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Mapping Violence in the Lives of Adivasi Women

A Study from Jharkhand

Kriti Sharma

The Adivasi women of Jharkhand negotiate with power “ or indigenous women, gender-based violence is shaped
structures within the family system and society, and are not only by gender discrimination within indigenous
and non-indigenous arenas but also by a context of
further entrapped in gender hegemonies that are part of
ongoing colonisation, militarism, racism and social exclusion;
larger shifts in the political economy. Their lived and poverty-inducing economic and ‘development’ policies”
experiences in the urban and rural landscape of Ranchi, (FIMI 2006: 6). Active negation of the political, economic,
a Schedule V district under the Constitution, and an social and cultural rights expounded under the United Nations
(UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),
analysis of the enforcement of legal machinery in
2007 has been most pronounced for the Scheduled Tribes (STs)
removing or tightening the existing disparities provide situated in Jharkhand. Various scholars have engaged with
crucial insights into the sociolegal realities of the lives of their colonial and neocolonial exploitation, and this study is a
Adivasi women, thereby mapping their everyday limited attempt to capture the present burdens of the tribal
women situated here.
experiences of violence and the means available to
The Annual Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Indige-
address their issues. nous Concerns (2015), a first on indigenous women, acknowl-
edges that hitherto, the specific situation of tribal women has
been neglected in policy and on the ground. This is further
exacerbated by the fact that in India, state budgets and policies
deploy gender or identity-based categories without accounting
for the intersectionality of vulnerabilities as experienced by
tribal women. Disparagingly, for a state with a significant chunk
of tribal population—26.2% of the state population is tribal, as
per the Government of Jharkhand (2018)—the state legislative
assembly does not lay out a single provision specifically for
Adivasi women in the state budgets.1
While the media coverage of crime against women has led
to legislative debates, the Tribal Sub-Plan (tsp) allocation still
does not deploy any strategy to combat the issue, except the
formation of self-help groups (SHGs—they are present in 18
districts except Santhal Pargana). Even this initiative suffers from
a dire lack of funds, and SHGs have to survive through external
support from bank loans and non-governmental organisations
(NGOs). Of course, violence against women is deeply connected
with fundamental questions of health, education (according to
the Ministry of Tribal Affairs [2014], the literacy rate of the
This article is based on research supported under the Adivasi Rights state’s tribal women is 46.2%), food security and other devel-
Programme Council for Social Development, Hyderabad and has been
opmental agendas to alleviate poverty (56% of state tribals
carried out under the supervision of director Kalpana Kannabiran. The
author would like to thank Vasavi Kiro for intensive discussions and
live below the poverty line, according to the Ministry of Tribal
unconditional support, Rameshwar Oraon, erstwhile Chairperson, Affairs [2014]), but evidently the situation continues to remain
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes for sharing his valuable grim on all fronts. Most notoriously, this is due to diversion of
experiences, Aloka, Dipika Prasad, members of the self-help groups the TSP funds for non-tribal uses (Villatt 2014) such as massive
(Mariyana, Sushila, Bibiana and Jowana) and other community members.
constructions under the Greater Ranchi Master Plan, ironically
Kriti Sharma ( has a Master’s in the taking place through the usurpation of tribal lands.
Science of Law degree from the Stanford Law School which she attended The legal machinery for women’s rights is also at a nascent
as a Fulbright–Nehru Master’s Fellow for Leadership Development (2017–18).
stage, with the State Commission for Women (SCW) established
44 october 20, 2018 vol lIiI no 42 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

in 2005, women police stations launched in 2008 and the legal private parties, in breach of the fiduciary duty towards the
counselling at the women’s police stations introduced in 2010 tribals. There have been aggressive efforts by the state legisla-
via an SCW order. The initiatives on safe autos, legal awareness ture to usurp tribal lands through various means, such as
drives, public “darbar” meetings and women police stations diluting powers of the gram sabha, acquiring land under exempt
continue to be limited to cities, with little penetration beyond. categories of “public purpose” and repeatedly attempting
Ranchi, which is the state capital, also serves as the headquar- legislative amendments to allow land transfers to non-tribals.
ters and hence, the fieldwork was conducted there in the Such involuntary and forced resettlement has negative con-
month of September 2016. This was particularly suitable for sequences as it
interactions with activists, lawyers, political representatives, destroys productive assets and disorganises production systems,
state officials and women police officers. Detailed discussions and creates a high risk of chronic impoverishment that typically oc-
and sharing of case studies by them has resulted in an in-depth curs along one or several of the following dimensions: landlessness,
understanding of prevalent attitudes and challenges faced in joblessness, homelessness, marginalisation, food insecurity, mor-
bidity, social disarticulation and loss of access to common property.
the administration of justice in cases of violence against
(Cernea 2004: 14–26)
Adivasi women.
The daily functioning of the mahila thana, Ranchi, the nodal Innumerable studies have shown that due to displacement pro-
police office for crime against women, and its legal counse- jects, there are additional burdens faced by women, especially
lling unit were observed. Interviews were also conducted in those pertaining to areas such as health, sanitation, housing,
Chatwal, a predominantly Uraon village (48.31% of the popu- electricity, water, job security, food security, etc, and the wom-
lation here is tribal, according to Census 2011) in Mandar en also suffer from mental distress, cultural shock and other
Tehsil, situated around 50 kilometre (km) from the capital. disadvantages (Pandey and Rout 2004). In particular for Adi-
Due to time constraints, this place was suitable for conducting vasi women, the loss of common property and withdrawal of
focused group discussions with the women’s SHGs which are social support systems can lead to extreme marginalisation
actively pursuing social and legal avenues to address gender (Parasuraman 1993), compounded with the issue of social ex-
discrimination prevalent in the village. Extensive discussions, clusion in rehabilitation and resettlement policies, such as
both structured and unstructured, were also held with wider only providing monetary compensation, job security to one
village communities of Munda, Ho and Uraon tribes; with male member or non-inclusion of households headed by wom-
groups consisting of both women and men, who reside in the en—widow, single or otherwise (Thukral 1996). As an excerpt
neighbouring villages within the district. from the interview with an ex-member of Jharkhand Women’s
Commission suggests:
Neo-liberalist Aggression on Tribal Women We have understood what the loss of land means for us Adivasi women
The International Labour Organization Convention 169 on and with it the loss of livelihood, access to forest and the bari (open
Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and Article 10 of the Undrip space) and after displacement squatting in cramped slums with no
water, electricity, disease ridden or dead children and no school; and
establish the primacy of tribals on the question of their land soon enough when money evaporates, physical and mental tortures
rights and mandate “free, prior and informed consent” for “in- starts after alcohol consumption and by then the woman has already
clusive developmental process,” with an option of return to the lost everything. (personal interview 2016)
land once the project is over and the land has been restored. Further, discrimination is expected in the labour market as
The constitutional guarantees of tribal autonomy and self-gov- a woman and an unskilled labourer (Rao 2010: 219). These
ernance, along with the aforesaid international principles vulnerabilities greatly increase the risk of gender-based vio-
have been institutionalised through various enactments (re- lence and, therefore, in Jharkhand, women have been at the
lated to self-governance, forest rights and land acquisition forefront of every major displacement project since the Koel-
laws),2 particularly over the last few decades. Yet, acknowl- Karo dam struggle and the army’s field range in Netarhat.
edging the undue burden of displacement on indigenous peo- When the women’s movement started in Jharkhand in the 1980s
ple, the UN Special Rapporteur Report on Indigenous Issues and 1990s, it was initially city based with protests against the com-
(2003) highlighted that local mechanisms have not been effec- mon issues of dowry and sati because Roop Kanwar who was made
tive in stopping the unabated exploitation—for instance, 55% sati in 1987 in Rajasthan and was a bride from Jharkhand. Soon we
of the displaced population in India are Adivasis (Khalid realised what was happening in our rural backyard when we started
hearing cases of rape from the mines. One Falguni Manjhi, a 20-year-
2017)—and protective laws are often ignored during the pro-
old woman lost her land to East Parej Coal mines in 1993 and started
cess of industrialisation.
working as a labourer along with other villagers of Fusri in Charhi
In independent India, the maximum alienation of land region of Mandu, travelling 15 miles per day for `120 a week. On
(10,48,93 acres between 1947 and 2005, as per the Ministry of one such collection day, she was instead gang raped by the munshi
Rural Development), has occurred in Jharkhand (Human and thekedaar together and then murdered. She was found dead
Rights Law Network 2015; Srivastava 2018) and one of the rea- by her husband, with the money protectively wrapped to her saree
sons for the demand of independent Jharkhand for Adivasis3 corner. When we go to the field numerous such incidences came out.
(personal interview 2016)
was to give them control over resources. However, since the
inception of the state in 2000, at least 102 memoranda of Thus, there is a critical nexus between individual cases of
understanding have been signed by the state government with violence on women and the deprivation of the collective rights
Economic & Political Weekly EPW october 20, 2018 vol lIiI no 42 45

of Adivasi communities. Neo-liberal agendas and “bureaucrat- dynamics, such as by family members wanting to usurp land,
ic governmentality” exercised through the medium of colonial particularly of an old, single or widowed Adivasi woman
laws has led to the brutal state repression of Adivasis, inflict- (Nathan and Kelkar 2006: 74–75); due to superstitions related
ing not just economic violence, but both physical harm (such to deaths which are otherwise caused by lack of health and
as through armed conflict and militarisation) and mental dis- sanitation, and no access to public health systems (Kannabiran
tress. The Planning Commission 2008 report acknowledges 2012: 254); as a lesson for spurning the invitation for a physical
that in some places the Naxalite movement has been more suc- relationship from a male member; or for raising voices
cessful in helping the landless, while governments have failed. against patriarchal exploitation by local activists and health
To change the status quo, primacy has to be given to acco- workers. “Witch accusations are extremely common and hurled
untability over outcomes, in order to make progressive legisla- against each other even amongst family members in matrimo-
tions such as the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparen- nial, property or family dispute but you never know when
cy in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, these could be acted upon,” informs the mahila thana inspector
2013 successful. The effectual control of decision-making has at Ranchi. A member of an SHG shared the following account:
to be handed over to the indigenous communities in support of Since a widow lives alone, everyone pressurises her. If she sits with
the court rulings of the Samatha v State (1997) and Orissa Mining any male then people say she is living off him. In my own case, any
Corporation v Ministry of Environment (2013) cases. Various interaction with a male even if he is a brother or a relative is looked
such measures have been taken in other jurisdictions, includ- down upon. I do not have a living husband, so my mother-in-law
objects to my interaction with even my brother-in-law’s son. Even if
ing dialoguing with the communities when objections are
I want to seek help from him for money or any emergency the family
raised, putting in place capacity-building exercises to aid legal members taunt and thus the support system is withdrawn. This puts
decision-making (New Zealand) and placing a moratorium of me in a precarious situation. Added with the prevalence of supersti-
5–10 years once tribal councils reject the use of their village for tion, even an instance such as a death of a child or a cow/goat could
a development project (Australia) (Commonwealth of Austral- turn the tide against a woman. Just last year five elderly ladies were
publicly humiliated and killed by the village mob in the opposite vil-
ia 2008). The state needs to place tribal women and men at the
lage Marai Toli when a schoolboy died and police were not allowed to
centre as members of the environmental assessment board even enter the village initially. (personal interview 2016)
and as project authorities, rather than exercising force and
engaging in brutal killings to influence their decision-making. The accusation of witchcraft may eventually subside or ten-
Related to this, the neo-liberalist agenda and active militari- sions could escalate to any point leading to humiliation, sham-
sation go hand in hand, and 11 districts in Jharkhand remain ing and demonising the victim, and can even lead to rape or
most affected by conflict between the “Naxals” and the mili- cold-blooded murder. The complicity or ignoring of such acts
tary, as part of the “red corridor” bordering with neighbouring by village chiefs and community members, active involvement of
states. Chhattisgarh (3,111) and Jharkhand (3,104) have the ojhas (faith healers), along with vulnerabilities of the accused
highest number of “Naxal-related” incidents and casualties in women and their families complicate the situation. Nima
the country according to available data from 2007–124 (Bhow- Kumari asked her husband in the military to return immedi-
mick 2013), notwithstanding the extrajudicial killings, rapes, ately and address the panchayat when she heard whispers of
tortures and sexual assaults that go unaccounted. The then witchcraft allegations against her. However, few have a simi-
chairperson, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, lar recourse, and the option of filing a legal case is almost non-
Rameshwar Oreon, said, existent. The first hurdle is that the victim does not know
I am aware of the situation of tribal women in conflict areas. In 2015
when to act and legal process is only initiated after an act of
in Bijapur district, Chhattisgarh, around dozens of tribal women were violence is committed. Maomi (30–35 years old) was attacked
assaulted and raped with force by the police, while the CRPF [Central with an axe and killed while watching children play, several
Reserve Police Force] stood outside the villages as guards. The district years after her brother had left for Jamshedpur and her mother
police went in, demanded a feast, ate bakra (mutton), drank alcohol,
expired. She had hesitated in taking legal action earlier as she
took away goods and went on a rampage but mostly these cases don’t
reach us. I think CRPF should be trained and not think tribal wom-
had felt that the “village atmosphere looks fine” and that the
en are easy, cheap and that we can do anything to them. They call allegations would be forgotten in due course of time.
us uncivilised, we find their behaviour to be uncivilised.5 (personal The presence of the police at the time of the commission of
interview 2016) the act is rare, and subsequent reporting and evidence in not
forthcoming. Assuming the woman approaches the police dur-
Violence in the Name of Tradition ing the gestation period between the allegation and wrongful
The belief in spirits (the good) and witches (the bad) has been action, for the most part, the police is not trained for strategic
a central tenet of the Adivasi life. In the postcolonial develop- legal intervention. Mahila thana staff members admit that
ment regime (1970s–1980s onwards), there has again been a they have never intervened in witch-hunting cases. Before
remarkable rise in witchcraft-related murders (Kaur 2012). The 1999, police officers treated these cases as family disputes, and
accusation of sorcery or witchcraft, argue feminist scholars, even after the enactment of Bihar Prevention of Witch (Daain)
cannot be given religious–social sanctity as this is often a garb Practices Act, 1999, which was later adopted by Jharkhand as
to exploit Adivasi women, though men are sometimes accused the Prevention of Witch-hunting (Dayan Pratha) Act, 2001, the
too. Accusations are often deployed due to social and gender police continue to treat them as internal family or property
46 october 20, 2018 vol lIiI no 42 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

matters unless a grievous offence is committed, making it dif- where the tribal woman is often a minor, either with children
ficult to lodge a criminal complaint under the first information or pregnant, at times having entered the relationship at a
report (FIR). young age of 8–15 years. The tribal women bear violence till
In cases where an FIR is filed, the evidence is extremely hard the time their partners abandon them or renege on the prom-
to gather as witnesses turn hostile due to fear and pressure ise of a marriage after being in a live-in set-up, whereupon the
from the involved parties. Charges should be framed using the women seek help from the police.8 This problem has been
special law compounded with the Indian Penal Code (IPC), made acute by non-tribal and tribal men who marry or devel-
1860. Often due to faulty investigations, the prosecution is un- op a relationship with young girls for trafficking and prostitu-
able to establish the motive of the accused in the courts. Poor tion, usurpation of property or mere convenience. In 2015,
prosecution leads to a high rate of acquittals and bails. Mean- Jharkhand reported 1,654 cases of cruelty and 1,522 cases of
while, as with most cases of violence against women in India, dowry (highest in India)—a trend seeping into the tribal society
in the rare circumstance where the victim files a complaint, from dominant groups (NCRB 2015). At the Ranchi women
commuting from remote areas with little knowledge of court police station, however, legal recourse was discouraged by the
procedures and limited monetary means make for an extremely police, “depending on the factual scenario or the need to save
harrowing process and many give up halfway or “compromise.” the relationship and protect from a long legal process.” A legal
When a single woman (like Maomi) is murdered, there is counsellor said:
usually no immediate family member to follow-up, unless A tribal girl had a live-in relationship for 10 years but after domestic
social activists and the media intervene. abuse, the partner left her. Mahila thana took no action for one month,
Thus, Jharkhand records the highest number of witchcraft- then the boy appeared stating his wish to “take her back.” The girl was
not in agreement and wanted to pursue the case but the thana was
related cases in the country, and though such crimes often go
given a bribe so the case could not progress. No support from natal
unreported, in the last decade (2007 to mid-2016) at least family came forward, she was vilified by neighbours, her house was
3,854 such cases have occurred within the state, according to ransacked and goods were damaged by her partner. Ultimately, when
the High Court of Jharkhand in the Court On Its Own Motion v no recourse was left, the girl left for the Naxalite movement. This is
The State of Jharkhand (2015) case.6 Yet, the court in its order the third case where I know a woman left for the Naxal movement in
similar circumstances. (personal interview 2016)
dated 27 July 2016 highlighted the failure of state efforts and
awareness drive campaigns. Activists quibble that there is only In the rural context in Chatwal village, tribal women are
one educational poster in the whole state at Kalyan Vibhav, married before the age of 18, not only due to prevalent tradi-
that too in English. Though in 2016 the state machinery called tions and lack of educational avenues, but also due to the fear
public hearings on dayan pratha (witch-hunting), introduced of trafficking or elopement. Alongside marital relationships,
fast track courts in five districts and allocated compensation live-in relationships were prevalent in the village, which were
for family members, these piecemeal efforts remain far from also disadvantageous to the women in some cases. For ins-
effective. The legal machinery needs to approach these cases tance, three cases of live-in relations were present in the
with greater sensitivity to factors such as gender and socio- village where married men were with another partner they
economic status, and approach the issue with a broadened had met through brick and kiln work.9 Domestic violence was
understanding of crime against women (under the IPC amend- voiced as a key concern faced by tribal households as men hold
ment, 2013). It needs to ensure social, legal and psychological power, with the women’s SHG pinning alcohol abuse and pov-
support for the victim starting from the preliminary stages of erty as additional factors, and the closure of the village alcohol
the trial (Mehra and Agrawal 2016). shop as a key issue. The political–business nexus of alcohol
shops across Bihar and Jharkhand has faced similar opposition
Violence and Indigenous Concerns from women’s groups. The Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act,
The relative autonomy and freedom accorded to women in 2016 introduced a ban in Bihar, though in the legal challenge
tribal communities has been well-recorded (Roy Burman the Patna High Court strangely held right to liquor to be “a
2012).7 Traditionally, there are no strict taboos related to fundamental right to privacy” and the final decision is pending
choice in marriages, sex and live-in relationships, and tribal in the Supreme Court (Confederation of Indian Alcoholic
customs of Gotul, Gharghusiya and Dhumkuriya Pratha are Beverages Companies v State of Bihar 2016). While drinking of
notable. However, there continues to be a high prevalence of mahua has been part of tribal culture, the tribal women
child marriage, with 55.7% of girls marrying below the age of oppose foreign liquor shops, which they believe have intensi-
18 years, the third highest ratio of child marriage in the country fied the problem.
(Planning Commission 2015: 55). On the issue of inheritance and ownership of land, it was
Domestic violence has been internalised in the society as found that no tribal woman has gained such rights in the
it is well known that domestic violence becomes more widespread village and customary practices of ghar jamai and taben jom
when communities, families, and couples are subjected to poverty, (in Santhals) were known but not very widely practised. The
armed conflict, or social upheaval, particularly of the kind that upsets position of custom rule of Uraon was clarified in Sinta Munda
conventional gender roles. (FIMI 2006: 27) and Others v Jonathan Munda (1968):
The inspector of Ranchi mahila thana estimates that 15 out of The parties are governed by their customary laws under which the
20 cases from the tribal community are of domestic violence, widow does not inherit the properties of her husband and neither does

Economic & Political Weekly EPW october 20, 2018 vol lIiI no 42 47
the married daughter inherit the properties of her father. If a person leading to outmigration, Chatwal does not face this situation.
dies without a male issue, then his widow and unmarried daughter There is poverty and many migrate to accumulate cash (around
hold the properties of her husband/father in lieu of their mainte- `20,000– `25,000 are the reported earnings for six months of
nance. This right to hold the properties in lieu of maintenance also
work) and help invest in the home—to get pucca house, invest
entitles a widow a life interest in the properties and she is entitled to
remain in possession of the properties as a limited owner and as long
in farming, pay-off loans, savings, etc. Migration also provides
as she is in such possession, her possession cannot in any way mature an escape route from matrimonial, family and community
to an absolute title of ownership as against the rightful heirs of the feuds, including accusations of witchcraft and choice marri-
deceased. The widow has, therefore, no power to alienate the proper- ages; and particularly attracts youngsters who wish to explore
ties by sale or by gift. and enjoy freedom. Some return seasonally or find permanent
Thus, in a 10-village survey in Jharkhand, only 4% of hous- employment avenues in the city, though all participants
ing plots and 3% of agricultural plots were found to be owned complain of inhuman conditions and exploitation at work sites.
solely or jointly by women, in contrast to 59% owned by men
(Chandran 2016). Yet, in Madhu Kishwar and Others v State of Trafficking and Child Labour
Bihar and Others (1986), the Supreme Court refused to strike Of serious concern here is the vulnerability of minor children
down a similar custom and urged that inheritance claims should procured under trafficking rackets. Many young girls fall into
be decided on a factual basis, with due consideration of women’s the trap of sexual trafficking, perform domestic labour in in-
rights. This judgment not only failed the petitioner but is widely human conditions or are sold as brides in “women-starved”
understood on the ground as unequivocally establishing the states. Some end up as bonded labourers for farms or the
customary law. Today in individual cases the women not only carpet industry but very few are rescued under the Bonded
have to navigate for kin and family support, but also the few Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. I was informed of cases
who dare to pursue legal avenues face legal impediments as in Chatwal where close relatives were involved and even
opposition lawyers strongly challenge their standing in the court. known dalals (brokers) are present who form a chain with
Recently, in Bahadur v Bratiya (2015), the Himachal Pradesh street vendors to provide the phone for arrangements between
High Court recognised equal rights of Gaddi women in inherit- the girl and the dalal. The girls may leave the village out of
ance, though under extremely different circumstances.10 their own choice with a “friend”12 without knowing that they
A major impediment in the argument for land rights for trib- may be exploited. The parents may or may not object or them-
al women in Jharkhand is the method of acquiring tribal land selves approach for a liaison, and in some instances assist in
by non-tribals through marrying local tribal women and hoodwinking the vigilance at Ranchi station by accompanying
circumventing land alienation laws (Xaxa 2008: 480). Thus, the girl till a few stations, from where they return, and the girl
for tribal women marrying outside, the ceremony of bithala11 and the dalal go onwards. A member of the SHG revealed:
leads to social ostracism and fine imposed on the family, From our village, one young minor girl was taken by her sister and
unless the parents formally cut ties with the daughter and pro- she returned to the village only at the age of 20–22 with a man of
her grandfather’s age who had been “keeping” her for nine years after
vide a feast to the village. There have been instances where
he found her raped on the street near the hospital where he worked.
tribal councils or miscreant elements of the village have infli- Then four minor girls who left through a lady dalal (a regular visitor)
cted violence—raped tribal women or killed their husband/ went untraceable, and after a year only one returned pregnant and
partner for not toeing the line—leaving no option for similarly died within two months due to an unknown disease. In 2015, two girls
of 6th and 7th standard were taken on 11 April and 19 April, and were
situated couples but to elope. Finally, though there is extreme found dead on the train. When dead bodies were brought to the vil-
gender imparity in land rights, it is now recognised that the lage it was a major turning point which deterred people from sending
ownership of land alone with an unequal partnership of men young children to a great extent. (personal interview 2016)
due to displacement and distress migration (Rao 2005: 2516) With rudimentary facilities at the village primary school,
can be equally burdening for the women, as discussed ahead. children hardly develop interest in studies there and prefer to
bunk school to earn at the nearby eit bhatti (brick kiln), where
Migrational Burdens on Indigenous Women a six-year-old child can break coal, a nine to 10-year-old can
On an average, only 19% of the ST population are cultivators in carry bricks and 12 to 13-year-olds can carry up to 10 bricks and
Mandar district, and others come in the category of agricultural be paid accordingly. Despite the 2016 amendment to the Child
labourers (both main and marginal) or “other work” category. Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 with stringent
Since land fertility provides for only one crop, in the agricultur- punishments (while making it a cognisable offence and limiting
ally lean season, many venture either to work at mines in Bokaro, work at hazardous industries), inspectors remain non-existent
Jamshedpur or Dhanbad or other states for various occupations. on the ground and child labour continues across the country.
Forty-nine percent of the population (1,201 of 2,447 people, as According to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons
per the Census 2011) in the village is illiterate and their occu- (2012), 55%–60% of all trafficked victims are women, and 27%
pational scope upon outmigration is fairly limited to within are children. India has adopted the Resolution on the UN Global
the unorganised sector. Few male members who have garnered Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, 2010 and in
white-collar jobs are highly respected within the community. 2011, internationally reiterated its commitment as a signatory
Though cultivation and access to the forest is curbed at to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in
some places in neighbouring districts due to threats of Naxals, Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the
48 october 20, 2018 vol lIiI no 42 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized sites, many women and their children are also abandoned by
Crime, 2000. However, this has not translated into effective their live-in partners. As Vasavi Kiro reports, “At one time, the
laws and policies. The archaic Immoral Traffic (Prevention) government found 3,000 cases of destitute women abandoned
Act, 1956 still persists while the anti-human trafficking bills by their partners (migrants from Bihar and Chhattisgarh) after
introduced in 2016 without consultation with civil society have closure of a mine” (personal interview 2016). On the other hand,
several lacunae (Seshu and Pai 2016). in Chatwal village, many couples not involved with agricultural
India informed the world community in 2013 that it has “a activities leave their children with larger families when they mi-
comprehensive scheme for prevention of trafficking, rescue, grate. The women take care of cultivation or work as agricul-
rehabilitation and reintegration and repatriation is already in tural labourers, apart from taking care of the bari and home,
place” (Mukerji 2013), that is clearly lacking on the ground. while the men migrate. Therefore, among the main workers, 67
The Anti-trafficking Nodal Cells at the centre and in the states (19.4%) are women cultivators and in marginal agricultural
lack a cohesive interstate police network. The Jharkhand labourers, the ratio of women is higher than men (Table 1).
police launched different phases of Operation Muskaan, under
which in 2015, 700 children were rescued. However, due to the Health and Reproductive Freedoms
lack of comprehensive rehabilitation schemes, there have been Far from making women’s health a priority in compliance with
many instances where the rescued teenagers have been a commitment to achieving gender justice, their healthcare is
reabsorbed into the exploitative trade. Without rehabilitation tied to their “reproductive duties,” as one responsible for popu-
and counselling, abused women and children are unable to lation stabilisation through sterilisation, or as vulnerable mothers
deal with trauma, fear experiencing shame at their native due to child marriage, lack of spacing, care and nourishment.
place and often return to the same trade. When it comes to maternal health, Jharkhand still fares badly
Worryingly, there are extremely low conviction rates for and has a maternal mortality rate of 245 (261 among tribal
such crimes. For instance, in Vikram Sinha v State of Jharkhand women) as compared to 174 of India. Four in 10 women are
(2013), an Uraon girl of about 18 years “fell” from the third malnourished and 70.6% tribal women of Jharkhand suffer from
floor of her employers’ house in Ranchi town, where she had anaemia (as compared to 56.2% in India) (National Family Health
been working for five years. According to her family members, Survey III 2005). Just 10.4% rural women and 25.3% urban
she was “not taken care of,” “working round the clock,” “not women receive a full antenatal check-up; only 38.3% rural
allowed to return to the village” and “not paid adequately.” women have institutional delivery or 26.6% have skilled health
However, the high court quashed and discharged all charges personnel at home, overall making 49.5% deliveries as safe;
under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, the and a meagre 25.4% receive financial assistance through the
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and Janani Suraksha Yojana scheme (Office of the Registrar General
Sections 370 and 374 of the IPC, deeming her work as “volun- Table 2: Shortfalls in the Healthcare System, Jharkhand
tary” and outside the purview of these acts. Aware of such Positions Required In Place Shortfall Percentage
physical, sexual and psychological exploitation of domestic State health centres 6,060 3,957 -35
workers, civil society has been demanding a comprehensive Public health centres 966 327 -66
law for domestic workers which ensures adequate minimum Community health centres 241 188 -22
wages, mandatory registration and established standards of ANM female 3,957 6,692 +69
Health workers female 4,284 7,170 +67
work conditions. While the legislature tabled and passed
Health workers male 3,957 386 -90.25
the Jharkhand Private Placement Agencies and Domestic
Doctors 327 372 +13
Workers (Regulation) Act, 2016 without debate or consulta-
Gynaecologists 188 32 -83
tion, the destination states, particularly Delhi and the centre Physicians 188 51 -73
have failed to actively pursue this key issue. Surgeons 188 36 -81
Lastly, there are additional burdens tribal women face either ANM - auxiliary nurse midwifery (most hired on contractual basis).
due to exploitation at worksite or, if they stay back, on account Source: Rural Health Statistics, 2014–15, Statistics Division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

of distress after the migration of husbands. Women activists and Census Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs nd). The
complain about the serious lack of legal avenues when tribal situation is made acute with the following shortfalls in the
women are exploited at the worksite, frequently by site incharges healthcare system, as evident from the data in Table 2.
or employers. After the closure of coal mines or construction In terms of healthcare personnel, there is an extreme shortage
Table 1: Working Population in Chatwal Village of specialised doctors and gynaecologists. The
Main Workers Marginal Workers Fact-finding Mission to Godda by the National
Total Main Cultivation Agricultural Household Others Marginal 3–6 Months 3–6 Months
Alliance for Maternal Health and Human
Workers Workers Labourer Industry Workers Cultivation Agricultural
Labourer Rights (2014) after 23 maternal deaths, including
Total 862 663 345 195 3 120 199 39 148 from Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups
M 636 544 278 157 2 107 92 16 66 (PVTG), points out that healthcare provisions are
F 226 119 67 38 1 13 107 23 82 not women-centric—sahiyas (health workers)
(The remaining marginal workers work for more than three months).
Source: Census Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Jharkhand Census 2011, Ministry of Home
are not actively provided resources, mamta
Affairs, Government of India. vahan (ambulance service) do not provide return
Economic & Political Weekly EPW october 20, 2018 vol lIiI no 42 49

service, cross-border hospitals are closer but refuse treatment and At the beginning of the last century, the US government agg-
antenatal care members focus only on immunisation. Lan- ressively pursued sterilisation on the basis of the pseudoscience
guage and administrative barriers persist (deaths, for example, of eugenics, targeting minority women who were destitute and
are not being recorded). Tribal women are averse to medicines, indigenous, women of colour, the disabled and sex workers under
yet supplements are provided without incorporating traditional a policy held constitutional by a vote of eight to one in Buck v
foodgrains and food patterns in the public distribution system Bell (1927), till it was implicitly overturned in 1942 (Skinner v
(PDS) or looking into ethnomedicines. Due to acute shortage, the Oklahoma 1942). Today in India, the government under the
medicine expenditure is a burden on the families who in any garb of public health (entry six, state list), aggressively pursues
case are more trusting of local ojhas, vedhs and quacks. the agenda of population control and family planning (entry
Additionally, starvation and hunger deaths are common 20, concurrent list) by targeting unaware, ill-informed, coerced,
phenomena ignored by the state officials who termed it “food bribed poor women from tribal, Dalit and disabled communi-
poisoning” in a written affidavit to the Supreme Court (PUCL v ties. The annual report of the Department of Health and Fam-
Union of India 2007). This problem is acute in the drought-prone ily Welfare (2015–16) reports that 1,10,498 females, as com-
Palamu district and amongst the PVTGs. Despite the fundamental pared to 3,815 men, were sterilised in the last year alone.
right to food security, access to forest produce is curtailed while The Population Division of UN notes such extraordinary levels
the PDS in tribal areas functions poorly. Most health concerns— of sterilisation in India (65% of all contraceptive methods) and
malaria, dengue, diarrhoea, jaundice and endemic kinds of points out a “potential mismatch between what is being offered
fever are related to food security, lack of sanitation, non-avail- and what women would like.” To churn such extraordinary
ability of clean water and other basic necessities of life. Com- numbers, mass camps are organised such as one in Chatra,
municable diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis are prevalent. Jharkhand in 2015, where 43 women were sterilised overnight
While sexually transmitted diseases and HIV transmitted to under torchlight, despite a challenge to such practices (leading
women often go unreported, medicines for tuberculosis are to 363 deaths between 2010 and 2013) then being sub judice
not accompanied by proper nutritional intake. under Devika Biswas v Union of India and Others (2016). Taking

Money, Banking & Finance

March 31, 2018
Introduction – Partha Ray, Rohit Azad
Some Analytics of Demonetisation – Mihir Rakshit
Monetary Economics of Fascism and a Working-class Alternative – Romar Correa
Plurality in Teaching Macroeconomics – Rohit Azad
Mortgage Loans, Risky Lending, and Crisis: A Macroeconomic Analysis – Priti Mendiratta Arora, Mausumi Das, Ananya Ghosh Dastidar
Foreign Finance, Real Exchange Rate, and Macroeconomic Performance in India – Vineet Kohli
Demand-led Growth Slowdown and Inflation Targeting in India – Ashima Goyal
The Story of Currency in Circulation: Are We Back to Square One after Demonetisation? – Kaushik Bhattacharya, Sunny Kumar Singh
Can Central Banks Reduce Inflation? Evidence from 158 Countries – Surajit Das, Manpreet Kaur
Long-run Determinants of Sovereign Bond Yields – Geetima Das Krishna, Biswajit Nag
Appetite for Official Reserves – M Ramachandran, Stefy Carmel
The Banking Conundrum: Non-performing Assets and Neo-liberal Reform – C P Chandrasekhar, Jayati Ghosh
Engineering Banking Sector Recovery and Growth – A Vasudevan
Dynamics of Competition in the Indian Banking Sector – Pankaj Sinha, Sakshi Sharma
Deciphering Financial Literacy in India: Evidence from States – Manuela Kristin Günther, Saibal Ghosh
Can Jan Dhan Yojana Achieve Financial Inclusion? – Dipa Sinha, Rohit Azad

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50 october 20, 2018 vol lIiI no 42 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

note in the final hearing (2016), the Court asked the state to seek to broker deals instead of displaying gender sensitivity in
end the oppressive practice of sterilising women in large cases, while the local police are hand in glove with the power-
camps and to introduce a National Health Policy. It called for a ful elements of the village. When such instances were brought
transparent process and protocol and taking of informed con- to the notice of an inspector, acknowledging these as a “part of
sent from the women. However, this needs to be effectively the system,” it was blamed on the recruitment of “lower castes”
translated in practice on the ground level. and tribal women as junior officers. The police officers com-
plain of a dire lack of funding and technology, excessive “very
Conclusions important persons” duty, and non-bifurcation of patrolling
Legal pluralism, which was recognised to an extent by the colonial and investigation activities. Logistically, the mahila thanas do
rule (Sundar 2005), effectively broke down post independence. not have outreach beyond town area, while the local police
Today, tribal traditional systems mostly hold over the poorest stations do not prioritise cases of violence against women.
and rural populations. We only hear about the traditional There has been a call for reforms in the police for long, from
councils when they are involved in cases of violence like witch- Prakash Singh v Union of India (2006) to the Model Police Bill
hunting or honour killings (Dhagamwar 2013: 1491). Their of 2006 and 2015. Some tribal areas are still governed by the
adjudications particularly on family, matrimonial and commu- Chota Nagpur Rural Police Act, 1914 and, going by the rules,
nity issues can be detrimental to women. However, local there is under-policing for crimes against women with no data
women argue for egalitarian changes in the traditional system available on the crimes that the police refused to prosecute.
rather than abolition, pointing out that the formal legal system One effective measure is of patrolling by community women
is alien and has not served them any better. In fact, Jharkhand (Capobianco 2009), a concept also taken on by the Meitei
has only seen elections of the panchayati raj twice (in 2010 community women as meira paibi (torchbearer) in Manipur.
and 2015) while on the other hand, traditional systems have In Jharkhand too, the SHGs play a critical role in connecting
been dismantled, and the vacuum has created space for rise women to the law, in reporting violence, as peacekeepers and
of miscreants in the villages. as active participants in the community. In Mandar district,
At the institutional level, accessibility is a major barrier for the women from the SHGs, through their relentless efforts in
elderly and troubled women who have to throng the capital, assisting community members in pension, medical and other
without access to basic provisions, sitting on the floor and schemes, have gained access to homes and are creating open
waiting for hours, which is an ordeal. The tribal languages, laws spaces for dialogues on issues of violence. Through profitable
and customs are not known to the local magistrates, police officers ventures of purchasing goats and chickens for the collective bari,
and lawyers, and English/Hindi operates as the language of in Chatwal, they provide means of economic support otherwise
the rulers. The role of women in traditional authorities has lacking for women. In 2015, they effectively championed and
effectively broken down and crucially the study of customary brought electricity and a road to the village.
laws has failed to capture egalitarian practices, leading to non- However, when the Adivasi women and SHG members
translation as legal rights. Innovative ways have to be devised approach the police and the legal machinery with cases of
to deliver justice amidst existent bureaucratic loopholes. For crime against tribal women, they experience indifference
example, there is a practice at the SCW to keep the matter listed in from the authorities. This negligence of the police and
their office till the police ensures a complete compliance of the the state in exercising their discretionary powers and through
order. If the petitioner has filed any simultaneous petition at placing systematic barriers are actionable wrongs. In an
the local court, the commission also monitors these court pro- international case of Jessica Gonzales v The United States (2011),
ceedings. In terms of representation, apart from 50% of reser- the US government was found responsible for its failure to
vation at panchayat levels, five (out of 80) members of the prosecute 62% of the criminal cases, and 75% of rape and
legislative assembly are tribal women, and in 2015, the state had sexual assaults on native American women. Not providing
its first female governor from the tribal community. legal remedies is a human rights violation of the Adivasi
However, overarchingly, the positions in judiciary, police women who deserve equal protection under Article 14 of the
and administration go to dominant castes, particularly at the Constitution. The challenge now, lies with the government to
higher levels. As witnessed by the author, exploitation by the live up to expected standards, and come up with effective
police is starkly evident, where even women police officers policies and legal remedies.

Notes 3 According to the Annual Report of the Ministry 7 One traditional practice often retold to the au-
1 From 2017, the state legislative assembly of of Rural Development (2005), 86,291 cases reg- thor is of accepting beautiful hair combs from
Jharkhand introduced gender budgeting by arding Adivasi land alienation were filed for the proposing parties by women, while con-
compiling already introduced schemes which 10,48,93 acres of land (Srivastava 2018). firming a partnership with one of them through
have 30% or more allocation for women. 4 The data is available for six peak years of casu- the act of eating a betel nut.
2 Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, alties, after which there has been a decline in 8 In some cases, charges of rape or under Protec-
1996, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Tra- violence. tion of Children from Sexual Offences Act,
ditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest 5 The National Human Rights Commission held 2012 can be evoked by the police if it seeks to
Rights) Act, 2006, Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act, 16 sexual assault cases to be true, awaiting 19 penalise men for offending morality.
1908, Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, 1949 and more testimonies and it has sent a show-cause 9 The first wife stays back if she is dependent
Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettle- notice to the state government. with no support from natal family or to stake
ment Act, 2013. 6 WP (PIL) No 3684 of 2015. inheritance claims for children. She may get

Economic & Political Weekly EPW october 20, 2018 vol lIiI no 42 51
support from in-laws as the “legitimate” one. In Kaur, Pawanpreet (2012): “The Adivasi, the Colonial Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute,
one case, the first wife was chased away, while and the Great Indian Witch Hunt,” Sunday Vol 11, No 4, pp 735–46.
in some cases the husbands do not reveal the Guardian, 3 November, http://www.sunday- — (2010): “Gender, Land and Resource Rights in
presence of another partner at the work sites. India, Growing Inequalities: Gender, Land
10 It established gaddi customary laws to be part al-and-the-great-indian-witch-hunt. and Agriculture in India Today,” C Verschuur,
of Hindu law and the petitioners could not es- Khalid (2017): “The Tribal versus Development,” pp 209–05,
tablish concretely that the custom excluded Indian Express, 3 March, https://indianex- live/sites/iheid/files/sites/genre/shared/Gen-
women from inheritance. re_docs/Actes_2010/Actes_2010_Rao.pdf.
11 The Santhals have the ceremony of “bithala” garh-tirbals-development-big-companies-prof- Report of an Expert Group to Planning Commis-
where the family members of the eloped girl or its-umar-khalid-research-paper-ramjas-college sion (2008): “Development Challenges in Ex-
boy are excommunicated in front of the whole -4551609/. tremist Affected Areas,” New Delhi: Govern-
community and a fine is imposed on them for Mehra, Madhu and Anuja Agrawal (2016): “‘Witch- ment Press.
violating social norms. hunting’ in India?,” Economic & Political Weekly, Roy Burman, J J (2012): “Status of Tribal Women in
12 A friend could mean a male with whom she is Vol 51, No 13, pp 51–57. India,” Mainstream, Vol 50, No 12, https://
in a relationship or otherwise, or a female Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (2006):
friend. Many youngsters returning from the “National Family Health Survey III 2005–06,” Seshu, Meena and Aarti Pai (2016): “Sex Workers
city to their village acquaint themselves with New Delhi: Government Press. Discuss and Give Suggestions to the Anti-traf-
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Health and Family Welfare, 2015–16,” New Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous
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52 october 20, 2018 vol lIiI no 42 EPW Economic & Political Weekly