographical remoteness, backward infrastructure development and weak political representation. Selecting the villages of Chikalkuan in Pati and Kirchali in Sendhwa for detailed study, the authors gave a useful presentation of their methodology as well as the design and the theoretical underpinning of their study: "The micro-study involved collection of primary and secondary data for the sample villages. This included group discussions to get familiarised with villages and their people; compiling basic information about the villages from official sources, and a detailed PRA for social mapping and wealth ranking; livelihood analysis; and village institutions like moneylenders (bahias), PRIs, and government representatives. This was followed by a survey of randomly selected sample of 50 households from each of the two villages, using the sampling frame developed in the qualitative investigation ..." (pp. 15-17).

In the important chapter on the tribals in Madhya Pradesh, the authors presented an interesting and useful historical sketch of the tribal people in Madhya Pradesh, demonstrating their significance in the history of the region. Tribal people formed about eight percent of the population of India; in Madhya Pradesh the tribal population was 9.67 million, one quarter of the tribal population in India. In a manner reminiscent of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, they had their own ways of life, customs and modes of living, and for the most part lived apart from mainstream India. Earlier tribes were followed by an influx from Rajasthan and Gujarat. Muslim invaders could not pacify tribals and encouraged Rajput warriors to settle in the Narmada valley around 1200 to control them. …

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