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Displaced From Their Forests, Adivasi Herders Have No Option But To Make Jewelry For A Living

In the past few decades, many Adivasi communities of India have been evicted from the forests where they had been living for hundreds of years. In almost all cases, the reason is either “rehabilitation” or their inability to provide proof of their residence. The former is what happened to the members of the Hakki Pikki tribe of Karnataka who have been “rehabilitated” to cities but have not been provided with assistance to subsist in an alien environment.

Some members of the Hakka Pikki tribe sell bracelets made of copper and bull horn wire

Historically, the Hakki Pakki were a semi-nomadic tribe from the western and north-western Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. They were traditional hunters and were dependent on animals like foxes, cows, bulls, etc. for their livelihood. In 1950s and 60s, the tribes were rehabilitated by the then central government to different cities around India, predominantly in southern Indian states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

In Karnataka the communities were rehabilitated into the edges of cities like Bengaluru, Mysuru, Hassan etc. The actual rehabilitation though, remained on paper only. While they were herded to the outskirts of big cities, they lost their traditional mode of living and are struggling for basic needs.

Remembering the days, social worker and elderly Hakki Pikki member, Ramakrishna says that 30–40 years back, things were very bad for the tribe members as there was no shelter for them. “After decades of struggle and rehabilitation to corners of forests and villages in the country, the Karnataka government gave each family in this colony two-acres of land for farming and housing. But we did not have any way to have an income. Being hunters, we did not know how to do agriculture or build houses.”

To protect themselves from starving, the community members started selling their traditional ayurvedic oils and tried to make a living.

From the days of rehabilitation, the members found the village life unsettling. Shiv Shankar, another elderly member says that he is not yet used to living away from the forest. “The forest is our home. These villages scare us,”. He adds that over the years, the tribal community has moved away from hunting towards floral decoration, jewelry-making, and producing oils as their primary business.

Seeking help with rehabilitation

When it comes to assistance in business operations for the Hakki Pikki, the Karnataka government has not been much help. In January 2021, the Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka, Dr. Ashwathnarayan had announced that under the Department of Social Welfare, “Scheme Unnati” will provide aid to members of STs and scheduled castes (SC) in setting up their businesses. However, members say that they have not benefitted from the scheme.

Subhaschandra Natikar, Co-ordinator of Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Study Centre, Karnataka University, Dharwad, says that crores have been spent for the development of tribals, but these development seems to be only on paper. The standard of living of the Hakki Pikki people has not changed over the years.

Ramakrishna hopes that things are going to get better and hopes that business opportunities reach the tribe. “Other tribe members have also realised that there is a lot that can be done with the help of the government."

“From financial and farming sources to lands, etc there are a lot of open branches where we can explore opportunities with business people, " he added.

About the Author: Jinit Parmar is a journalist who covers rural India, politics, technology and more. Twitter - jinitparmar10


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