Tribal Empowerment & Development

Venue : SCSTRTI – (SC&ST Research & Training Inst.), CRP Square

Social exclusion is the process in which certain social groups or individuals are denied full access to the various rights, opportunities, and resources that are available to the mainstream society. This is further exacerbated by growing economic inequality, which threatens social cohesion and inclusive growth. Hence, what is needed is a rights-based approach that focuses on basic equality and capabilities, to attain social justice and sustainable development.

In Odisha, social exclusion prevents a big segment of the population from full economic, social, and political participation. This includes Scheduled Tribes or STs (23%), Scheduled Castes or SCs (17%), Muslims (2%), the aged (9.5%), People with Disabilities or PwDs (3%), and Transgender People, who together, comprise over 54% of the state population.

In Odisha, STs have highest incidence of poverty with 32.5% below poverty line, followed by SCs, 29.6% of whom live in poverty. Lack of productive assets is a particular concern for SCs, with 71% being landless. Low literacy and lack of adequate training and skills compel 51% SCs and over 42% STs to work as casual wage laborers with low and irregular incomes. Compared with the State average of 73% in 2011, only 52% STs, and 69% SCs, in Odisha were literate. Even now, despite vigorous efforts by the Government of Odisha (GoO) nearly 1.9 lakh kids aged 6-14 are out of school, with over 64% of them being from marginalized groups (48% STs and 16% SCs). Poverty also has a direct bearing on nutrition and related health outcomes. While malnutrition among kids aged less than 5 years is a worry for Odisha, leading to 34% being stunted and 20% wasted, it disproportionately impacts STs and SCs. For instance, stunting among the ST kids (23%) is higher than the State average with 57% tribal children being too short for their age.

SC students are made to sit separately in rural government schools; they are prevented from entering village police stations and rural ration shops. Village public health workers refuse to visit SC homes. Similarly, systemic deprivation is experienced by the Muslim minority. Increasing longevity has resulted in bigger proportion of elderly. Among those aged 60 and above in the state, almost 1 in 10 experience abuse and 80% of the rural aged are compelled to work due to poverty and lack of resources. There are over a million PwDs in Odisha. In 2017-18, a mere 5,392 PwDs, under the GoI schemes, and 2,947, under the GoO scheme, got housing facilities in Odisha. Further, there has been a rise in percentage of Chidren with Special Needs (CWSN) dropping out.

Perhaps, the most invisible category within the marginalized, due to their small numbers and social and policy oversight, is that of the transgender. State provisions for the third gender persons to get land for a house and a homestead of 10 decimals is yet to be acted upon. Otherwise, Odisha’s transgender population will continue to languish in poverty and will be compelled to continue begging or depend on sex work for survival.

There is a strong need to ensure greater participation of such excluded segments in the decision-making processes and that proper policies are put in place to ensure the all round development of these social groups in the state of Odisha.

Discussion Points:

  • What steps are necessary to address the systemic constraints (social, economic, and political) currently undermine the social inclusion of identified marginalized groups in Odisha? What policy mechanisms and institutional resources can effectively address the impact of systemic constraints?
  • How can Odisha’s civil society and other stakeholders, apart from GoO, contribute to meaningfully address social exclusion? What kind of partnerships would be more effective?
  • Why are STs and SCs still being denied access to due public services with impunity? Beyond policy what can safegaurd their getting due entitlements and services?
  • What steps are necessary to achieve better workforce participation of Odisha’s Muslims and other religious minorities (beyond self-employment)?
  • What concrete actions can increase visibility of the third gender in society, economy, and politics in Odisha?
  • How can Odisha State Senior Citizens Policy, 2016, be effectively implemented and strengthened to safeguard the elderly from abuse?
  • What can be done to reverse CWSNs increasing dropout rate?