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Undernourished women, Ramchandrapur

A recent visit to a few Sabar villages in Jamshedpur Lok Sabha constituency’s Ghatshila block exposed the “double-engine” claims of the BJP. Raghuvar Das does not tire harping about how the state is developing under the BJP-led state and central governments (“double engine”). One of Jharkhand’s particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTG), the Sabars continue to live in hunger and extreme deprivation. Both the MLA and MP of this area are from the BJP.

Lal Sabar’s family, Holudboni

Denial of ration and social security pensions

According to Supreme Court’s orders, all PVTG households are entitled to Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) ration cards on which they are to get 35 kg of free grain every month. In Jharkhand, all PVTG households are also entitled to receive social security pension of Rs. 600 per month (hiked to Rs. 1000 from April 2019, as per a recent announcement of state government).

Despite these protections, Joba and Banawali Sabar of Basadora village barely survive on rice and salt. Like others in their hamlet, they depend on the forest and the odd manual labour jobs for their livelihood. A hard day’s labour gets them Rs. 200. They neither have a ration card nor do they get the PVTG pension, as neither of them has an Aadhaar (See testimony here

In the four villages that were visited, at least 45 of 106 families are not enrolled in the pension scheme. Several of them also do not have Aadhaar. (See testimony of such families of Basadora here

Holudboni’s Sombari and Bhushen Sabar are denied ration and pension as they do not have Aadhaar. Sombari is ill since a month. The block hospital did not conduct any test and just prescribed vitamin supplements. She continues to shiver, suffers with fever and has progressively become weaker (See testimony here –

Kishori and Malti Sabar of Holudboni are also denied their pensions as they do not have Aadhaar (See testimony here –

Phulmani Sabar of the same village is old and stays alone. Neither does she have a ration card nor is she enrolled for pension. Lack of Aadhaar may be a reason for this (See testimony here –

Malnourished child, Chhotadangar

Destitution and malnutrition

The Sabar families live in dilapidated one-room houses, built by the government years ago. Most members of the community are severely undernourished. In Jharkhand, children are to get three eggs per week in Anganwadis and two eggs per week in the school mid-day meals. But children of Basadora do not get eggs in the local Anganwadi and only one egg per week in the school.

In Chhotodanga, Malti Sabar’s 23-day old daughter weighs just 1.8kg. She was kept in the baby unit at the block hospital for five days and discharged with a bottle of vitamin syrup. While medical attention from the Anganwadi worker and the doctor at the hospital may see the baby through, her condition exposes the hunger and malnourishment of the mother. The family survives hand to mouth existence.

Most of the families did not get any work in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in the last one year. Many also do not want to work under the programme because of the delays in payment of wages.

Dilapidated hut, Basadora

Lack of education

Hardly any adult of the visited villages is literate. According to the census 2011, only 21% of Sabar adults in Jharkhand are literate. The government seems to have made no special effort to improve the dismal rate of literacy in this community. Govardhan Sabar and Ravi Sabar of Chhotodanga dropped out of primary school as they were harassed by non-PVTG students.

Destitution in Basadora

Yet to get political attention

Jamshedpur goes to polls on 12 May. The abject deprivations of the Sabar community finds no place in electoral discussions. Will the opposition Mahagathbandhan wake up to seek accountability from the double-engined BJP on questions of Sabars in the election season?

Siraj Dutta is a social activist


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