Chhatra (Jharkhand), Oct.23 : It could be surprising for many in the country but Birhor, one of the primitive tribes in Jharkhand, is surviving by eating roots and leaves from the forests for ages. They lead a primitive lifestyle here.
They depend on roots and leaves taken from the forest for their staple diet. But social scientists are concerned about Birhors' survival. The fear stems from the knowledge that Birhors, at times, tend to eat even poisonous roots and leaves.
It is feared the habit may cause their extinction. Over two dozen persons, belonging to Birhor tribe, died in a fortnight recently after consuming toxic vegetation.
Besides, these people hunt for small animals and birds for their food from the interiors of jungles, particularly in Kolerma, Palamau and Chatra. These people mainly reside in Palamau, Garhwa, Singhbhum, Giridih and Lohardaga regions of the State.
"We have always undergone lot of problems. Life has always been tough and unfair to us. Previously, we used to have problems with the banks of rivers when the flood waters used to enter our villages. Now that problem doesn't persist any more, but our tough time continues," said Tusu Jhagi, a Birhor tribal.
These tribals complain of not having even the basis facilities to survive. They consume country liquor. Sometimes they even feed their kids with liquor, which at times creates serious health hazards for the kids.
"We even don't have basic facilities of food, shelter and clothes, and because of lack of any mode to commute. Often we can't take our dying people to hospital. It is very tough to live here," said Suva Uthalu, another Birhor tribal.
Naxalites operating in the region are also a major fear factor to these helpless Birhors besides fighting malnourishment. They fear exploitation by Naxals.
"No we don't get any help from administration. Sometime they send us clothes and sometimes they send Kadhi Chawal (rice and curry made from curds) for us. That's the only help we get from the Government. We have to manage things on our own and that's how we survive," said Dunga, another Birhor tribal.
The government officials claim they are aware of the problem and say that they are making attempts to reach out to the needy tribals.
"Government is trying its level best to support Birhors. We make huts for them and also provide food for them. Government is planning to come up with more schemes for protecting them," said Prahlad Purana, Block Development officer, Girdhor Block, Chhatra. By Girija Shankar Ojha