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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 26 New Delhi June 16, 2018

Intra-Tribal Disparities in Asset-acquisition in Kerala’s Wayanad District

An Overview

Monday 18 June 2018

by Raimol Pappachan and P. Stanly Joseph

The tribal populations are the aboriginal inhabitants of our country and are found in all parts of India. They have been living a simple life based on the natural environment and have adopted a cultural pattern congenial to their life and the social environment.1 The tribal commu-nities have a very simple technology which fits well with their ecological surroundings and conservative outlook. They practice different types of occupations to sustain themselves and live on “marginal economy”. A tribe is usually considered an economically independent group of people having their own specific pattern of credit, wealth, capital formation, land tenure and good tangible and intangible economic status.2

The traditional tribal economies were self-sufficient subsistent economies and the tribal people satisfied their meagre wants through hunting, collection of minor forest produce, primitive cultivation etc. The economic activities of tribes are mostly centred around forests and low productive land cultivated in the traditional way. Economically, the tribal communities are very poor because 70 per cent of them have neither permanent nor stable source of living. The prohibition on shifting of cultivation, commercial exploitation of forest resources and the Land Reform Acts have brought about radical changes towards pauperisation in their economic life. As a result they were forced to depend less on forest products and made to work as wage earners and more so as bonded wage labourers.

Tribal Communities in Wayanad

Wayanad is one of the important tribal belts of Kerala with abundant economic potentialities, but happens to be among the most neglected backward districts of Kerala. As in the case of Kerala, one could find heterogeneity and disparities among the tribes in Wayanad with a significant population of 18.53 per cent. Wayanad district has the highest concentration (36 per cent) of tribes in Kerala with Paniyas, Kurichiyas, Kurumas, Adiyas, Kattunaikkas etc.

Paniyas, the most deprived tribal community in Kerala, are the numerically largest Scheduled Tribe of the State occupying almost one-fifth of the total tribal population. In Wayanad, Paniyas form almost three-fourth of the total Paniya population in the State.3 Kurichiyas migrated to the Wayanad plateau between the first and third centuries AD; they represent the first agricultural tribe to have settled in Wayanad district.4 The Kurichiyas are the second largest Adivasi community in Wayanad district.5 Kattunaikkans are said to have migrated from the neighbouring forests of Mysore. Ethno-graphic accounts reveal that they inhabited Calicut earlier. Now they are mainly distributed in the Wayanad district of Kerala.6

Study Design

The population in the study comprises 598 sample households of three different tribal communities, namely, Paniya, Kuruchiya and Kattunaikka from one municipality and four panchayats of Mananthavady taluk in Wayanad district. This study tries to assess and compare the asset acquisition of tribes under study along with the extent of inequality.

Asset-holdings

Asset-creation is possible only from the surplus income. As the savings of the tribes are meagre, their asset-holdings form a small proportion. The total asset value in this study represents the existing market value of the land under the possession of each tribal household, farm structures and infrastructures, irrigation system, physical properties like human housing, vehicles and jewellery, farm machineries and imple-ments, consumer durables, livestocks and animal housing. It includes physical assets like land, housing, etc., financial assets like gold and jewellery, small savings, LIC policies and chit funds and consumer durables like household articles, vehicles etc. Assets owned by the tribes are classified into movable and immovable assets. Under the movable assets livestock and agricultural implements are taken into account. In the second category, the immovable assets, land, house and other property are included. To get a better understanding of the asset-holdings the data collected on various types of assets owned by the households are categorised into three as land ownership; physical property, which includes housing, jewellery and vehicles; and consumer durables.

Land Ownership

Agricultural land owning is considered as the principal asset among the tribal households. Acquiring other type of assets mostly depends on its quality and quality on the possession of land.

The table shows that among the 598 sample households 29 (4.8 per cent) are landless. That means 11 (4.1 per cent) Paniya households, 2 (.9 per cent) Kurichiya households and 16 (14 per cent) of Kattunaikka do not have any land.

A majority of the tribal households possesses land and they have to submit the documents of ownership of land to the authorities in order to get loans for constructing houses. The total area is generally restricted to few cents and only a small number of the Kurichiya households have bigger size of land that is used for agricultural purposes. Even though the Kurichiya households have separate houses, the land is a common property of the family and each member of the family has a share.

Table No. 2 shows that about 44 per cent of overall tribal households possess about five cents of land each. Tribe-wise it is 73 per cent Paniyas, 7 per cent Kurichiyas and 52 per cent and Kattunaikkas respectively. Between 6—20 cents of land is owned by 16.64 per cent of the tribal families under study. When categorised tribe-wise 14 per cent Paniyas, 21.4 per cent Kurichiyas and 13.26 Kattunaikka families possess 6-20 cents of land. In total tribes about 29 per cent have between 20 cents to one acre of land. While 48.37 per cent Kurichiya households and 31.64 per cent Kattunaikka families and 11.33 per cent Paniya families comes in this category, only 10 per cent of the overall indicated that they have more than one acre of land. It is observed that about 80 per cent of Kurichiya households have more than 10 cents of land. But only 15.62 per cent of Paniyas and 40.82 per cent Kattunaikkas belong to this category.

As per the Agricultural Census Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, out of 256 Paniya landholders 252 (98.44 per cent) possess marginal land (less than one acre). Among 215 Kurichiyas 164 (76.28 per cent) and out of 98 Kattunaikkas 95 (96.94 per cent) possess marginal land. In total 89.8 per cent tribal households are the marginal landholders. The small tribal landholders (1 acre to 2 acres) are 48 (8.44 per cent), out of which 3, 42 and 3 are Paniya, Kurichiya and Kattunaikka households respectively. Among Paniya households 1 (.39 per cent) and in Kurichiya households 9 (4.79 per cent) are semi-medium landholders (2 to 4 acres). No tribal household possesses medium (4 to 10 acres) and large land (more than 10 acres). Figure No. 1 shows the ownership of land.

The graph shows that a majority of Paniya and Kattunaikka tribal households possesses less than 6 cents. In all other categories the Kurichiya tribe has the highest position.

As only few tribal households have their own land, a majority of them engages in share-cropping. According to this, rent is given to the actual landowners as a reward for the utilisation of land either in the form of money or as cultivated agricultural product. The Paniyas are cultivating in the lands on lease as they don’t have their own land for cultivation. Even if some of them possess land it is not suitable for cultivation. They will get wages for their labour as well as a share of the product. The Kurichiyans and Kattunaikkans are cultivating either in their own land or land on lease. Sometimes they are doing share cultivation with non-tribals. Paniyans and Kattunaikkans are rarely engaged in such fruitful work. None of the Paniya household is reported as having own cultivation.

Agricultural land among the tribal households can be classified into irrigated and non-irrigated. Terraced cultivation is also practised. Paddy, Bananas, Coconut and Arecanut are cultivated on the irrigated land by the tribals. The main source of irrigation in the study area is rain, canals and perennial streams originating from the mountain tips.

Value of Landholdings

Most of the tribal people in India are landless. For this reason they have to depend on wage labour and collection of forest products. A very small number of tribal communities reportedly have pattas for their land portion. But a majority of such landholding groups is deprived due to the nonavailability of written document on their land.

Table No. 3 explains the distribution of the value of landholdings of the tribal communities. Out of 598 sample households 268 (47 per cent) possess the value of less than Rs 50,000 followed by 98(17.23 per cent), 63(11.07 per cent), 56(9.84 per cent), 32(5.63 per cent), 29(5.09 per cent), 11(1.93 per cent) and 12(2.11 per cent) in the value of landholdings group of 50,000 to 1 lakh, 1 lakh to 2 lakh, 2 lakh to 4 lakh, 4 lakh to 6 lakh, 6 lakh to 8 lakh, 8 lakh to 10 lakh respectively. About 2 per cent households have more than 10 lakh value of landholdings.

A comparative analysis of the tribal communities depicts that majority of Paniya households (74.6 per cent) and Kattunaikka households (55 per cent) possess a value of landholdings of less than 50000. Among the 217 Kurichiya tribes the highest of 30.24 per cent comes under the category of 2 lakh to 4 lakh and the lowest is 4.18 per cent households in the 50000 to 1 lakh category. From this study we could understand that the Kurichiya tribe possess high value of landholdings followed by Kattunaikka and Paniya tribes.

Physical Property (House, Vehicles and Gold)

Physical property mainly includes housing, vehicles and gold possessed by the households.

Table No. 4 explains the distribution of tribal households by the ownership of physical property.

The table depicts that out of 598 tribal households, the households having physical property are 540 (90.3 per cent). Tribe-wise it is Paniya, 241 (90.3 per cent), Kurichiya 208 (95.9 per cent) and Kattunaikka 91 (79.8 per cent). As the government is providing houses to houseless tribal households, a majority of them possesses physical property.

The value of physical property is categorised into different groups. Table No. 5 shows different categories of households on the basis of the value of physical property.

The table shows that among the tribal households the highest 30 per cent possesses the value of physical property from Rs 3 lakhs to Rs 4 lakhs and the lowest 2 per cent belongs to below the Rs 50,000 category. A comparative analysis of the tribal communities shows that among the Paniya households about 54 per cent possess the value of physical property of worth between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 3 lakhs and about 42 per cent households come under the category from Rs 3 lakhs to Rs 5 lakhs. About 25.8 per cent of the Kurichiya tribe and 36 per cent of Kattunaikka tribe come in the category of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakhs, while 49 per cent and 39 per cent of the Kurichiya and Kattunaikka tribes come under the category of Rs 3 lakhs to Rs 5 lakhs. It is notable that among the Kurichiya tribes about 19 per cent households belong to category wherein the value of physical property is more than Rs 5 lakhs.

Consumer Durables

The modern era of information technology has witnessed far-reaching changes in the communication sector of Kerala as well as in the tribal habitats. The tribals turn their attention towards purchasing of consumer durables like jewellery, radio, TV, etc. The possession of consumer durables by the tribal communities is listed in the Table No. 6.

A majority of the tribal households possesses television sets in their houses and the tribe-wise possession is 80 per cent, 35 per cent and 34.5 per cent among the Kurichiya, Kattunaikka and Paniya tribes respectively. About 60 per cent Kurichiya tribe possess jewellery, 82 per cent possess mixie, 60 per cent possess gas connections, 12 per cent possess two-wheelers and 9 per cent possess four-wheelers. In the case of the other two tribes, possession of these consumer durables is either meagre or nil except in the case of mixie.

Very few Kurichiyans and some politicians among them possess vehicles and refrigerators. None of the household has washing machine. Owning of vehicles is also rare among them. A few Kurichiya youth possess jeep, auto, two-wheelers etc. The Paniya and Kattunaikka youths rarely engage in these activities. The autorikshaws supplied to the Paniya youth under the Employment Guarantee Programme also have been found to have a short life due to their irresponsibility.

There is no proper communication network in the tribal colonies of Wayand. Almost all the households have cell phones. The consequences are a waste of time; waste of parental income, etc. The use of cell phones is harmful and adversely affects the life-style of the young generation. Further, they are induced to do unnecessary activities and depend on unlawful money-making habits. Figure No. 3 shows the ownership of consumer durables of the households.

The graph shows that Kurichiya tribal households possess a large number of consumer durables more than the Paniya and Kattunaikka tribes except in the case of possession of radio.

Table No. 7 depicts that about 28 per cent of the tribal households possess the value of consumer durables in the category of Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000. Among the Paniya households, the highest 18 per cent possess the value of consumer durables of Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000. In Kurichiya and Kattunaikka tribal households the highest 47 per cent and 22 per cent have the value of Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000. From the study of the table it is evident that about 43 per cent of Paniya households and 46 per cent of Kattunaikka households have no assets. But among the Kurichiya tribe the households having no assets are only 3 per cent.


Total assets include land holdings, consumer durables and physical assets like housing, vehicles and gold etc. Table 8 gives the tribe-wise estimated asset values of sampled households.


A majority of tribal households (52.5 per cent) possesses total physical assets under the value of less than Rs 4 lakhs followed by 180 (30.1 per cent) households, 75 (12.5 per cent) households and 23 (3.9 per cent) households in the asset-value group of Rs 4 lakhs to Rs 8 lakhs, Rs 8 lakhs to Rs 12 lakhs and Rs 12 lakhs to 16 lakhs respectively. Only 6 (1 per cent) households possess physical assets worth more than Rs 16 lakhs.

The comparative analysis of the tribes shows that the highest 80 per cent of Paniya households and 57 per cent of Kattunaikka tribal households come under the category of less than Rs 4 lakhs. Among the Kurichiya tribe the highest 42 per cent possess the physical property worth between Rs 4 lakhs to Rs 8 lakhs. It is noted that 13.4 per cent of the Kurichiya households have physical assets of more than Rs 12 lakhs. Among the Paniya and Kattunaikka tribes there is not even a single household possessing assets worth more than Rs 12 lakhs. The above data show that the asset-holdings of the Paniya and Kattunaikka tribes are lower than that of the Kurichiya tribe because they are comparatively backward than the Kurichiya tribe. The distribution of households by the value of physical assets is shown in the next page.

The graph clearly shows that most of the Paniya and Kattunaikka tribes have physical assets of only less than Rs 4 lakhs. However, the Kurichiya tribe possesses highest value of physical assets in all other categories.

Inequalities of Asset-holdings by Lorenz Curve

The Lorenz curve (on page 20) is drawn for assets of the sampled households in the study area. The slope of the Lorenz curve indicates the measure of inequality. The Lorenz curves for assets of the tribal communities are shown here.

The figure depicts the inequality of asset-holdings of the sampled tribal households. It is observed from the figure that 20 per cent of the Paniya households possess only 3 per cent of assets, while among the Kattunaikka tribe no single household has asset holdings in the same category. About 8 per cent assets are possessed by 20 per cent Kurichiya households. As we go to the higher income groups the asset inequality is more among the Kattunaikka tribe than the other two tribes. Regarding 80 per cent of households the possession of asset holdings of the Kurichiya, Paniya and Kattunaikka tribal households are 60 per cent, 52 per cent and 50 per cent respectively. The study proves that asset-inequality is high among Kattunaikka tribe followed by the Paniya and Kurichiya tribes.

Gini Ratio of Concentration

Gini Concentration Ratio (Table No. 9) is the ratio of the area between the line perfect equality and Lorenz curve and the full area under the line of perfect equality.

Table No.9

Inequalities of Assets by Gini Ratio of Concentration

Tribe Asset

Paniya .417

Kurichiya .319

Kattunaikka .491

The table shows that the inequality of asset-holdings is high among the Kattunaikka community as the Gini ratio is high for the Kattunaikka tribe (0.491) followed by the Paniya tribal households at 0.417. The lowest inequality is measured among the Kurichiya households as the ratio is 0.319.

The distribution of the tribes regarding assets in the following boxplot clearly shows that the tribal communities’ assets are skewly distributed.

Figure No. 6 which depicts the comparative analysis of the tribal communities regarding individual asset inequality clearly identifies that the distribution of assets are skewed. The median value of the Kurichiya tribe is high followed by Kattunaikka and Paniya tribes. There are more outliers among the Kurichiya and Paniya tribes while the Kattunaikka tribe has only a few outliers. The number of outliers shows the abnormal assets of the households related to the respective tribes.

Findings

The total area is generally restricted to few cents and only a small number of the Kurichiya households have bigger size of land that is used for agricultural purposes. Even though the Kurichiya households have separate houses, the land is a common property of the family and each member of the family has a share.

It is notable that among the Kurichiya tribe about 19 per cent households belong to a category wherein the value of physical property is more than Rs 5 lakhs. In the case of other two tribes, possession of these physical properties and consumer durables is either meagre or nil except in the case of mixie. The tribals generally are not at all conversant with modern electrical appliances.

Very few Kurichiyans and some politicians among them possess vehicles and refrigerators. None of the household has a washing machine. Owning of vehicles is also rare among them. Some Kurichiya youth possess jeep, auto, two wheelers etc. The Paniya and Kattunaikka youths rarely engage in these activities. The autorikshaw supplied to the Paniya youth under the Employment Guarantee Programme is also found to have a short life due to their irresponsibility.

The study by using the Lorenz curve proves that asset-inequality is high among the Kattunaikka tribe followed by the Paniya and Kurichiya tribes. The inequality of asset-holdings is high among the Kattunaikka community as the Gini ratio is high for the Kattunaikka tribe (0.491) followed by the Paniya tribal households at 0.417. The lowest inequality is measured among the Kurichiya households as the ratio is 0.319.

On the basis of the boxplot there are more outliers among the Kurichiya and Paniya tribes while the Kattunaikka tribe has only a few outliers. The median value of the Kurichiya tribe is high followed by the Kattunaikka and Paniya tribes.

Suggestions

The landless tribes and marginal farmers in the tribal areas are to be provided with cultivable land based on availability. Surplus agricultural land obtained after ceiling and government land can be converted into agricultural communes with agro-industries and marketing facilities should be provided to the landless people willing to undertake agricultural activities. The development of land already in their possession through the distribution of improved agricultural instruments, seeds, manure and extension of agricultural facilities can ensure higher returns from the land. As many tribal families as possible must be encouraged to take to settled agricultural practices.

All houseless families should be given houses and house-sites in a phased manner. Most deserving people should be given preferential treatment. Financial assistance in this connection should be provided through an agency to the party which is accountable to the government or the concerned authority. Effective supervision in the construction of tribal houses can improve the quality of the houses. Use of substandard materials and corruption should be checked at all stages. Proper legal actions should be taken to avoid the exploitation of contractors and non-tribals in the construction of tribal houses.

Efforts should be made to diversify the economic activities thereby reducing the traditional stigma related to certain occupations. The adoption of scientific methods and advanced technology along with proper training can improve the economic status of the tribal communities. Large scale and small scale industries in the public as well as private sector in rural and tribal concentrated areas should be started and certain jobs can be reserved for STs. The rising trend in earnings from occupation can increase the level of income thereby leading to increased savings and asset-acquisition.

Conclusion

 

The modernisation of the tribal economies and to integrate them with the larger national economy without disrupting the traditional values and culture along with their ecological balance, innocence and conditions of socio-economic equity is a real challenge of tribal development. The intra-tribal disparities in asset-holdings can be reduced by the effective tribe-specific and area-specific development programmes based on backwardness and priority of needs.

Reference

1. Deogaonkar, S.G. (1994), Tribal Administration and Development. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. p. 9.

2. Vidyarthi, L.P. & Rai, Binay Kumar (1977), The Tribal Culture of India, Concept Publishing Company, pp. 96-97.

3. Paul, Arun. D. (2017), ‘The Need for promoting indigenous Indicators to Tribal Development—A Case Study of the Paniyan Tribe from Kerala’ in Bidhan Kanti Das and Rajat Kanti Das (Eds.), Rethinking Tribe in Indian Context Realities, Issues and Challenges. Jaipur: Rawat Publications. p. 87.

4. Madhava Menon, T. (1996), Encyclopaedia of Dravidian Tribes. Vol.I. Thiruvananthapuram: The International School of Dravidian Linguistics, p. 159.

5. Census 2011, Registrar General of India, Government of India.

6. Singh, K.S. (2002), People of India, Kerala, Part III, Vol XXVII, Anthropological Survey of India, New Delhi: Affiliated East West Press Pvt LTD, p. 481.

Dr P. Stanly Joseph is the Head and Associate Professor, Department of Economics, St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous), Tiruchirappalli.

Raimol Pappachan is a Research Scholar, Department of Economics, St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous), Tiruchirappalli.

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