The process of development and participation are inherently universal. Therefore the underdevelopment and backwardness of tribal population in Orissa in general and of the tribal dominated Koraput (undivided) district in particular has been attributed to their low level of participation in the developmental plans and programmes. Changes though take place but the pace of change is very slow and discouraging. Culturally, socially, economically they stand apart from the mainstream culture for which they can not keep pace with the development achieved by the latter.
However with the passage of time these hilly people have started believing that medicines and injections could be more relied upon than their customary faith in magic, traditional medicines and occultism. Tribal mothers carrying their babies in their arms to the nearby hospital for immunization and consulting doctors for advice bears a testimony to the change in their thinking and perception. It is quite unusual to see today a tribal lady presiding over the meetings of Palli Sabha or Gram Sabha. Tribal women in clusters are seen to have thronged the corridors of banks for their weekly deposit in their self help group (SHG) accounts. A tribal-parent when asked about his opinion on the school functioning where his son was reading replied in assertive that he had lodged a complaint with the management against the teachers who were either absent on that day or were not taking classes being engaged in gossiping. Tribal elders are seen to have queued before the concerned authority to claim and apply for their old age pension. Using water from the boring wells, participation of these ‘girijans’ in an appreciable number in ‘Parab competitions’, tribal children’s quantitative increase in joining schools, substantial falling in the number of drop-outs and their regular attendance in the schools, tribal college girls’ participating in the college elections as candidates, morning roads in tribal areas see less traffic of people carrying ‘lotas’(jugs) of water for the use in open toilet and finally their evening congregation in community centres to view T.
V. and listening to radio programmes are instances of social change. Signs of acculturation are also seen. Their adoption to modern clothing style, change in the way of expression and the use of the words like ‘heart problem’ ‘time’ ‘bank’ etc. bear evidences of such change. Tribal villages are now well connected with all weather roads which are likely to be an important component of their development. Above all a person from their community in the recent past has scaled up to the height of becoming the Chief Minister of Orissa is not only assuring but also a source of optimism for the future of the so called marginalized community in the state.
However the narrative above is not the whole truth but a silver lining in the dense dark clouds. Despite some signs of change they still continue with their primitive ways of thinking and living. It is said that the tribal people are ‘the men of the moment’ and they do not care to believe in a better tomorrow. Unless this attitude is changed there will be no meaning of introducing several developmental programmes targeting their development. A glaring example of such dichotomy and disinterestedness is seen in the meetings of ‘Palli Sabhas’ and ‘Gram Sabhas’ where paucity of attendance has been observed. Like their counterparts in other communities the tribal elites too take the lead and grab the fruit of development programmes leaving less of the pie for the fellow people in the lower rungs. Therefore success of the policies lies in the public awareness about the policies and their participation, change in attitude of the target group, commitment and accountability on part of the government officials and NGOs and above all the social responsibility of the tribal elites.