Keonjhar: In order to bring about a sea change in the living conditions of Keonjhar district’s primitive tribe ‘Juanga’, Juanga Development Agency (JDA) was formed in 1978 and has since been working in this area. So far, crores of money have been spent, but development has still been a mirage for them.
They are still living in the same penury, in the same dilapidated huts, leaving everything at the mercy of God.
This Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) mostly lives in jungles of Bansapal, Telkoi, Ghatagaon and Harichandanpur blocks in Keonjhar district. Initially, JDA was working only in 35 Juanga-dominated villages in Bansapal block. Later, such villages in Telkoi, Harichandanpur and Ghatagaon blocks were included.
As per the 2018 census, a total of 5,078 Juanga families are living in 54 villages in those blocks.
JDA has been working for the development of Juanga people since 1978. This period is long enough to bring about strong changes in the lives of these people. But, the real picture tells a different tale. A mere peep into their houses will be enough to know what JDA has done for them during this period. With not being fortunate enough to get pucca houses, many Juanga families are still living in the dilapidated huts and in unhygienic conditions. In rainy and winter seasons, their difficulties get aggravated. But they are helpless. Having no choice left, they are living with such difficulties.
The fact that JDA has done precious little for the development of Juanga people is evident from their living condition. Similarly, the pathetic condition of roads, drinking water, education and healthcare facilities have also exposed the negligence and apathy of the government towards them.
At a time when the government is trying to wean away tribal people from practicing Podu Chasa, such practice is still extant in Junaga villages. Lack of awareness and not getting works under MGNREGS have forced them to continue traditional Podu Chasa. Consequently, this has caused a substantial damage to the forest and the environment.
There is also Mission Jeevika to help them out. But, due to want of proper management, the Juangas are not getting much benefit from this.
“Besides JDA, Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) and block administration are also working for the tribe’s development. Yet, the pictures of Juanga villages and their living condition have not changed as they should have had over the years,” lamented social workers and Juanga leaders (locally known as sarddhars).
In this regard, when project manager, JDA, Banaj Nayak was contacted, he said, “JDA is not getting them houses under any Awas yojana. It is the job of the block administration. Similarly, the job of constructing roads in the region also rests with the block administration. JDA is responsible for Mission Jeevika, agriculture, drinking water facility and works under MGNREGS.”
Notably, Covid assistance money was recently distributed among the Juanga families. But many were left out as the list didn’t have their names. In this regard, the left-out families met the district Collector and handed over a memorandum to him, requesting him to take steps for disbursement of the Covid assistance money.