Mumbai is the financial capital of India. Originally called Bombay for hundreds of years the name was changed by the erstwhile Shiv Sena -BJP government during their time in power to Mumbai during the fag end of the last century. Perhaps this was the only acheivement of these Hindu parties who were so intent on re- christening new names, that they forgot that just a hundred kilometers out of Mumbai a large population of tribals were living in abject poverty.
I mention about these Hindu parties only to stress the lopsided priorities of these groups. Not that the Congress did anybetter, but at least they made no pretense of being people who would bring about a 'change'.In contrast the Hindu parties instead of making development a plank subscribed to divisive politics by calling for expulsion of North Indians.
I realised about the plight of this tribal population when I took over as Director of a community Health project for the tribal in Thane district conducted by the Impact Foundation under the aegis of the UNDP and WHO.It was a wonder to me that just 125 km from Mumbai such poverty could exist. Considering that Mumbai was being developed as an international financial centre this neglect of these tribes was hard to understand.
The tribal population constitutes about 30% of the population of Thane district. They are given reserved land but more often than not the tribals are exploited by unscrupulous traders and middle men in connivance with the local government officials. I found that drinking water was not available to a majority of the tribal villages and only a few primary schools were in existence. It was a startling sight to see the
My visits to the tribal areas showed unpaved roads and hardly any form of transportation.Most of the tribals travelled on foot to fetch their needs. The British for good reason to further their rule had kept the tribal population isolated from the main stream.Unfortunately this continued even after the British left.
I could during my tenure sense a feeling of restlessness among the tribals. I was wondering that it would be only a matter of time when the dam bursts. A bigger problem was the advantage some traders and flesh merchants took by giving easy hard liquor to the tribals in return for their daughters and wives who were then sucked into the vortex of the flesh trade. The tribal love for liquor is the root cause of this phenomena.
With the tribal revolt in the guise of the Maoists in full sway in central India, it is incumbent on the government to work for the betterment of the tribals. Other wise anything is possible. This matter needs the urgent attention of the central government and the local political leadership. I wonder how much time the Political parties have for the the tribal population, engrossed as they are with scoring brownie points over their opponents. This is applicable more to the Hindu parties who spare no time in announcing their love for the 'sons of the soil' theory.But what about the tribals? Whose sons are they? Can these parties answer.