By Faisal Fareed, Twocircles.net
For the first time in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, two assembly seats—Obra and Dudhi in Sonbhadra district have been reserved for Scheduled Tribe category.
Aspirations are high as with their own elected representatives reaching Vidhan Sabha their voices will be heard and issues will be redressed.
In UP, the population of ST is concentrated mainly in Sonbhadra and bordering the Mirzapur district. They are also present in parts of Maharajganj, Sidharthnagar, Gorakhpur, Deoria, Mau, Azamgarh, Ballia, Ghazipur, Varanasi, Gonda—all in the Poorvanchal region, along with the Pilibhit—Tarai area and Lalitpur of Bundelkhand region.
As per the census of 2011, the population of ST in UP is a little over 11 lakh. Only 11 castes of ST in UP have been classified under this category. They are namely—Tharu, Gond, Kharwar, Saharia, Paharia, Baiga, Pankha, Agariya, Patari, Chero and Bhuhiya. If we include some sub-castes of these castes, the number rises to 19. Their main population is concentrated in Sonbhadra and hence two assembly segments of this district has been reserved for ST category.
The issues faced by these tribals are eternal—Jal, Jangal and Zameen. Agitations are going on in the area with some organisations coming in support of the tribals. “The area lacks in every aspect. Roads, education, health facilities are poor. The nearest hope for the survival of patients is Varanasi. Not many can afford it,” Roma, who is Deputy General Secretary of All India Union of Forest Working People told Twocircles.net.
The ST population is dependent on forest for its produce and even cultivation. Even the land which they cultivate has not been officially transferred to them. Time and again forest department put their pillars on their field. “Even today, the tribals have not been given land rights. Nearly one lakh land title was to be transferred but hardly 10,000 could be done,” Roma said. The tussle continues with tribals facing brunt of local officials.
Despite this, the area is called Urjanchal as it houses many thermal power stations which provide power to the whole state. But the situation remains grim. Mining is another issue where the muscleman and others tie up for illegal mining. “Mining accidents have become common for illegal mining. It results in the death of poor labourers,” Roma said.
It will be interesting to see the elected representatives of ST category entering Vidhan Sabha for the first time with loads of expectations from their community.