Dr. Javaid Rahi
With two amendments, made by Parliament, later incorporated in the Constitution of India, in the year 1989 and 1991, twelve tribal groups from Jammu and Kashmir were declared ‘Scheduled Tribes’ under article 342 of the Constitution. After enlistment in STs, the Union Government has granted special rights to all of them with a provision of 10 percent reservation in jobs /promotions in J&K State and 7 percent in Central Government run departments. Further, by virtue these amendments the ST groups of J&K have been made constitutionally empowered with entitlement of all rights and benefits available to other tribal groups living across in India.
Population of Tribes
As per the census conducted in the year 2011, by Govt of India, the tribal groups together constitute 11.9 % of the total population of J&K state, which is 0.14 per cent population of country , counting 14,93299 people .But, Gujjars and Bakerwals -the main tribal groups of Jammu and Kashmir -are not stratified with figures of census released by RGI. They time and again agitated in public forums and argued that they were not enumerated properly, as around 6 lakhs nomadic population were under seasonal migration along with their livestock to upper reaches of north-western Himalayas , when the census held.
Among the total tribal population of State , the Gujjars – Bakerwals together constitute 79.7 % of the total ST population of the state. The Rajouri district which is thickly populated by Gujjars- Bakerwals is representing the highest proportion of total tribal population of State followed by Poonch, Kargil, Leh and Reasi districts.
As per the schedule of population in census report 2011 , issued by Registrar General of India , the tribal population especially the Gujjars and Bakerwals resides in each district of the state in a sizeable proportion.
Low Literacy rate among tribes
Despite the state government’s continuous efforts to encourage education among the Scheduled Tribes groups , the literacy rates of some of the Tribal communities of Jammu and Kashmir especially the Gujjars and Bakerwals is extremely low as compared to the national and state average, as said in census data. The literacy rate in India , as per Census 2011, is 73 percent and for STs at national level it is 59 percent only .But in J&K, only 50 percent tribals are shown literate. The main reasons of the low literacy among tribes are poverty, conflict, topography and superstitions. The female literacy rates extremely lower as compared to the national average.
Gujjars at bottom, Bot of Leh at the top
The census report 2011 revealed the harsh facts that despite Government initiatives , the Gujjar and Bakerwal tribes are still at the bottom of the graph , in terms of their literacy rate, in comparison with others tribes of state.
Low Literacy among Gujjars – Bakerwal women
The Gujjar -Bakrwal women also figures at the bottom in the entire picture, with lowest literacy rate among the Schedule Tribe women of India and the State of J&K. As per figures of Census 2011 they are at the bottom as 82.2% of them are still illiterate only 17.8 are able to read and write to some extent. Due to lowest figure of literacy a big chunk of Gujjars- Bakerwal women are facing big brunt of neglect , exploitation , ignorance and suppressions in the general society.
The literacy rate among ‘Tribal Women’ at national level is 50.35% and in state of J&K it is 41.08% only. As per the census data of RGI the women folk belonging to other tribal groups are comparatively better in respect of their education , then the Gujjar – Bakerwal women. As per RGI data 41.4% women belonging to Sippi Tribe are literate. Further, 31.52% of Gaddi, 40.79 % of Changpa, 44.71of Brokpa,47.28% of Purigpa , 48.53% Beda,49.79 % Garra, 50.24 Balti,52.32 Moon and Bot tribe women of Ladakh is figuring on top with 63 .5 % literacy in J&K.
Issues and challenges before Tribal Education
There are multiple reasons of educational backwardness of tribes of J&K especially the migratory tribes like Gujjars and Bakerwals. Some critical issues and problems in the field of tribal education are as follows:
* Migratory way of life –Due to tribal way of life which is based on bi annual seasonal migration , the Tribes mainly Gujjars , Bakerwals, Gaddi, Sippi and Changpa moves from one place to another in search of food and fodder , thus their children suffers a lot in term of education.
* Location of Tribal Population – The hilly and border area locations of habitation of Tribes creates main hindrance for their children to attend the schools.
* Economic Condition – The shambling tribal economy is also a great hindrance in way of tribal education. The tribal and nomadic population usually engage their children to add human recourse and labourer power to run their daily affairs to supplement the family income.
* Early Marriages – Due to the strong tradition of early marriages among the nomads , they do not educate their children who fall between the age of 10-18. This reason is also adding to percentage of school dropout among both the tribe which is highest as compared to other tribes.
Government Programmes for Tribal Education
Apart from Govt run general schemes and programmes, the State Government is also focusing on tribal education since 1976-77. They initiated a few steps for educational developments of tribes mainly Gujjars and Bakerwals but after lapse of round about 40 years these steps have proven ill-conceived, insufficient and inadequate in view of the requirement of the tribal population .It also lacks proper planning and implementation mechanism.
As per census data 2011 the population of Gujjars and Bakerwals in J&K is around 11 Lakh with 980654 Gujjars and 113198 Bakarwals ( Present 13.5 Lakh) which constitute around 10% percent of total population state. For this huge population of tribes the State Government runs only 23 Gujjars and Bakerwal Hostels with around 2125 inmates (1600 boys and 625 girls).Presently, there is no school functional in J&K under any Scheme of Union Tribal Ministry, though 5 hostels buildings are under construction at different locations.
In addition to above 175 one man ‘Mobile Primary Schools’ are working in the State under Education Department to provide education to children of 6-12 age who mainly belongs to migratory population of Gujjars and Bakerwals.
Suggestions to revamp tribal education System
A total revamp is required in Tribal Education System to bring the literacy rate up in tribal groups especially among Gujjars / Bakerwals and to place them at par with other tribal groups.
* Identify Schools in the State having more than 60% tribal students and declare them as Tribal Schools .
* Create Tribal Educational Zones in the districts, post special staff and provide adequate facilities to them.
* Establish new residential schools in nomadic and tribal areas where ST population lives temporarily.
* Convert Gujjar / Bakerwal Hostels into residential schools on the Prototype of Central Schools/ Novodaya Vidhalya.
* Provide in time mid day meal , Scholarship /free books/ uniforms to nomadic children.
* Forced Schools should be activated in the areas where tribal are reluctant to send their wards to schools,
* Start special Adult Education Programmes for nomadic elders be started.
* Give special awards to tribal students for excellence in the field of Education.
* Constitute a State level Committee on Tribal Education which can give suggestion/ recommendation to govt on the issue.
* Conduct broad-based study on present educational system viz a viz Tribal population to find out the short comings in the existing system of tribal education.
* Awareness campaign should be stared through Radio, TV and community programmes which will give knowledge to tribes about importance of education.
* Appointment of Local/ community teachers in Tribal designated schools.
* Some part of Education should be in their mother tongue.
* Teachers Award for best results in Tribal areas be started.
The present set up under the leadership of Education Minister Naeem Akhter , is extremely keen to change the entire system , to provide quality education through Govt run schools. The Tribal Education sector also requires immediate attention of Tribal Minister Mehbooba Mufti -( Chief Minister) and our Education Minister, for its total revamp; “AYE KHANA BAR ANDAZ E CHAMAN KUCH TU IDHER BHI”.
( The author is a Tribal Activist and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dr. Javaid Rahi