Fate of Indian tribal population in a growing, developing, aspiring nation

Imagine you live in a house and you are happy living in it. One fine day some unknown outsiders come and tell you that you will have to vacate the house because they will be able to use your house for economic gains that you are not able to do. You protest, saying that it’s your own house and it’s your right to stay there as long as you want to. Then the outsiders start talking of bigger purpose and greater gain for the larger community. The state takes the side of the outsiders as uprooting you will result into economic development of the country!

Welcome to the lives of the indigenous tribals dotting the jungles and hilly terrains of central India that is rich in natural resources! The tribal population, who have different roots, languages and customs have one thing in common — they have been living in these places for centuries in harmony with nature, with limited aspirations. Their lives have not been significantly impacted by modern civilization that India has witnessed for the past century, primarily because of their mindset — they are not drunk in consumerism, they live simple, self-sufficient lives and find all the resources they need from their immediate environment — the jungle, the rivers, the lakes...

It is definitely necessary to bring in some of the good stuff of our civilized lives to these people — education, primary healthcare, may be better cultivation techniques. It is probably better to expose modern civilization to them and let them to choose — whether to adopt new ways of living. They can choose what is most suitable for them. In the name of development, imposing a lifestyle that has been adopted in civilized urban and semi-urban areas on these people is undesirable.

What is more disturbing is the ongoing practice of uprooting the tribals to access the natural resources in the area. The tribals feel squeezed by these initiatives of occupying lands they thought they had owned for centuries. India, as an aspiring economy needs a lot of natural resources. To practical people it would appear prudent to mine these areas to the fullest extent. It is immaterial if tribals have to give away their way of living for this bigger purpose of economic development of the nation. Private business houses look at winning mining contracts as the input cost for their business becomes negligible. And, they are least interested in resettlement of tribal lives to an environment that would suitable for the tribals.

But, are all these fair? The tribals do not have the wherewithal to oppose the establishment but should our conscience and sensibilities let this continue?

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