One of the districts of India’s Jharkhand State is making an attempt to provide substantial assistance for the health and welfare of the impoverished Birhor people. Local officials in the Bokaro District of the state, called Block Development Officers (BDOs), are being charged with the responsibility for making certain that the Birhor are safe and well fed.
An article in the Telegraph of Calcutta last Thursday did not refer to the tragic deaths of eight Birhor in the state back in early October, but the repercussions from that event in the Indian press clearly have prompted local officials to become more conscious of the poverty-stricken, indigenous people in their midst.
In deciding to place the responsibility for the indigenous society on the BDOs, the Deputy Commissioner of the District focused on coming up with reasons for their high mortality rate. They have a life expectancy of 40 years or less. A photo that accompanies the article shows a large hall crowded with Birhor attending a meeting last week in Bokaro. The BDOs, plus local welfare officials, will be conducting surveys in Birhor communities; they have been ordered to make special efforts to ascertain the needs of the people in Naxalite-infested areas of the district.
They will then meet with Birhor community leaders to discuss problems and to foster self-help groups as much as possible. The district government says it is concerned about basic issues in the Birhor villages such as the safety of their drinking water, their access to good food, the availability of medical services, and the possibility of an education for their children. One local official told the newspaper, “the government will leave no stone unturned” in its efforts to help the Birhor.