Empowering Tribals with Literacy and Life Skills

In its endeavour to uplift the tribal communities across Jammu and Kashmir, Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha-led government has initiated several mega flagship schemes and other interventions—assuring a “vibrant socio-economical market” for the tribal students and budding entrepreneurs.
“Many steps have been taken. We have sketched a brief account of our recent initiatives for education of tribal students aimed at laying a strong foundation. There is a very challenging task ahead in this regard," Secretary, Department of Tribal Affairs, Dr Shahid Choudhary said.
“Many steps have been taken. We have sketched a brief account of our recent initiatives for education of tribal students aimed at laying a strong foundation. There is a very challenging task ahead in this regard," Secretary, Department of Tribal Affairs, Dr Shahid Choudhary said.GK Layout Desk

Secretary, Department of Tribal Affairs, Dr Shahid Choudhary said that in a recent historic decision, the scholarship for higher studies of tribal students got enhanced by 125%. This he said was pending since 2012. “More than 300 new courses added under scholarship scheme under Rs 50 Cr budget,” Dr Choudhary said.

Dr Choudhary said that under the Star-100 initiative, the Jammu and Kashmir government sponsored coaching for the Union Public Service Commission UPSC, Civil Services examination. “Under this initiative, nearly 100 tribal students have been selected.” He said that after a 125% hike in scholarships which was long overdue since 2012, the scholarship portal is now live for Jammu and Kashmir tribal students.

‘Education is the way forward’

He said that education is the only endeavour to empower the communities and bring some remarkable changes on the ground for the community upliftment. “Any community needs rich minds to lead from the front. We are also focusing on scouting budding entrepreneurs who will be later on guided for their future endeavours.”

He said that education of tribal students, particularly in remote areas, has remained a concern of the tribal communities, however, owing to various reasons the department could not move beyond the routine scholarships’ disbursement through the education department.

“Many steps have been taken. We have sketched a brief account of our recent initiatives for education of tribal students aimed at laying a strong foundation. There is a very challenging task ahead in this regard.”

He argued that in absence of any credible database and resultant lack of planning the dormancy of such efforts remained palpable and it certainly deprived a generation of its very basic right to education.

He informed that 1st Survey of Transhumant (migratory) population conducted in 2021 threw up surprisingly disappointing figures in all sectors and parameters of human development. “Education was no different.

It recorded a mere 16.74% literacy rate among a mammoth population of 6.12 Lakh, far below the national literacy rate of 74% even in the Census 2011, which pegged the literacy rate among STs at 59%,” he said. “The male literacy rate was recorded as 19.38% while female literacy rate at 14.08%.

These figures of literacy in 2021-22 are of alarming nature and deep concern not only for the community but for the policy makers, development administrators, educations and all other stakeholders. This is also reflective of gaps in ensuring inclusive education and honouring the Right to Education when it comes to the tribal communities.”

The status of education and literacy in villages was found to be no different. A survey conducted in more than 365 villages having tribal population of 500+ and constituting more than 50% of overall population, in 2021 revealed the literacy rate was just 29%, with male literacy rate as 37% and female literacy rate 23%.

The status of education attainment recorded to be further poor. The role of Tribal Affairs department is, broadly, ensuring that planning under the Scheduled Tribes Component (STC) allocated by the Government of India directly to the departments, is as per ground requirements and assured inclusive development and welfare.

He said that in this case the efforts of higher education and school education department over last few years have started yielding results however the primary education, hostel facilities, education of migratory students and availability of facilities in remote tribal areas remain top concerns.

The tribal affairs department initiated a number of interventions to bridge these gaps and augment the efforts of education departments at all levels.

According to tribal affairs activists, the tribal population of Jammu & Kashmir is among the nascent tribal groups joining the mainstream of planned development, to which they have brought a distinct and colourful cultural variety.

“The role of the tribal population and their economy is closely linked with the forests and they are living a substandard life because of their primitive mode of livelihood. Majority of them are placed below the poverty line, possessing meagre assets and are exclusively dependent on wages, forest produce and farming, that too in a traditional way which leads to non-remunerative returns,” said Mian Mehar.

“The peculiar aspect of tribals of our region is their scattered population who inhabit the difficult and remote geographic terrains which poses a severe threat to their speedy development.

Notably, the communities including Balti, Beda, Bot, Bota, Brokpa, Drokpa, Dard, Shin, Changpa, Garran, Mon, Purigpa, Gujjar, Bakerwal, Gaddi and Sippi, etc have been declared as scheduled tribes in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pertinelty, the in its consistent efforts towards achieving overall prosperity and development of Tribal people residing in different parts of the State especially in the hilly areas, the government created a separate Directorate of Tribal Affairs in the month of July, 2008.

The main objective of creation of this Directorate is to give an integrated and focused approach for the development of the marginalised section of the society “the Scheduled Tribe” who have lagged behind in all the shades of their life because of the factors may be historical, territorial and even natural.

The Directorate of Tribal Affairs has been created by the government for the implementation of welfare and development schemes related to the scheduled tribe community in an integrated and planned manner. The Directorate of Tribal Affairs shall strive to uplift the standard of living of Scheduled Tribes in the State. Following are the important areas of operation of this Directorate.

“The aim of the department has been to develop a society which offers a conducive and stimulating atmosphere for the growth and development, in a safe and protective environment; ensuring dignified life to the Scheduled Tribe population,” officials said.

“Promoting social and economic empowerment of Scheduled Tribe population through various policies and programmes, providing social security and institutional support to the Scheduled Tribe population Providing an equitable environment for development, growth and education of Scheduled Tribe population. Provide social security and financial assistance to School going ST students Providing Institutional Support for Development and Marketing of Tribal products/Produce’ from State Tribal Development Cooperative Corporations (STDCCs),” they said.

‘Expansion of Infrastructure’

According to officials, the first two hostels for Gujjar and Bakkerwal students were established in Jammu and Srinagar in late 1970s. the number of hostels for tribal students till 2020 remained 25. In close to last two years the department completed 8 hostels and approved the establishment of 25 new hostels, the work of which is scheduled to commence in August 2022.

Apart from this, 10 hostels started a few years back which remained hanging in balance owing to absence of mandatory administrative approval; codal formalities and tendering are being taken up this year for resumption of work after closure of unauthorised contracts and introduction of fiscal discipline. These efforts are aimed at having more than 70 hostels with the department over next two years and annual augmentation under central grants as well.

The department has earmarked a budget of ` 17.00 Cr for repair and renovation of hostels this year as a sequel to ` 10.00 Cr modernisation budget last year under which hostels have been equipped with modern furniture. The tuition fee for hostels has been enhanced from ` 1500/- to ` 6000/ per months to offer quality education in hostels while diet rates have been enhanced from mere ` 100/day to ` 175/day w.e.f July 2022 and further proposed to ` 250/day in revised budget.

Ironically the tuition fee and diet charges awaited more than a decade for revision which would normally happen every two years. In first of its kind initiatives the students enrolled in hostels for Class-XI to Post-Graduation are being given Tabs with pre-loaded educational content. Nearly 1000 hostellers will benefit from the scheme this year.

Another scheme has been launched to offer Civil Services Examination coaching to 100 tribal students this year in government empanelled coaching institutions of repute and 100 students for NEET/JEE examinations.

This will provide a major boost to meritorious and competitive students from poorest economic strata to achieve their dreams of qualifying such examinations for various professional courses and services as well.

Another unique initiative in coordination with School Education Department is silently changing the infrastructure landscape of schools in remote tribal areas under the pilot “Modernisation of Schools in Tribal Areas” launched in 2021. In first phase, 100 smart schools have been established across 20 districts at a cost of ` 20.00 Cr and more than 200 schools are being taken up this year to be provided with smart classrooms. The village development plan for this year focuses on more than 100 Village-Panchayats for quality education infrastructure.

“These initiatives have acknowledged the need for very robust and focussed system of tribal education, need for inclusive education and the development of special plans for different tribal areas and sections of communities given the poor educational and literacy levels,” Dr Choudhary said.

“The tribal communities, particularly the students, have responded constructively towards these initiatives and are contributing for development of a model education system,” he said, adding “the results of recent initiatives are quite visible and unequivocally acknowledged by the society, particularly the students.

Sustainability and up scaling of these initiatives are bound to pay rich dividends for tribal education. Tribal students need standard educational facilities at par with national norms and indispensable exposure to professional career opportunities globally.”

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