Sunday, July 8, 2007

We Real Cool


We real cool.

We Left school.

We Lurk late.

We Strike straight.

We Sing sin.

We Thin gin.

We Jazz June.

We Die soon.

-- Gwendolyn Brooks

Friday, June 15, 2007

Disability and Rehabilitation among the Santhals and Lodhas: An Anthropological Study among the Tribal Population in Jhargram,
West Bengal


ROLL NO: 606303



The present study is the outcome of field survey among the Santhals and Lodhas of Jhargram in West Bengal. The aim of the field survey was to have practical field knowledge and to get first hand experiences of the study undertaken, an inherent character of anthropological sciences.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Head of the Department of Anthropology, Professor Surinder Nath for arranging the field trip to Jhargram, West Bengal.

For completing this dissertation work successful, I would like to thank Professor S Channa who accompanied us to the field area and enlightened us with her valuable suggestions during the field work.

I would also like to express my sincere gratitude towards Professor P. C. Joshi for his constant support and guidance towards me. I feel highly obliged and indebted to him for his unending guidance, invaluably important suggestions and continuous encouragement during and after the field. The present study could be completed only due to his spontaneous help, guidance, inspiration and encouragement .I am thankful to my colleagues for their support and co-operation in the field and also to the people of Jhargram and the villagers of Gogna Shuli, Kadam Kanan and Sirish Chowk for the patience with which they answered all the questions. I would like to thank Mr. Jagdish for accompanying us to the villages and constantly helping us.

In the end, I would like to thank my parents who were the inspiration and encouraged me to study the field of Disability. Also, I am indebted to the disabled persons whom I met and who provided me with their life histories and told me about their life without any inhibitions.

Kabir Krishna
· Acknowledgment

Chapter I: Introduction
Medical Anthropology
Causes of Sickness
Spirit Intervention
Human Intervention
A Non-Medical Approach To Faith Healing
Types of Treatment
What Is Disability?
Commonly Recognized Disabilities
Models of Disability
Activism and Movements
The Disability Rights Movement
Anthropology and Disability
Culture and Disability
Culture - A Constant State of Change
Culture, Religion and Disability
Disability: Explanatory Models
Disability in Folklore
Culture and Treatment

Chapter II: Research Methodology

Chapter III: Ethnographic Profile of the People

Chapter IV: Disability In West Bengal
State Government Schemes for the Disabled People
Case Study - Sevayatan Kalyan Kendra

Chapter V: Disability Knowledge – Views and Terms
Views of the People
Terms of Address

Chapter VI: Life Histories of the Persons with Disabilities
Life History of Chandra Soren
Life History of Luxmi Soren
Life History of Kalika Hembrum
Life History of Mitra Mullik
Life History of Roop Chand Mullik
Life History of Shonali Bhukta

Conclusion with Suggestions


Chapter 1:



edical anthropology can be shortly defined as that branch of anthropological research that deals with the factors that cause, maintain or contribute to disease or illness, and the strategies and practices that different human communities have developed in order to respond to disease and illness (Baer et al., 1997). Medical anthropology is a sub-branch of anthropology that is concerned with the application of anthropological and social science theories and methods to questions about health, illness and healing. Some medical anthropologists are trained primarily in anthropology as their main discipline, while others have studied anthropology after training and working in health or related professions such as medicine, nursing or psychology. Medicine, health and illness are all partly cultural categories and different cultures have their own logic and alternative means to deal with processes. Medical anthropology looks at cultural conceptions of the body, health and illness. It also focuses on health behaviour and the illness problems as to how they are affected by social values and social relations.

Medical anthropology includes the study of ethnomedicine; explanation of illness and disease; what causes illness; the evaluation of health, illness and cure from both an emic and etic point of view; naturalistic and personalistic explanation, evil eye, magic and sorcery; biocultural and political study of health ecology; types of medical systems; development of systems of medical knowledge and health care and patient-practitioner relationships; political economic studies of health ideologies and integrating alternative medical systems in culturally diverse environments. Ethno medicine is the study of ethnography of health and healing behavior in various societies. Ethnomedicine also refers to the study of traditional medical practice. It includes methods of diagnosis and treatment. Ethno medical studies are conducted to evaluate the efficacy of traditional health care practices; the prevalence of illnesses and the distribution of knowledge about illness attributes; the negotiations and instantiation of illness identities; the power of discourse to produce as well as cure affliction; discourse as moral commentary; linkages between medico-religious institutions, models of self, power and the state. River’s (1924) pioneering theoretical classic “Medicine, Magic and Religion” defined medicine as a cultural system. He perceived medicine, magic and religion as three sets of social processes so closely interrelated that the disentanglement of each from the rest is difficult or impossible.

Anthropologists used different methods while writing about health and sickness in respective culture. The earliest anthropologists while explaining about medical beliefs and practices used conceptual systems, which were originally meant for phenomenological domain. The initial work of medical anthropology definition was made possible by the existence of ethnographical studies on rites and religion (Evans-Pritchard’s Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande 1937, Turner’s Forest of Symbols1967 and Drums of Affliction 1968, and Spiro’s Burmese Supernatural 1967). These studies were best ways to explain medical events in structurally simple, kinship based societies where the people’s attention was concentrated on the social and symbolic condition of sickness; by contemporary researchers of culture and personality school in ethnology; by solid roots of physical anthropology; and by the simultaneous action of an international movement for public health (Johnson and Sargent, 1990, Diasio, 1999). In the last three decades, however, a large number of publications focusing on: (1) Medical Ethnographies (Lewis,1975; Ngubane, 1977; Townsend, 1978; Kimball, 1979; Lindenbaum, 1979; Morsey, 1993; Ohnuki-Tierney, 1981; Young, 1981) ; (2) Specialised Collections (Lebra, 1976; Leslie, 1976, 1978, 1980; Kleinman, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981; Spicer, 1977; Ruffini, 1983; Gevitz, 1988) ; (3) Compilation (Loudon, 1976; Grollig and Haley, 1976; Landy, 1977; Logan and Hunt, 1978 ; Morley and Wallis, 1978; Van der Geest and Van der Veen,1979; Kleinman and Lin, 1982; Nichter, 1989, 1992; Romanucci-Ross, 1997); (4) Theoretical Works (Fabrega, 1974; Good, 1977; Kleinman, 1980; Blumenhagen,1980; McElroy and Townsend, 1979; Young, 1981); (5) Text Books (Foster and Anderson, 1978; McElroy and Townsend, 1979; Moore et al., 1980; Murdock, 1980; Wood,1980) have appeared.

Medical anthropology can be described as a sub-branch of anthropology that is concerned with the application of anthropological and social science theories and methods to questions about health, illness and healing. Some medical anthropologists are trained primarily in anthropology as their main discipline, while others have studied anthropology after training and working in health or related professions such as medicine, nursing or psychology. They may teach medical anthropology in university anthropology departments, medical and nursing schools and in community-based settings.

Themes and questions in medical anthropology include:
Development of systems of medical knowledge and health care
Patient-practitioner relationships
Integrating alternative medical systems in culturally diverse environments
The interactions between biological, environmental and social factors influencing health and illness at both individual and community levels
The impacts of biomedicine and biomedical technologies in non-Western settings.

Every culture, irrespective of its technological development, proviode cognitive categories that explicate the causes of an illness, the treatments that must be adhered to restore normalcy of health and the therapies that are essentially needed to nullify further recurrence of the ailments. (Bhasin & Srivastava, 1991).

Human being, since his genesis, has been afflicted by diseases of one kind or another. In fact, disease has become a part of his life. A disease can be conseptualized as an expression of man’s dynamic relationship with his environment. Deformity, accident and anxiety have been vicissitudes of life that man has always grappled with, calling for a counteractive response of by the society in which he lives. The body of knowledge regarding the nature, causation and cure (or the disease theory system) is socially rooted: the level of cognition of society is reflected in how it manages the health care system. In some cultures, medical beliefs and practices are comparatively non differenciated, thus, existing with magico–religious beliefs while in others, they may have an independent body, having dissociated from either magic of religion. It is also quite possible that these two systems of medical practices may co-exist. Thus, a complete ethnography almost always includes a study of the health institutions, besides an account of their kinship structure, political, religious, economic, social, and cultural institutions.

Medical anthropology studies the episodes of human confrontation with disease and illness and the adaptive aggrements they make for dealing with the deviations from normal health standards. It embraces many perspectives and foci of concern. According to Foster and Anderson (1978), these may be “ranged along a continuum”, one end of which is marked by a biological pole and the other, by a socio-cultural pole. Human growth and development, the role of disaese in human evolution and palaeopathology are placed under the biological matrix. Traditional medical systems, medical personal and their professional preparation, illness behaviour, doctor patient relationship, and the dynamics of introduction of westarn medical services into the traditional societies comes under the socio-cultural perspective. Midway along the continuum are placed epidemiology and cultural ecology. However, the biological and socio cultural conditions should not be percieved as two loosely connected fields in Medical Anthropology. In other words, it deals with the mechanism improvised by the society to deal with illness disorders and both concerns, at immunerable points, require the intrusion of data concerning physiological and biochemical factors as well as physchological and socio–cultural phenomenon stemming from others are required. Thus, Medical Anthropology is viewed as a bio-cultural descipline which concerns with both the biological and socio-cultural aspects of human behaviour, particularly with the ways in which the two interact throughout human history to influence health and disease.

An exhaustive perspective about Medical Anthropology has been given by Foster and Anderson in the following lines(1987:10)
“Medical Anthropology is the the term used by Anthropologists to describe:

Their research whose goal is the comprehensive description and interpretation of the dio cultural interrelationships between human behaviour, past and present and health and disease levels, without primary regard to practical utilization of this knowledge.

Their professional participation in programs whose goal is the improvement of health levels through greater understanding of the relationships between bio-sociocultural phenomenon and health and through the changing of health behaviour in directions believed to promote better health.

Hasan is of the opinion that the roots of Medical Anthropology are traceable to the development of anthropology itself. Infact, both in German and French traditions, there were doctors , Voltaire and Virchow, who were concerned not only with the biological concept but also with the social aspect of illness. They said that health of a person is dependent upon the policies of the state. They also opined that it was the duty of the state to provide people in case they fell ill and should also provide policies which can ameliorate the health standards of the people. Therefore Virchow went to the limit of saying that “Medicine is in fact a social science in its very bone and marrow”. This ment that we cannot separate medicine from social aspects and social issues. And this today, can be seen in the state welfare policies.

As we are now clear, while defining Medical Anthropology, the lens be focussed on the biocultural dimension. Here, both physical and social anthropologists in dileniating the biological aspects of health and disease while social anthropologists are interested on the dynamics of these categories in the context of social structure. When Medical Anthropology is studied by Social Anthropologists, four basic generalizations are important (Joshi et. al.)

Medical system (including ethnomedical system) is integral parts of culture.
Illness categories are culturally defined.
All medical systems have both preventive as well as creative sides.
Medical systems are multi functional.

Since a Medical System, relatively undifferentiated or differentiated, is rooted in the cultural system , a social anthropologist perceives illness as it is culturally defined. The native categorisation of illness is a product of cultural relativism.

Illness behaviour, the way in which the symptoms are perceived, evaluated, and acted upon by a person, may lead to the development of roles which may be called ‘sick’ role and ‘patient’ role, which when brought under the scrutiny of a doctor or a healer. When the ‘sick’ comes under medical attention, his role changes to that of ‘patient’. Eisenberg (1977;11) says that patient suffer ‘illness’, physicians diagnose and treat ‘diseases’ and their results a growing and inextricable relationship between the doctor (curer) and the patient, which is fundamental to the curing process. This is the most important paradigm around which the ethnomedical profiles of the societies that are studies are based

As compared to other disciplines of anthropology, medical anthropology is a young field. Therefore acquiring a distinct identity, studies pertaining to illness and diseases were undertaken as concepts of ‘Applied Anthropology’. It came to existence as a specialised study within the integrated field of anthropology only in 1963, which saw the appearance of the words ‘Medical Anthropology’ and Medical Anthropologists’, thus paving the way for an independent, yet integrated sub discipline within Anthropology.

“The development of anthropological interest in health and disease problems in part has been theoretically motivated.“(Foster and Anderson, 1978:8). Now, Medical Anthropology has become a part of Applied Anthropology and thus the anthropological research technique, theories and data can be used in programmes designed to improve health care in both developed and developing nations. For examples, Weaver believes that “Medical Anthropology is that branch of applied anthropology which deals with various aspects of health and disease” (Foster and Anderson,1978:8).

By definition, Medical Anthropology is the study of health and illness, which are two organising concepts. World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as a state of complete, physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease. To comprehend the behavioural component in the incidence of various diseases, one cannot crystallize the discipline into a one dimensional and theoretical concept. Thus one can speak of Anthropology of Medicine, the theoretical side and Anthropology in Medicine the Applied side.

There are several views in regard to disability across the world. They all have explanations for disability, and how individuals with disability are treated and are assigned appropriate roles and responsibilities. These explanations point to the fact that the people with disability have a different status. Many societies have cultural interpretation for disability. The view of Normal and Abnormal exists among most of populations. Divine displeasure, witchcraft or evil spirits, reincarnation and biology are all given as reasons. The feeling and status of being disabled is shaped by issues of class, gender, family structure, economics, education and regional/ national development. Studies on mental health and on culture specific compartmental disorders led to the formulation of the much discussed concept of culture-bound syndrome (McElroy and Townsend, 1989). There are some conditions or specific illnesses, which do not correspond to western diagnostic categories and are restricted to particular area. These diseases have limited distributions around the world due to the fact that unique combinations of environmental circumstances and cultural practices cause them. As these conditions do not fit standard psychiatric diagnosis, these are generally referred as ‘culture specific diseases’ or ‘culture bound syndromes’ and can occur among people who share the similar cultural values and beliefs. Some cause relatively minor health problems while others are serious and may prove fatal. For example, Kuru is a fatal culture specific disease of the brain and nervous system that is found among the South Fore, people of the eastern New Guinea Highlands. Hahn (1995) is at variance with the so called “culture-bound syndrome”. He contends that culture-bound syndromes are reductionists’ explanation for certain complex illness conditions i.e. explanations that reduce complex phenomenon to a single variable. He put forward that such conditions are like any illness condition; they are not so much peculiar diseases but distinctive local cultural expressions of much more common illness conditions that can be found in any culture (Hahn, 1995).

Causes of Sickness

In India, natural or supernatural forces explain illness. According to different beliefs, illness results from humoural imbalances stemming from diet, climate, social offences, life activities, astrological and imperceptible forces, spiritual action, witchcraft and sorcery. Accidents, disability, calamity, diseases and losses can be readily explained by holding supernatural forces responsible. Similarly tribal classify some diseases like colds, fevers and other respiratory infections as illnesses of cold (sardi ki bimariyan); and problems like boils, ulcers, piles, genitourinary disorders are believed to be illnesses of heat (garmi ki bimariyan). These illnesses are alleged to be caused by excessive internal cold or heat in the body or imbalance between them. Sickness is caused by social offences against dead or living or celestial world. Supernatural forces like wrath of gods, goddesses and evil spirits; sorcerers, witches and other agents can also cause illness. “In Rajasthan in north India, pox diseases- small pox (Bari Mata), measles (Choti Mata) and chicken pox (Acparo) are attributed to three mother goddesses. The manifestation of pox disease is caused by heat of her presence within the human body. Mata is considered powerful because of her connection with illness especially fever and pox” (Bhasin, 2005). Scientific medicine is believed to have no remedies for these afflictions. People appease mother goddess and perform rituals and visit temples. These propitiation rituals are well thought out remedies. “It was witnessed that traditional health care practitioners in Rajasthan understand Malaria as ‘coldness entering the body’; the ‘chill disease’, ‘three days disease’ or three fevers in two days, ‘dumpling in belly’ treat accordingly. The discrimination in each name for the complex illness of malaria, the varying spleen in the last stages, which could be described as ‘dumpling’ explains their understanding of the disease. In case of diseases like pox, miyadi bukhar (time bound diseases) and motijhara (typhoid), tribal are not concerned about etiology of the ailment but of development and consequences of it” (Bhasin, 2005). All over the world people believe in Spirits, Evil-eye; Sorcery, and Witchcraft as the root causes of sickness. Evil eye is one more cause of sickness. This is an illness that afflicts persons who are not very strong or resistant to illness. It is believed that some individuals cast a spell on others just by looking at them. Some do it involuntarily at whosoever comes across their paths; others do it voluntarily because they are jealous of others and desire to possess what others have. These individuals are known to be either very ugly or very beautiful, and when they cast the evil eye, the subject of their envy faces misfortune. The person may fall ill or have an accident. Children are believed to be particularly susceptible to the effects of the evil eye. Omens and dreams are also believed to be harbingers of illness.

Spirit Intervention
Tribal theory of sickness describes a different source of evil caused by invisible spirits that may be of ancestors that exist outside their social boundaries. These spirits inhabit trees, rivers, lakes, mountains and deserted places around the habitation. Possession is a powerful belief system prevalent in many parts of the world. Spirit possession is the concept that gods, demons, or other disincarnate entities may temporarily take control of a human body, resulting in notable change in the behaviour. Unlike demonic possession where the person is thought to be taken over by the devil or his demons for harm, spirit possession is voluntary, culturally sanctioned displacement of personality. Possession is used to explain unusual occurrences and behaviour.

Human Intervention
Human intervention is another source of illness. The people believe that diseases can be transferred to other people through various ways. Evil eye is considered another cause of sickness. People use the eye metaphor to emphasize evil emanating from envious eye to eye contact. The science of parapsychology describes the phenomenon as a type of hypnotism, exercising some kind of mind power, which is held by certain individuals. Causes vary from staring at someone for a long time or showing admiration or envy can have an effect, whether negative or positive. Compliments are usually believed to be the cause of the Evil Eye. Common symptoms of the Evil Eye are strong headache, nausea or fatigue. Practitioners who release victims from the spells pass the prayers on to the next generation. They try to cure the evil eye by amulets and charms or holy water, which they procure from religious practitioners.

A Non-Medical Approach to Faith Healing

The widespread popularity of religious and non-medical faith healers is due to the fact that people have deep-seated faith in cures brought through faith healing. Such people attribute supernatural causes to disease and for them it is important to know whether a particular disease in a patient is due to the wrath of a goddess, the work of an evil spirit, sorcery, witchcraft, or the breach of a taboo. Once the cure has been found out, obtaining a cure is a matter of following the advice given by a faith healer. The art of healing practiced in all the ancient civilizations like Indian, Chinese, Mesopotamian, or Egyptian was based on the belief that diseases were caused by different supernatural agencies. Patients as well as their relatives have complete faith in the competence and skill of the medicine man to cure these diseases by means of his supernatural powers. In India, according to Atharva Veda, people believed in the wrath of gods, the mischief of evil spirits, and the magic of human beings. Faith healing is still practiced in villages, tribal areas, and even in cities. Even though healers may adopt different methods, they follow a common working pattern. They identify the name of the illness and its probable causes, thus winning over the trust of the patients. The patient develops a rapport with the healer and believes he can cure him. The healer’s reputation, the aura created around him, and the equipment he uses - all add to win over the subject’s confidence. A suitable method of healing is selected, keeping the subject’s background and symptoms in mind. Medicine man starts by interrogation of the patient. He questions the patient in order to find out whether he has intentionally or otherwise broken a taboo; has been disrespectful to a deity; has not cared or provided for an ancestral spirit; if he has noticed any strange object in the surroundings; has had a quarrel recently with a neighbor, or relative; or if he suspects somebody intends him harm or illness. The medicine man asks the patient about his dreams, interrogates other family members to find out what they think about the probable cause of the illness, looking for omens. The role that faith plays in bringing about relief or cure is witnessed by practitioners of every system of medicine. Emotions and attitudes raised by a physician have a tremendous effect upon the patient. Some doctors are said to possess a ‘healing touch’. A large part of this healing touch depends upon the doctor’s personality and manner of eliciting the faith of the patient. The successful role of faith in a particular person and his blessings or medicaments in the cure of a patient, even though the latter may be suffering from a seemingly incurable disease, cannot be denied.


In most systems of healing, the treatment of a disease is decided after identifying the cause of that disease. Those who believe the cause of the disease to be the wrath of a god, influence of an evil spirit, sorcery, or breach of a taboo treat that disease with such measures which are appropriate for its cure and prevention. After the medicine man has identified the cause of the illness, he requests the different spirits by name to reveal them and to indicate their demand. He requests his helping spirit in the other world to find out the truth and reveal it to him, which the latter does either directly to him, or by entering the medicine man when he is in a trance and speaking through his mouth. Often patients benefit from this divination. Some get instantly well after a competent healer has diagnosed their case and advised the appropriate offerings. There are also cases where the diviner fails. Then other means of cure are adopted. In the case of wrathful gods and goddesses, propitiation is done through religious prayer, incantations, and offering animal sacrifices. In the case of evil spirits of various types, different measures are adopted which include propitiation, driving away the evil spirit, and exorcism. Some healers propitiate gods and goddesses by exorcism, rituals, sacrifices or incantations.

Traditional Healer

The traditional healer is an expert in curing diseases with out having basic knowledge of disease causation and treatment. He has the full knowledge of that particular culture. He understands the concepts of illness and knows all about causation and origin of disease as rest of the members of the society comprehend. The traditional healer, as defined by the WHO (1976), is a person who is recognised by the community in which he lives as competent to provide health care by using vegetable, animal and mineral substances and certain other methods based on the social, cultural and religious background, as well as on the knowledge, attributes and beliefs that are prevalent in the community, regarding physical, mental and social well-being and the causation of disease and disability. The use and practice of this knowledge is a responsibility that implies socially recognised and legitimized power. The traditional healer has a specific name in each culture, has the authority and respect of his community for his commitment to maintain the well being of everybody. With the advent of modernisation, new techniques and natural resources from other parts of the world were brought and incorporated according to necessities. As a resource for health care; traditional medicine still benefits ethnic groups and rural, urban and popular cultures in our country. As an alternative practice to official medicine, it retains its effectiveness and social legitimacy for large number of people.

In every culture there are specific social subjects that are chosen for their sacred and profane characteristics. Through the transmission of the traditions and cultural traits, all populations obtain the sum of the knowledge of cures and procedures that are based on their own worldview and these are recorded. In this fashion, the traditional healers in each society synthesise the ideology, the diagnosis and the therapies. Along with, the properties of natural elements, herbs and vegetation to be used for the cure are also learned.

Types of Traditional Healers

The traditional healers can be divided into 4 categories. (Bhasin, 1990)

1. Specialists in Home Remedies: These are the ones who are elder people who do not consider themselves as healers but suggest and gives plant remedies in case of illness.

2. Herbal Specialists: These are the ones who treat people with the help of herbs available in the nearby area. They learn the secrets of the trade from their fathers or any other expert in the required field;

3. Ritual Specialists and Spiritual Healers: These are the ones who treat with divination and therapeutic cult rituals. The therapeutic rituals as practiced by ritual experts and lay persons tend to focus on symbolically encouraging and assisting the putatively natural course of the sickness or on transferring it away from the patient’s body, rather than on ‘treatment’ or ‘cure’ in specific sense. Most of the popular sects and shamans involve varieties of rituals and medium ship. One of the largest and most widespread of the belief systems is the spirit possession ritual, where spirit mediums channel various gods and goddesses connected to the cult. The ritual specialist enters a trance before becoming possessed by the spirit. The possession usually occurs during religious ceremonies and only lasts during the event. Many believe that during possession, goddess speaks and heals through the healer. Trance-like state is indicative of spiritual possession. The cure involves the intercession of a spirit that has the power to expel the offending demon. The spirits use medium as vessel to help victims with their problems caused by demons.

Likewise, the victims become vessels for communications for the demons. It is during exorcisms that the victims would enter a trancelike state, and channel the voice of the demons. The supernatural powers are channelised through human hosts. “Tribal of Bharmour, Sikkim and Ladakh believe that in cases of possession the cure is not accomplished by the Shaman- (Hindu chela among Gaddis of Bharmour, Himachal Pradesh; Buddhist bongthing and pau among Lepchas and Bhutias of Sikkim; lhama/ lhapa among Bodhs of Ladakh and bhopa among the tribal of Rajasthan).” (Bhasin, 1990).

4. Magico-religious Healer: These are the ones who treat illness believed to be caused by supernatural forces. He exorcises evil spirits and suggests preventive measures against the attack of evil spirits. Charms and Amulets are also recommended. By far the most potent method of driving out spirits is exorcism - the expelling of evil spirits through the magic power of the word. Certain words have to be chanted at the right moment if the spirit is to yield to mechanical pressure or let it be transferred. These incantations can take the form of commands, such as ordering the spirit to relinquish its host, or appealing to more powerful spirits for intercession.


A small number of anthropologists have been studying the social and cultural significance of disabilities for many years, dating from Ruth Benedict's 1934 study of the diverse ways in which epilepsy was perceived and treated in different cultures. This interest in disabilities, however, still remains relatively marginalized within the broader discipline of anthropology. Such research broadens our understanding of the lives of people with different types of disabilities, maintaining both a sense of the social and cultural context within which such people exist, as well as exploring the ways in which they interact and make meaning out of the particular circumstances of their lives, along with the way their rehabilitation occurs is of uttermost importance to us. Accounts that incorporate both these aspects of disabled people's lives subsequently force us to question some of the assumptions that are bound up in the social model of disability.

What is Disability?

A number of definitions have been given to define Disability. One of the definitions that emerged in 1970s, given by Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation was “In our view it is society which disables physically impaired people. Disability is something imposed on top of impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolate and excluded from full participation in society. Disabled people are therefore a oppressed group in society."
"Fundamental Principles of Disability" (1976) - London: Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation

Disability was then defined by World Health Organization as “the outcome of the interaction between a person with impairment and environmental and attitudinal barriers he/she may face.”
By International Classification of Functioning (ICF) commissioned by World Health Organization (WHO) and sanctioned by DPI.

Recently, a new definition has emerged. It is from the point of view of the Disabled Associations. That powerful 1995 Disability Discrimination Act's definition of Disability is “physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-tern adverse effect on the person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities."

The 1980, WHO gave distinction between the terms Impairment, Disability and Handicap

Impairment "any loss or abnormality or psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function" eg an amputated leg

Disability "any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being" eg walking

Handicap "A disadvantage for an individual, resulting from an impairment or disability, that limits the fulfillment of a role (depending on age, gender, social and cultural factors) for that individual" eg going to the shops is nowadays viewed as slightly antique in some quarters. The impairments and disabilities of Stephen Hawking or David Blunkett may be similar to others with advanced chronic neurological disorder or very low visual acuity, but their two personalities and social conditions have determined much different levels of handicap than those which might have been anticipated.

Commonly recognized disabilities include:

1. Physical disability
Mobility impairment
Multiple sclerosis
Parkinson's disease
Cerebral Palsy
Muscular dystrophy
Rheumatoid arthritis
Spina Bifida

2. Visual impairment
· Blindness
· Low vision
· Color blindness
· Cataract

3. Hearing impairment

4. Chronic disease
· Cancer
· Autoimmune disease
· Multiple sclerosis
· Diabetes
· Hypoglycemia
· Chronic fatigue syndrome
· dysautonomia
· fibromyalgia
· Spinal cord injury
· Traumatic brain injury

5. Mental disability
· Fetal alcohol syndrome
· Learning disability
· Alzheimer's disease
· Phobia
· Agoraphobia
· Acrophobia
· Aleurophobia
· Anxiety disorder
· Depression
· Bipolar disorder
· Obsessive compulsive disorder
· Schizophrenia
· Neurosis

6. Developmental disability
· Dyslexia
· Down syndrome
· Attention deficit disorder and ADHD
· Hyperactivity
· Autism

7. Other disabilities
· Substance abuse
· Alcoholism
· Nicotine addiction
· Drug abuse
· Cluster Headaches
· Senility

Models of Disability
Models of Disability are tools for defining impairment and, ultimately, for providing a basis upon which government and society can devise strategies for meeting the needs of disabled people. They are a useful framework in which to gain an understanding of disability issues, and also of the perspective held by those creating and applying the models.
For Models of Disability are essentially devised by people about other people. They provide an insight into the attitudes, conceptions and prejudices of the former and how they impact on the latter. From this, Models reveal the ways in which our society provides or limits access to work, goods, services, economic influence and political power for people with disabilities.
Models are influenced by two fundamental philosophies. The first sees disabled people as dependent upon society. This can result in paternalism, segregation and discrimination. The second perceives disabled people as customers of what society has to offer. This leads to choice, empowerment, equality of human rights, and integration. As we examine the different Models in this and subsequent articles, we will see the degree to which each philosophy has been applied.

1. The medical model.

"The medical model views disability as a problem of the person, directly caused by disease, trauma or other health condition, which requires medical care provided in the form of individual treatment by professionals. Management of the disability is aimed at cure or the individual’s adjustment and behaviour change. Medical care is viewed as the main issue, and at the political level the principal response is that of modifying or reforming health care policy.

2. The social model

The social model of disability, on the other hand, sees the issue mainly as a socially created problem, and basically as a matter of the full integration of individuals into society. Disability is not an attribute of an individual, but rather a complex collection of conditions, many of which are created by the social environment. Hence the management of the problem requires social action, and it is the collective responsibility of society at large to make the environmental modifications necessary for the full participation of people with disabilities in all areas of social life. The issue is therefore an attitudinal or ideological one requiring social change, which at the political level becomes a question of Human rights.

The person should come first

The American Psychological Association style guide states that in professional writing following this style, the person should come first, and nominal forms describing the disability should be used so that the disability is being described, but is not modifying the person. For instance: people with Down syndrome, a man with schizophrenia, and a girl with paraplegia. It also states that a person's adaptive equipment should be described functionally as something that assists a person, not as something that limits a person (e.g., "A woman who uses a wheelchair" rather than "in" it or "confined" to it.

Many books on disability and disability rights point out that 'disabled' is an identity that one is not necessarily born with, as disabilities are more often acquired than congenital. Some disability rights activists use an acronym TAB, Temporarily Able-Bodied, as a reminder that many people will develop disabilities at some point in their lives, due to accidents, illness (physical, mental or emotional), or late-emerging effects of genetics.

3. Moral model

On the other hand, a "moral model" refers to the attitude that people are somehow morally responsible for their disability, including at one extreme as a result of bad actions of parents if congenital or as a result of practicing witchcraft. This attitude can be seen as unjust and causes unnecessary suffering.

4. Expert / Professional model

The Expert/Professional Model has provided a traditional response to disability issues and can be seen as an offshoot of the Medical Model. Within its framework, professionals follow a process of identifying the impairment and its limitations (using the Medical Model), and taking the necessary action to improve the position of the disabled person. This has tended to produce a system in which an authoritarian, over-active service provider prescribes and acts for a passive client.

5. Tragedy / Charity model

The Tragedy/Charity Model depicts disabled people as victims of circumstance, deserving of pity. This and Medical Model are probably the ones most used by non-disabled people to define and explain disability.

Activism and Movements

Various groups work to improve conditions for people with disabilities. The activism and the Disabled Rights Advocacy Rights Groups have come up throughout the world. These associations and groups raise the voices of the people with disability and help them to get their rights. There are also a number of Advocacy and Rights movements.

The United Nations
On December 13, 2006, the United Nations formally agreed on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first human rights treaty of the 21st century, to protect and enhance the rights and opportunities of the world's estimated 650 million disabled people. Countries that sign up to the convention will be required to adopt national laws, and remove old ones, so that persons with disabilities would, for example, have equal rights to education, employment, and cultural life; the right to own and inherit property; not be discriminated against in marriage, children, etc; not be unwilling subjects in medical experiments.

In 1976, the United Nations launched its International Year for Disabled Persons (1981), later re-named the International Year of Disabled Persons. The UN Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1993) featured a World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons. In 1979, Frank Bowe was the only person with a disability representing any country in the planning of International Year of Disabled Persons -1981. Today, many countries have named representatives who are themselves individuals with disabilities. The decade was closed in an address before the General Assembly by Robert Davila. Both Bowe and Davila are Hearing impaired. In 1984, UNESCO accepted sign language for use in education of deaf children and youth.

The Disability rights movement

The Disability rights movement, led by individuals with disabilities, began in the 1970s. This Self-advocacy is often seen as largely responsible for the shift toward independent living and accessibility. The term "Independent Living" was taken from 1959 California legislation that enabled people who had acquired a disability due to polio to leave hospital wards and move back into the community with the help of cash benefits for the purchase of personal assistance with the activities of daily living. With its origins in the US civil rights and consumer movements of the late 1960s, the movement and its philosophy have since spread to other continents influencing people's self-perception, their ways of organizing themselves and their countries' social policy.


According to Kasnitz,., Switzer, Fellow and Shuttleworth, (Disability Studies Quarterly Summer 2001, Volume 21, No. 3, pages 2-17) the ethnological approach to otherness, to difference, to not of us, as a topic of study is a uniquely compelling aspect of anthropology that makes it a natural discipline to engage in disability studies. To researchers in the social science and humanities disabled people and disability, like sick people and illness in the past, are becoming increasingly compelling examples of otherness. Severe, visible, physical disability is even more compelling. Anthropologists seek the other to find themselves. The newly identified (primarily by other disciplines) otherness of disability attracts established ethnographers looking for a renewal of their experience of other in a known field site. It also attracts people looking for otherness closer to home. Disability also attracts anthropologists because it is a socially and culturally constructed category with important implications about how societies differentially distribute power. Societies may or may not perceive impairments as resulting in functional limitations. These functional limitations may or may not be disabling depending on culture and situational criteria including stigma and power. Disability exists when people experience discrimination on the basis of perceived functional limitations. A Disability may or may not be a handicap, or handicapping depending on management of societal discrimination and internalized oppression, particularly paternalism and a cultural and situational views and cause and cure of fate and fault.

Relationship between Anthropology and Disability - Culture and Disability

We need to explain the shifting destinations of culture because disability studies use the word, and in a not unambiguous way.

Culture came to denote intellectual, aesthetic and artistic refinement and products in art, music, poetry and architectural and legitimated a hierarchy of social distinctions. Anthropology slowly divested the concept of culture of its explicit elitist reference and culture became a more generalized attribute of human groups. Thompson (1990), presents the two most common anthropological orientation to the concept of culture. In the descriptive conception, "the culture of a group or society is the array of belief, customs, ideas and values, as well as the material artifacts, objects and instruments, which are acquired by individuals and members of the group or society. In the symbolic conception, "culture is the pattern of meanings embodied in symbolic forms, including actions, utterances and meanings of objects of various kinds, by virtue of which individuals communicate with one another and share their experiences, conceptions and beliefs". A small number of anthropologists have been studying the social and cultural significance of disabilities for many years, dating from Ruth Benedict's 1934 study of the diverse ways in which epilepsy was perceived and treated in different cultures

The well-known North American anthropologist, Ruth Benedict, undertook one of the first anthropological studies of 'disability'. In her paper, "Anthropology and the Abnormal", published in the Journal of General Psychiatry I 1934, Benedict argued that rather than dealing with questions of why abnormalities occurred or how they could be treated, the whole notion of ‘abnormality, as a cultural phenomena should instead be put under scrutiny. Interestingly, the first major long-term anthropological study of the disabilities involved research by Robert Edgerton into the social status and stigma associated with being labeled intellectually disabled in U.S.A. Anthropology's genuine fascination with otherness and the thickness of the ethnographic stance should be a boon to international disability studies. However, this promise is late in coming. There was a burst of interest in disability in the mid 1980s when Lause Duval (1986-88) published a newsletter named Disability and Culture. Many of the contributors were medical anthropologists who saw disability from the Medical Mode and not from a social point of view.. However, in the early 1980s Duval's work founded to Disability Research Interest Group of the Society for Medical Anthropology, which she chaired for several years. From the late 1980s through the 1990s, with assistance from Card Goldin, Devua Kasnitz has chaired this group and seen it gradually increase in significance.

All of us are cultural beings. All of us have culture. Our culture shapes how we see the world and make sense of it. Culture influences all of our behaviours and interactions. Our culture also mediates how we make sense of disability and respond to people with disability.

Culture is not static - it is constantly changing and responding to shifting environments and circumstances. Within each culture there are many subcultures, which means that many beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviours are not shared amongst all the people from a culture. Except for a very few isolated communities, all cultures are exposed to external influences. The rate at which cultures are exposed to external influences today is greater than ever before.
In addition to the external influences, within each culture, there are also internal tensions and pressures. It is mostly sub-cultures and non-dominant sections of the community that mount challenges to the dominant culture. Pressures on any culture thus come both from within and without. In the main, cultures may initially respond to these pressures through vilification, ridicule, tightening the norms, etc. In the longer term, many cultures are more likely to survive if they come to incorporate and mould different influences without loosing the 'essence' of the culture.
The idea of culture as fixed and static is almost always wrong and has varying consequences. One common way of "fixing" culture is to romanticise it, i.e. the idea of "the noble savage" or the notion that people with an intellectual disability are "perpetual children".

Culture, Religion and Disability
How do different cultural communities and religious faith explain and respond to disability? Cultures and religious practices are ever-changing and there are many subgroups within each culture and religion, making it impossible to give definitive answers to specific questions, such as "What is the explanation / response to disability within that community or within that religion?"
Universally, societies have explanations for why some individuals (and not others) are disabled, how individuals with disabilities are to be treated, what roles are appropriate (and inappropriate) for such individuals and what rights and responsibilities individuals with disability are either entitled to or denied.
Yet, what is generally understood about the relationship between culture and disability is based predominantly in the cultures of the western world. Cross-cultural disability studies are at best limited. This is despite the facts that about 80% of all individuals with disability live in the developing world. To understand the relationship between culture, religion and disability is to first understand how people make sense of disability. In other words, how people explain the occurrence of disability, and second to ascertain how communities perceive disability and disabled people.
In many Western cultures, the dominant way of making sense of disabilities is to explain them in medical terms, such as resulting from accidents, genetic disorders or viral infections. However, frequently people also use other explanations, for example: blaming a mother for the birth of a child with a disability because she might have touched someone with a disability during the pregnancy.
The idea of blame operates concurrently with medical explanations, although they are to a large extending contradictory. Blame appears to be one of the most common factors in explaining disability in most countries, irrespective of whether religious or medical explanations dominate. Blame is often directed towards women (i.e. a child has a disability because their mother has failed) or other minority groups (i.e. a man is HIV positive because he is gay).
In many countries, having a disability is attributed to having sinned or offended the spirits. This might have occurred through sins committed by ancestors or by the person with the disability themselves in this or a previous life.

The idea that disabilities can be caught is quite common across the world. This results mostly in actions to protect pregnant women from seeing, hearing or touching people with disability or even their technical aids. There are many different variations of this explanation. For example, in the Philippines, a woman gave birth to a baby who was unable to move his limbs. Her explanation of her son's disability was that she had worked in view of a statue of a national hero during her pregnancy and must have caught the 'stiffness of the limbs'.

Religions and belief systems are one important source of explanations for disability. However,
It is important to keep in mind that within almost all religions and belief systems there is often more than one explanation of disability.
It is also important to keep in mind that there is frequently a difference between the written holy texts and some of the religious practices.
In addition, there are some contradictory writings about disability in the texts themselves.

(a) As Punishment
Almost all religions and belief systems seem to incorporate some notion that disability is a punishment. Many religious texts are full of stories and parables, which link moral imperfection and sin with divine retribution in the form of a disability.
In some religions, a disability is linked to a previous life or to ancestors and may be seen as punishment for wrongdoings.
(b) As Learning
Many religious practices indicate that disability exists so that a learning process can occur, either for the person who has the disability or for those around the person
"One of the basic principles of Islam is to believe in the wisdom of the Allah in what He creates and commands, and in what He wills and decrees, in the sense that He does not create anything in vain and He does not decree anything in which there is not some benefit. So everything that exists is His will and decree.
His perfect wisdom decrees that He creates opposites, so He has created angels and devils, night and day, purity and impurity, good and ugly, and He has created good and evil. He created His slaves with differences in their bodies and minds, and in their strengths. He has made some rich and some poor, some healthy and some sickly, some wise and some foolish. By His wisdom, He tests them, and He tests some by means of others, to show who will be grateful and who will be ungrateful.
When the sound believer sees disabled people, he recognizes the blessing that Allah has bestowed upon him, so he gives thanks for His blessing, and he asks Him for good health. He knows best and is most wise, and we know nothing except that which you have taught us, and He is the All-Knowing, Most Wise" (Shaykh, Abd al-Rahmaan al-Barraak).
(c) As a GiftSome religious texts and practices seem to suggest that a disability is a gift. For example,
"As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples ask him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed to him'" (John, 9: 1-3).

It is impossible to talk about disability and religions without mentioning the influence folklore, superstition and informal belief systems have on explanations of the causes of disability.
There is a wide range of explanations about disability including that people with disability are 'special messenger', that they hold within their bodies the balance between good and evil, etc. Understanding the diversity of explanations of the cause of a disability is important in dealing with people with disability and their families in a service setting. The explanation of disability also often provides the foundations for the diverse responses of communities to people with disability.

The vast majority of responses to disability amongst different communities of the world are on a scale ranging from neglect to some level of tolerance.
At the very extreme end and a rare occurrence is the killing of people with disability. The best known example is the death of over 300,000 people with disability during the Nazi era in Germany. The other example often mentioned in this context is infanticide, the killing of newborn babies with disability. There are very few examples of this occurring in very poor, mostly nomadic communities in the past, but there is no evidence available suggesting that infanticide is practiced regularly today.
In Australia, some argue that the use of genetic counseling and pre- natal screening, such as the use of amniocentesis (a pre- natal test to ascertain whether a disability is likely), are forms of preventing the birth of babies with disability.
On the other end of the scale there are very few known examples of communities responding to the occurrence of disability by completely integrating people with disability into all aspects of the community. There are attempts in many communities to achieve full integration and many communities achieve some form of integration and inclusion.
In many countries one method used to achieve integration and inclusion of people with disability is the development of human rights legislation, policies and programs.
The Persons with Disabilities Act was introduced in India in 1995. According to Dr. Ram Goel (Handicare 1999), the problems of disability and the barriers society has erected, all the disabled community knew that our best endeavors would not make much progress without a legislative framework which outlaws discrimination. The greatest achievement was to convince people, ordinary men and women as well as politicians from all parties that disability is a civil rights issue and that discrimination against the disabled must be recognized and stopped. That’s why there is still more work to be done to make the people aware of the necessity of such an Act and that the disabled are not fight for concession but for their rights".
A number of tribal groups, such as the Azandi in East Africa and the Ponape in the southern Pacific, have been identified through cross cultural disability research as standing out in their acceptance of and kindness towards people with disability.
The best known example of inclusion of people with disability in the Western world is the example of deaf people on the US Island of Martha's Vineyard. Due to hereditary deafness, the occurrence of deafness was so great that it was in every citizen's interest to learn American Sign Language. Deaf people did the same jobs, engaged in the same activities and held positions in the community comparable to their hearing counterparts.
Within all communities, the responses to disability is dependent on a range of factors, such as the need for people with disability to earn income, the value placed on physical or intellectual strength, the type and cause of disability, the age and gender of a person with a disability, where they live, etc. Based on these and other factors the responses are also likely to differ within communities.
At a disability awareness workshop, a worker from a particular community said that in her country of origin people with disability are locked up in institutions. A colleague from the same culture put up her hand and refuted this claim arguing instead that people with disability always lived with their family and often contributed through their work to the family's income. It turned out that one was referring to the treatment of people with intellectual disability in the capital city of that country, where it was believed that the best option for people with an intellectual disability was an institutional setting. The other worker is from the same country, but was thinking of a more agrarian community, in which people with intellectual disability contributed to the income of families by working the fields or in the home.
Bearing in mind that within all communities the responses to disability are many and varied, the most common responses can be categorized as follows:
Actions which may be considered as a response to people with disability, can range from medical neglect, such as the withdrawal of medical intervention, to neglect based on poverty and lack of resources. Neglect can and does result in the death of people with disability. The lack of, or withholding resources, is one of the most common ways of neglecting people with disability.

Most communities respond to people with disability through various forms of segregation and isolation. These responses are frequently seen as beneficial to people with disability and to the community at large.
The way the occurrence of disability is explained in communities is particularly important in this context. For instance, in some communities people with disability are isolated and segregated because they are believed to "contaminate" babies in wombs. Another reason for isolating people with disability is that they are thought to bring shame to the family and so are hidden away.
According to Mrs. Mridu R. Goel, a health worker discovered that one of the families he had known for a long time has another child. Due to the disability and the shame the disability is thought to bring upon the family, the child was hidden away. This is a very common occurrence. That’s why the disabled community can be referred to as ‘An Invisible Community’.

Another very common response is to treat people with disability as 'special'. This can take on a range of different forms, from additional resources being provided to more affection and love being given to people with disability. Many communities argue that the most common response to people with disability is to treat them 'special'. The intention of that treatment generally is to achieve beneficial outcomes for people with disability. This is particularly, but not exclusively, relevant in communities that attribute religious significance to people with disability, i.e. a gift from the Supreme Being. It is imperative to examine what this 'special' treatment means and to understand that 'special' rarely means equal.

Protection and control are other community responses that exist all over the world. Viewing people with disability as vulnerable largely drives the response to protect, whilst the control response is often driven by fear for and of people with disability.
Sterlization is also used to control disability. Though not in India, this is done in a number of countries. Since medical procedures have been developed to enable surgical sterilization to occur, this has been used to prevent people with disability from having children. While it was a practice implemented in 'experiments' conducted in Germany in the Nazi era, it was also widely practiced in other Western countries (mostly with the sanction of government).

Most communities tolerate, as opposed to accept or respect, people with disability to some degree. Thus people with disability participate to some degree in the community. Frequently this participation is linked to issues of work participation and economic usefulness of people with disability.
In the movie 'Rain Man', Raymond, (played by Dustin Hoffman), a man with autism, who had been locked away in an institution for most of his life, gains status and some level of tolerance but only for a little while), after he proves his economic value by winning at blackjack in the casino as a result of his counting abilities.
Begging is a common occupation for people with disability. People with disability may be valued and given the status of the 'breadwinner'. In many countries, limbs of the people are cut and made to beg as the disabled beggar gets more alms. Beggary, frowned upon in many countries, is a frequent and quite accepted occupation in poorer countries. In poorer nations, a person with a disability might be the only person in a family to have an income.
As stated, sometimes tolerating one disability type does not mean that another type of disability is tolerated in the same way. Much of this is related to the value a community places on different abilities. Generally speaking, the western world places a greater value on intellect and cognition than on physical abilities and places greater value on work undertaken outside the home. Other communities, particularly more agrarian communities, place greater emphasis on physical strength and highly value contributions to the home and family.

Chapter 2:
Research Methodology


Human society is a laboratory for the social scientists. The subjects of research are real people who interact and in relation to each other. The strength of Anthropology is in first hand grass root studies, in other words, micro level studies. Here the unit chosen for study, a tribe, a village, a community or the urban population should be well defined and amenable to intensive field work. The research methodology is quite essential to seek out basic information and fundamental about a particular domain of a phenomenon in a society or a universe.

The essence of research methodology lies in seeking answers to the basic questions of how to find ‘true and useful information’ about a particular domain of phenomenon in the universe. This aspect has two problems. First how can we personally investigate some phenomenon in order to obtain true and useful information and secondly, how can we be assured of other researcher’s assertions about information and validity of their propositions. This necessarily invites certain techniques and conditions which are important for the exploration of our phenomenal goal.

The primary goal of a researcher is to explore and understand human behaviour and their social life by participating in the local life of the community. And hence, the goal can be achieved by the method of fieldwork, which gives a distinct shape to social research. In social research, we have a ‘flexible tool kit’ which we operate according to the demand of the situation in the field.

In early century there was a time when anthropologists largely depended upon data which was collected by missionaries and officials. This approach of collecting method was no more applied or used over the passage of time. Field work is an experience study in the field. The natural inhabitant of the subject is studied and not of the artificial experimental laboratory. Therefore, a field study has to be direct and first hand where the researcher himself collects the required data.

A new dimension in the field work method has been provided in anthropology with the work of Brainslaw Malinowski in Trobriand Islands and Radcliffe Brown’s study among Andamanese. Malinowski’s pioneering field work among the Trobriand Islands was a milestone shift from the ‘Arm Chair Anthropology’ to the entailing on the proper field methods and gathering of data by anthropologists themselves. And it was from then onwards that the wider perception of the life pattern of human beings became the main objective of Anthropology. Frans Boas would instruct the students of the essence of careful field study. He felt that the immediate task confronting anthropologists was the collection of extensive and accurate field data as a preliminary to forming cross-cultural generalization.

It is not surprising that preparation of field work has come to be seen as an essential part of the training of an student on the subjects and field work itself, was a unique and necessary experience amounting to a kind of rite-de-passage by which novice is transformed into the rounded anthropologists and initiated into the ranks of the profession. On the whole, field work can be considered as an art as well as science there is no one skill of a set of skills that when combined, make it successful operation, rather much of it depends on the problem under investigation and the field worker’s involvement in the community.

Success in field data collection would depend much on the personality of the field worker himself, his approach to the problem and under investigation and his involvement with the community. One must be alert to tackle any circumstances of informant whether to proceed or to break up while interviewing, even though methodology behind the field work may be universal.

Research Problem

In accordance with the Master Course syllabus in Social Anthropology arranged by the Department of Anthropology, University of Delhi for our field work, the topic and the broad area of research were selected well in advance before proceeding to the field.
I had decided to work on the topic: ‘Disability and Rehabilitation among the Santhals and Lodhas: an Anthropological study among the tribal population in Jhargram’ I had chosen this topic due to my interest and training in Medical Anthropology and the way tribal see the concept of ‘Normal’ and ‘Abnormal’. Medical Anthropology was my optional subject in the final year, which aroused in me a curiosity about the way people perceive the medical system. Also, the topic of Disability is a very interesting topic which can take us into the deepest notions and views of the people about the disabled in their community. Besides, the aspect to their treatment and rehabilitation is very important to the disabled persons as that aspect shows the true feelings of the community and its members towards the persons with disabilities.
The population in India as at 0:00 hours on 1st March 2001 stood at 1,027,015,247 persons, In India approximately 5-6% of the total population are disabled which means the number of disabled people in India is around 6.12 crores. (According to the census of 2001). According to WHO, as many as 50% of disabilities are preventable and directly linked to poverty. Poor nutrition, limited access to vaccination programmes and health and maternity care, poor hygiene, inadequate information about the causes of impairment, are some of the causes of disability in poorer sections of the population. Inbreeding, sanctioned by social practice in some communities, has led to significant increase in disabilities. Hazardous working conditions are another cause of disabilities in people.
Prevention, early detection and intervention are the key to containing the number of disabled. Government hospitals are expected to have the expertise and equipment to screen and identify disability. Positive steps towards early identification of disability include the organisation of eye camps and the involvement of anganwadi workers (nursery teachers in rural and urban poor areas), village communities and mass media.
All this information gave me the notion that the same population will be disabled in the village among the tribals where I would be doing for field work. Thus, I decided to study this aspect i.e. the aspect of their condition, their every day life and their rehabilitation. Therefore I took up the study of disabled persons and their lifestyle under the ægis of medical anthropology.

Pre Field Work Preparation
As I had decided to work on the topic: ‘Disability and Rehabilitation among the Santhals and Lodhas: an Anthropological study among the Tribal Population in Jhargram’ I had familiarized myself in the theoretical aspects of Medical Anthropology. In addition to the above, I visited ‘Indian Association of The Handicapped’, a Lucknow based Non Government Organisation working for the Rights and Empowerment of the people with Disabilities and met Dr. Ram K Goel, Managing trustee and Mrs. Mridu R. Goel, the Chairperson of the NGO. I also visited ‘National Centre for the Promotion of the Employment of Disabled People’, a Non Government Organisation working for the upliftment of Disabled People and for their Rights. There I got to know the outlook of the people and the attitude of the disabled themselves to their own disability. I also studied the Act that has been passed by the Indian Government to protect the rights of disabled people in India an Act called Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995, which was passed and was enacted in 1996. It made notes and devised queries on the topic of Rehabilitation opportunities given by Government.

Rapport Establishment
By rapport establishment, we mean the harmonious relationship established between the observer and the observed followed by ties of intimacy with the respondents. The prior problem of an anthropologist in the field area is to contact the people so as to that they are willing to extend held. A good rapport establishment is imperative for breaking down the barriers of suspicion, unfamiliarity, strangeness, shyness and hostility. A good rapport establishment will provide us to collect adequate information of which they will not have any hesitation of being observed, to let the observer participate in any activity of their social life.
We reached Jhargram on a wet morning showers on 17th January. We reached ‘Bonani Guest House’ and there met the manager of the guest house. There our staying arrangements had already been made so we did not take time in going to the rooms. Boys and the girls had been assigned separate dormitories and there we freshened up and then had breakfast. Then most of us, owing to the tiredness and almost 26 hours of traveling in the train, went off to sleep.
In the evening, all the students, along with our Supervisor, Ms. Channa, who had accompanied us to Jhargram, went to the village that was about 300 meters away from the Guest house. The name of the village was ‘Kadam Kanan’ there we visited a hut where we started interacting with a local. There we came to know about the composition of the village. He told us that the village had Mostly Santhal households and some Lodha households. Then we all came back to our guest house for the night.
The next day, all the students made groups and visited the village. As in the village, all the tribals spoke Bengali language; all the groups had at least one person who knew Bengali. Even our supervisor knew Bengali so she also became a member of a group and we all made the visit as small groups to see what we were going to study.
In that area, there were two villages just adjacent to each other. One was ‘Kadam Kanan’ where there was a majority of Santhals and the other village that was just near that village was ‘Sirish Chowk’ where most of the household were of Lodhas. We had to decide where were we going to conduct the fieldwork and on which village. As I had selected the topic on disability, I tried to fine persons who were disabled in that village. I had decided that if Santhals had more disabled then I will work on Santhals and if Lodhas had more them I would work on Lodhas. But I found equal number of disabled persons in both so I had to decide where to work? I then searched the aspect of Rehabilitation of them and asked myself who I see as the more active in the social system, in spite of being disabled. This when I scrutinized, I realized that disabled people in Santhals were more active so I decided to study all six disabled people, to collect their life history and their everyday social interaction with everybody, but to study the ethnographic profile of the Santhals.
We all went and spoke with the people and spent the first day talking with the people of Kadam Kanan village. There we met the ‘mukhia’ of the village. His name was Joga Hembrum who was a santhal and told him that we are students from Delhi University and we have come there for our dissertation and as an experience. Patiently listening to us, he said that he will give all his help to all of us in providing whatever data we wanted. He also told us that if anyone did not respond to our queries, he will tell them that we mean no harm and they may talk to us.
As the village selected was about 300 meters away from the guesthouse, we started going to the village in the morning everyday. We used to leave in the morning around 8:30and reach the village and start interacting with them. Them we used top return to the guesthouse for lunch and again return to the village for further studies.
Initially, the people were suspicious of us and uncommunicative on seeing so many aliens around them who were asking weird questions but after we explained to them the purpose of our visit, they started opening up and they gave all the information we needed. It also helped that the mukhia, Joga Hembrum explained to all about our visit and told all the villagers to be most helpful to us. Thus began my field work on the topic of ‘Disability and Rehabilitation among the Santhals and Lodhas: an Anthropological study among the Tribal Population in Jhargram’ there. I used to visit the subjects and study them everyday, also collecting the ethnographic data on Santhals.

Field technique involves observation based on two main senses – sight and learning. Since social behaviour is being studied, it is essential to see what people are doing and hear what they are saying. Looking and listening not only contribute to the basic stock of any individual knowledge about social relations, but also afford the principle technique for gathering data in many modern investigations.
For the present study, several methods were used for verifying data and a combination of techniques were used. I used observation, interview, genealogies and most importantly, life histories of the subjects.

Observation is the first technique which an anthropologist can use advantageously on his first entrance to the field work for he is a stranger to them.
Observation can be defined as a systematic viewing coupled with consideration of the seen phenomena. It is also an important device in the hands of the researcher for differentiating between the idea and actual pattern of life.
The non-participant observation helped to gain insight into the social atmosphere of the village and their physical set up patterns, we observed the various activities of the village, the interaction and behaviour and though this observation was carried out at a superficial level , it did help to bring about the picture of the kind of people lived. The observed phenomenon should be interpreted according to the local set up in terms of their socio-cultural norms and values. It should be understood and explained according to their underlying meanings.
Participant observation was introduced by Malinowski, where the investigator participates in the local life by learning their dialect, and their modes of behaviour. He or she also observes the social life and records them in the form of field diary. Data can be collected more accurately when we are present amidst the people whom we tend to study.

The interview technique is much used in the field and is considered as the most important tool of research. Interview can be seen as formal verbal and non verbal conversation between an interrogators and the informant which reveals a lot of attitude, facial expressions, gestures and mannerisms. The interview provides and serves certain specific purposes. For smooth and successful handling of this technique, one should be well versed and prepared to talk freely. Good Rapport Establishment is always needed to ensure that the informant does not hold anything back from the interviewer. Interview technique id highly flexible and provides full freedom to respondents to answer all the questions asked and in anyway possible. The interviewer can add a number of questions on the spot which he considers necessary in order to extract the most from the respondent. There are three types of interviews:
· Non Structured Interviews: here the interviewer does not make a interview schedule and asks all the questions he wants to which he formulates right in front of the respondent while interacting with him
· Semi Structured Interviews: here the interviewer makes a small list of topics and concentrating on them formulates the questions and conducts the interview.
· Structured Interview: where the interviewer prepares an interview schedule and asks only those questions he has devised.
I conducted a number of Semi Structured Interviews and thus studied the views of people regarding the Disabled people and also collected the life histories of the people using this method. Initially, when I started an interview, it was Semi Structured and then as I continued, it became Non Structured Interview. Thus it was the most important method of extracting information from the respondents.

Genealogical Method
Another technique employed was the genealogical technique. Genealogies are map of social relationships. This method was introduced by B. H. R. Rivers while studying the Melanesian Society. They are elaborate chart exhibiting a number of related kins. It is a great source to understand the kinship structure even if we don’t know the local language. Ego is an important male or female informant through which the relation is traced in the genealogical table. There, I took the genealogies of all the disabled persons whose life history I collected.

Use of Mechanical aids
As a part of my fieldwork, certain mechanical aids such as camera was used I clicked a number of photographs depicting their lifestyle. While in the field, it is not possible to collect and record data on every aspect of their life and its equally tough to describe their lifestyle. Thus, the photographs come in handy. I clicked the photographs of the disables persons and d recorded their life histories in my register, my field diary.
Thus, for my study, I employed a number of methods to collect data. They were interviews, observations, life histories and genealogies. They all helped me in collecting clear and true picture of the topic.
Field work is cordial to anthropological work. The success of fieldwork depends on how we interact with the informant and so that we gather entire information from him. The successful path is to bring out an accurate fieldwork account and depict the topic authentically.

Analysis and Verification of the Data
In order to verify the accuracy and reliability of the data, certain combination of techniques were used. In similar situations, a behavior was observed repeatedly at different times. Data was checked and cross checked by asking the same questions to different respondents and they were minutely observed. In addition to this, other researchers collected the same data and later compared it as to see nothing was inaccurate.
Field notes were made whenever possible. The field diary was written each and every night so as not to loose even a small amount of data. The field notes were added with more information to complete the diary. Progress was discussed with the teacher and doubts were cleared with her help, thus making it possible to locate the data accurately and efficiently, without any complication.

The Problem Faced
The only problem faced by me was of language. All the villagers knew Bengali language, the local tongue of West Bengal. As I know only Hindi and English, it became impossible to converse to them. By some tome, I could collect their genealogies but not their life histories. Thus, it became an agonizing task to converse with them without any interpreter.
We had made small groups in the trip, and each had a Bengali speaking person. We had Pabak, my classmate and friend, who was always there to interpret and went wherever I wanted so that I could collect the life histories. Pushpita, a resident of Kadam Kanan and a student of class 10th, who was fluent in both Hindi and English, was also a great help in interpreting the residents on the village. Thus, that problem was solved and I was able to collect the data and talk to people on the topic of disability.

Chapter 3:
EEthnographic Profile of
Kadam Kanan


West Bengal

West Bengal is a state in eastern India. With Bangladesh, which lies on its eastern border, the state forms the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. To its northeast lie the states of Assam and Sikkim and the country Bhutan, and to its southwest, the state of Orissa. To the west it borders the state of Jharkhand and Bihar, and to the northwest, Nepal.

The region that is now West Bengal was a part of a number of empires and kingdoms during the past two millennia. The British East India Company cemented their hold on the region following the Battle of Plassey in 1757 CE, and the city of Kolkata, then Calcutta, served for many years as the capital of British India. A hotbed of the Indian independence movement through the early 20th century, Bengal was divided in 1947 into two separate entities, West Bengal - a state of India, and East Pakistan belonging to the new nation of Pakistan.

Following India's independence in 1947, West Bengal's economic and political theatres were dominated for many decades by intellectual Marxism, Naxalite movements and trade unionism. From late 1990s, economic rejuvenation led to a spurt in the state's economic and industrial growth. An agriculture-dependent state, West Bengal occupies only 2.7% of the India's land area, though it supports over 7.8% of Indian population, and is the most densely populated state in India. West Bengal has been ruled by the CPI(M)-led Left Front for three decades, making it the world's longest-running democratically-elected communist government.

Geographical Location of the State

It covers an area of 8.85 million, representing only 2.7% of the total area of the country. It has therefore, three international frontiers-to the north, east and west. The state lies between 27o13'15" and 21o25'24" north latitudes and 85o48'20" and 89o53'04" east longitudes.

The State is divided into 19 administrative districts, viz, Bankura, Birbhum, Burdwan, Kolkata, Coochbehar, Darjeeling, Hooghly, Howrah, Jalpaiguri, Malda, Midnapore-East, Midnapore-West, Murshidabad, Nadia, North 24 Parganas, North Dinajpur, Purulia, South 24 Parganas and South Dinajpur. About three quarters of the population lives in the villages. Of the different religions, Hinduism, with its substrata of castes and aboriginal tribes, claims the adherence of more than three-fourths the population, most of the remainder being Muslim. West Bengal contains about 40 recognized communities of tribes--the better known among them being the Santhals, Oraons, Mundas, Lepchas, and Bhutias--that make up less than one-tenth of the total population. Bengali is the language of most of the people, with Hindi, Urdu, Nepali, and English as minority languages. English, however, is the language of administration and a lingua franca for business purposes.
West Bengal has a single chamber legislative assembly with 295 seats. The state sends 58 members to the Indian national parliament, 16 to the Rajya Sabha (upper house) and 42 to the Lok Sabha (lower house).

Economy of the State

The economy of West Bengal is well diversified and according to the economic survey 2003-04 West Bengal contributes 7.7% to National NDP. Agriculture in West Bengal contributes 24% of state GDP and employs 57% of total workforce. Agriculture plays a pivotal role in the state's income and nearly three out of four persons in the state are directly or indirectly involved in agriculture. The state accounted for 66.5 percent of the country's jute production including mesta in 1993-94, and 22.2 percent of tea production during the same period. Important crops of the state include potatoes, oilseeds, betel vine, tobacco, wheat, barley and maize. The state also occupies a leading position among principal rice growing states of India, by contributing 15.3 percent of the total production of rice in the country
Irrigation covers 45% of net cropped area; however there is a high reliance on monsoons. West Bengal is the highest producer of vegetables in the country and seventh in the production of fruits. Horticultural crop covers 21% of net cultivable area in the state.

The state has a significant mineral output, including dolomite, limestone, and china clay. It has steel plants, an automobile-manufacturing plant, and numerous chemical, machinery-building, and light-engineering industries. The state of West Bengal has an area of 88,752 sq. km. and a population of 80.18 million. There are 19 districts, 341 blocks and 40782 villages. The State has population density of 903 per sq. km. (as against the national average of 324). The decadal growth rate of the state is 17.77% (against 21.54% for the country) and the population of the state is growing at a slower rate than the national rate.

West Medinipur

Medinipur or Medinapore is town in West Bengal, India. The town has population of 150.000 according to 2001 census. It is situated on the bank of the Kaangsabati River. On the opposite side of the river is the industrial railway hub Kharagpur.

There are conflicting accounts of how the name ‘Medinipur’ come into being. One account claims that Medinipur was named after a local deity “Medini Maata” (literally “mother of the world”, a shakti encarnation). Another account claims that Medinipur was so named because years ago, the number of mosques rivaled in the Medina.


Jhargram is a sub divisional municipalty in the Paschim or West Medinipur district of West Bengal. As of 2001 India census, Jhargram had a population of 53,158 males constitute 51% of the population and female 49%. Jhargram has an average literacy rate of 76%, higher than the national average of 5% male literacy is 82% and female literacy is 71%. In Jhargram, 11% of the population is under 6 years of age. The town is located on the Howrah-Mumbai railway line and 155km away from Kolkata and only 20 kilometers away from the border of Jharkhand State and 35 kilometers away from District Headquarter, Midnipur and 15 km away from NH-06. The total area of the town is 21.40km2. The town expanding in such a way that it is very difficult to identify the panchayat area and municipal area at the outskirt in 3 sides. Now there are 17 wards in the municipality with one councilor in each ward. Jhargram town is a Sub-divisional Headquater of Jhargram Sub-division comprising of 8 blocks and 9 police stations. The town achieves its municipal status in 1981 adopting 25 mouzas of Jhargram Panchayat Samiti.

According to the census report of 2001 it appears that the town has population of 53,268 having a literacy rate of 76.26 %. There is a trend to influx from the nearest villages of the town as well as from abroad due to availability of medical aids, education and marketing facilities. There is a huge gathering of people everyday from all parts of the Sub-division and neighbouring states to get the above facilities.

Jhargram town has one main post office and three other sub-post offices, and one telephone exchange with several STD and ISD booths. Some courier services are in work in the town. Internet and e-service is available in this town.

Origin Of The Village: Kadam Kanan

Kadam Kanan is a village within the district Jhargram under wards No.7 inhabited by Santhal tribe. There are contradictions regarding the origin of the village. Long time back there was Zamindari system, and this village was ruled by one the Zamindars called Nagendra Dey. So, most of the tribes such as santhal and lodha are bonded labour under him. They called this bonded lobour as ‘Gharwa’ means one who lives in the house of the Zamindars and who works for them. Thereby, they settled in Kadam Kannan about 50 years ago, which was a suitable place for settlement as it fulfilled all the conditions required for survival like rich jungle products, good drinking water, easy accessibility, good communication with the outside world etc.

After the partition of Indian, the Hindus came here mainly from east Bengal, from them two classes emerged. One class comprised of workers and labourers while another was the class of educated, financially high position, who settled in ‘Uppar Para’ which comes under Bacchidoba. While the low land area, was inhabited by workers, labourer who settled in Kadam Kannan and Shrish Chowk. At earlier times they have no sources of income.

In 1967 when United Front Government in West Bengal state came in power then they implement land reform act. Now these two villages Santal Basti and Lodha Basti are based on Patta System. It is a system that the government gives land to these tribes for some year (20-30 years). So, surplus land from Zamindar where distributed on the basis of patta to Lodha and Santhal.

In past, they used woods, twigs, roots, fruits, etc. from the forest. Then Jhanjati Sarakshan Bill has been passed by the state government. Under this bill they have the right to used forest product. This is their traditional form of subsistence economy. In 1957, forest became their source of income whose products were auction by the Mahajan who sold them in different parts of the state. So, these tribes Santhal and Lodha become job oriented as they did loading and uploading business. They became engaged in this work which has been continuing till now.

History of the Village

Long time back zamidari system was present in this area. There was a famous zamindar whose name was Nagendra Nath in the Santhal village called Kadam Kanan. These Santhal and lodha tribal group were uses as a bonded laborer class, which was named as “Gharwa” or servant. They settled themselves in kadam Kanan area. About 50 years ago, Jhargram was totally covered with dense forest.

After partition of India, those Hindus who came here were mainly from east Bengal. These two classes emerges, one class comprises of worker, laborer. While another class was educated, financially in sound condition settled in upper Para which comes under Bachurdoba. While low land area was inhabited by worker, laborer who got settled in Siris Chouk village.

In the year 1967, when United Front Government in the West Bengal came in power, then it implemented land reform act. Now, a Santhal Basti or a village is on patta system of land holding or land distribution. Surplus land from zamindars in those days were taken and distributed to Lodha tribe and Santhal on the basis of Patta syatem.

In earlier days they collected woods, twigs from the forest and further used them for their livelihood. But in recent days, Jayanti Sanrakshan bill has been passed. Under this bill Adivasis have the right to use forest, as it was used in their traditional mode of livelihood. In the year 1957, forest became a source of income, which later on got auctioned. Mahajan, a particular caste auctioned the forest and sent the forest produce in different parts of the country. These Santhals, Lodhas began to do the job of loading and uploading business.

In the year 1972, this occupation became closed from them. After this the left front government came in power in the year 1977, these tribal group became engaged in community work, relief work mainly for them such as pavement of the village road.

The People (Santhals)

Santhal is a tribe of settled agriculturists. They are one of the largest tribes of India. With a population of over 10 million, they are concentrated in the Indian states of Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Assam. They are also sporadically located in the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan in Asia. They are found to be highly laborious and enterprising as compared to their neighboring tribes. They have their own language known as Santhali which belongs to Munda language family. The Mundari language belongs to the Austro-Asiatic sub family of languages. Though Santhali has drawn from several languages but the influence of Bengali is most pronounced. The Santhals live in well settled villages. A Santhal village is usually small in size and it consists of ten to fifty households, though more can be there. Every village is divided into several ‘Tolas’ which are headed by a “Mukhia”. Most of the houses are very close or adjacent to each other with each of the door opening in the street. The streets of the village are usually so broad that a couple of bullock carts may pass through them simultaneously. Most of the houses are made of wooden slabs and bamboos. They maintain their houses in extremely neat and clean condition.

The Santhals are divided into twelve patrilineal exogamous clans which are
1. Hansda
2. Murmu
3. Kiskku
4. Hembrom
5. Mandi
6. Soren
7. Tudu
8. Baske
9. Besra
10. Puria
11. Chore
12. Bedea

All these clans are considered as equals in terms of social status except Besra and Chero which are relatively inferior. Mostly they maintain nuclear or primary families consisting of a husband, wife, and their unmarried sons and wives and their children or married brothers and their wives and children make it, some sort of extended type of family. The authority in the family lies with the senior most male member. In their scheme of division of labor, the adult males perform the outdoor jobs while the females do household chores.
Their economy is multifarious. The children also contribute to family economy.

The Santal are the largest homogenous indigenous groups of India who are considered to be the absolute originals of the land. Being one the oldest indigenous community, Santals have their own socio-political, economic and cultural systems with sentimental and emotional links with their history and they are endowed with rich and glorious historical, cultural and political heritage. Basic human values, which are the essence of a primary human society like simplest, truthfulness, respect for elders, caring, sharing, co-operation, communitarian, life-styles, and subsistence economy, human spiritually, collective joy etc. are still visible in their society.

Santal are the majority among Adivasi of West Bengal. They are scattered in almost all the districts. But they are living for generations in Midnapur, Bankura, Purulia, Birbhum and Malda. So, they have developed a different legacy which is time honoured. Apart from West Bengal their habitats are spread over Bihar, Orissa, Assam, and even outside India in Bangladesh and Nepal. According to Mr. Skrefsrud, the collector of Santal myths, the words is a degeneration of the word ‘sawantar’, and they adopted this name after setting for a few generations in this land. Previously, a part of old Midnipur was called ‘Sawant’ or ‘Samantabhumi’. In the opinion of Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, a linguist of West Bengal, the word ‘Santhal’ probably originated from the sanakrit word ‘Samantapal’ or the Border Security. In the Mediaeval ages this ‘Samantabhum’ broke into ‘Samanta-Al’ and later ‘sawantal’ – and ultimately became ‘Santhal’.

Generally Santhals set up their villages in a high place near a forest or a river. Almost in all places there is a road from one point to the other point of the village. This road is well maintained so that carts can easily pass through carrying wood from the forest or crops from the field. On both sides of the road there are rows of houses. The houses are built with mud walls and straw roof. Santhal houses are very neat and tidy. Everyday the courtyard and the terrace are swabbed with cow dung. They have a kitchen garden behind their houses. The husking pedal is placed in one side of the terrace. Cattle are kept in the house.

The Santhals are usually monogamous. They go for polygyny in extreme conditions like the bareness of wife but cousin marriage is not allowed. The Santhals practice about a dozen ways of acquiring mates. Remarriage widow marriages of divorcees are not unusual but such marriages are performed without much fun fare and least ceremonial observances. Marriage may be dissolved and both the parties enjoy equal right in the dissolution of marriage. Adultery and practice of witchcraft usually culminate in divorce.

The political organization is headed by a hereditary chieftain. If the council fails to resolve the problems or crisis the entire village sits over a meeting to sort out the matter. According to Santhal tradition those who clear the forest for village site and cultivation had the right to the land but the situation has undergone radical changes after policy after independence. All property, movable as well as immovable is divided equally among the sons on the death of the father. In the absence of the sons the property goes to the brother in equal proportions. Women have no right of inheritance.

The Village Setting

The village Kadam kannan comes under the Jhargram sub divisional municipalty. Jhargram has been divided into 17 wards and Kadam Kannan comes under ward no.7. It may be more appropriately called urban village or urban settlement. Kadam Kannan is mostly inhabited by the mixed population of indigenous people and higher caste group. And it has been a population of 2010, out of this male population is 1030 and the female population is 980, according to the 2001 census report. According to this report, total population of persons belonging to Scheduled Castes is 124 and the total population of persons belonging to Scheduled Tribes is 340. Total literacy rate is 67% approximately. Male literacy rate is higher than female literacy rate. The village has distinct physical boundaries. To the east of the village is the Shrish Chowk village; to the west of it is the Basurdoba village; to its north is Radha Nagar village and to its south is Goradora village.

Settlement Pattern

The houses in this village tend to appear in clusters. The houses are built on relatively flatter land. The streets in the village are kucha and some are semi-pucca. Many narrow intra village lanes turn in and out of the irregularly placed houses. Footpaths are found leading to the houses from the lanes. There is no fixed pattern for the footpaths as they are made wherever necessary. The streets are usable by light vehicles. The drains are mostly open.

The habitation area is well marked from the fields and the layout of houses in the village is more or less irregular. There is no particular direction which the house faces and the houses are built and faces according to the convenience and normally, they are built facing the small streets of the village. Although the village comprises of other Hindu castes in addition to Santhals, this does not affect the pattern of settlement too much.


The main source of drinking water is the tap water. There are two water tap at the main lane of the village. They use well water also for other purposes like for washing clothes, washing utensils, bathing etc. There are five wells in the village. The water supplies come under the Jhargram Municipality. The tap water comes in the morning from 7 am to 9 am. So, if they do not collect water during this time than they have to drink well water which is unsafe. There are also two poukhri (ponds) in the middle of the village but due to the high temperature they dry up quite often.


The major part of the village is covered by laterite soil. Facets of alluvial deposit are found in the northern part. The normal colour of the soil is reddish-brown. Some pockets contain sandy clay type at the lower lands. The area is surrounding by big and small trees, and some thin bushes. But it has a rich cover of small trees and shrubs. The flat land is covered with grass in most places, which are not under cultivation. The soil of laterite and is of poor fertility.

Climate and Rainfall
The weather is generally hot and humidity is high. Mainly three seasons occur in the town and its adjacent area. These are summer, monsoon and winter. Summer season is persistently long one. It lasts for seven to eight months of a year. And during this season the town faces several water scarcities as wells and pond dried up and people depend upon municipal water supply. Town is situated in the drought prone region. Average annual rainfall is about 800 mm which is much lower than the other parts of the district.

Flora and Fauna

Forests play an important role in the economy of the village. It supports a variety of wild plants and animals. The forests provide them with timber for building their houses, wood for fuel, medicinal herbs and fodder for domesticated animals and land for grazing. The Village is rich in flora and fauna. The chief crops are rice, cereals and different kinds of seasonal vegetables. Fruit plants and trees are commonly grown around the houses. Some of the commonly seen fauna are oxen, cows and buffaloes. Other domestic animals are goat, dog, pig etc. Wild animals are rarely seen except in the interior jungles. A list of flora and fauna is given below:

Sl.No. English name Local name
1. Bel Sanjo
2. Banana Keira
3. Bair Janam
4. Bamboo Math
5. Besal leaf Dhaniya
6. Bean Mallan
7. Chilli Marik
8. Cumcumber Cherra,sosa
9. Coconut Vacoon
10. Dates Khejur
11. Gourd Hotto
12. Mango Ull
13. Neem Neem
14. Onion Pyas
15. Palm Tale
16. Pumpkin Kumrao
17. Potato Aloo
18. Papaya Peephaw
19. Rice Khoro
20. Tamrind Jojo
21. Tomato Tomatar
22. Turmeric Sasang


Sl.No. English Local name
1. Bull Shan
2. Buffalo Bhair
3. Bird Chaare
4. Cow Dhangri/Ghou
5. Calf Bhachur
6. Cat Billi
7. Cock Siem shanti
8. Dog Sheta
9. Duck Khede
10. Fish Hako
11. Frog Raate
12. Flies Raa
13. Goat Merum
14. Hen Siem
15. Insects Teju
16. Monkey Harhu
17. Mosquito Shikri
18. Ox Chhagal
19. Pig Sukur
20. Parrot Tiapaki
21. Pigeon Pyrra
22. Rat Godo
23. Snake Bheen

Transport and Communication

The village is near the Jhargram Railway station, which is situated in the middle of the town on Howrah-Mumbai Railway line. Jhagram town is connected with District Headquater State-capital other district of the state and neighbouring states by road. The municipality authority built one bus-terminus that was inaugurated by Honorable Transport Minister, Govt. of West Bengal, Sri Subhas Chakraborty on 10th March 2002 and now the town is linked with 48 buses and tanker routes and hundred buses and tankers move from the said terminus daily. The District road connects them to the rest of the state. Most of the people own bicycles, which aids them to go to nearby villages or places.

Almost every house has radio-sets, some have television-sets and there is no telephone connection in any of the household in the village. So they have to avail from the nearby PCO booth. Some also read news paper from the shop or hotel.

Santhal language belongs to the Mundari branch of the Astro Asiatic language. In West Bengal Santhali comes next to Bengali as a colloquial language. Like other languages Santhali is also influenced by the climatic and social surroundings of different places. The language of the north is a little different from the language of the south. Although there is difference in pronunciation, the Santhali language is identical and grammatical in writing. Roman, Bengali, Dev Nagari and Ol chiki letters are used to Santhali language. But they speak in Bengali whenever they interact with other people.

Development Programmes
There are various development programmes which come under the West Bengal Government. They are:
a) Scheme of Educational Development
b) Scheme of economic Development
c) Scheme of Social Development

Under these three schemes, there are various other sub-schemes working for the upliftment of the people. The educational development scheme is mainly concerned with providing scholarship, free books; mid-day meal to the students, the economic and regional development scheme is concerned with economic upliftment of the people and provides facilities for credits and loans, green and yellow card, old age pension etc.

Since Kadam Kannan comes under the Jhargram Block Office and Jhargram Municipality, development activities of the village are looked after by it and here is given some other of these activities.

The Municipality maintains the street light arrangement. The town suffers from low voltage through out the year and frequent load shedding. To solve the problem and to covers the electric-less villages of vast area of Jhargram Sub-division, one 132 KV station is going to be installed in the town. But still the village is in dark because of their poor economic condition. Only three houses have the electricity in the village.


Agriculture is the primary mode of occupation and so it is an important part of their economy. Although land is the most important component of agricultural, it is not available to all and so; many of the villagers are engaged in other occupations. Moreover, all of the available land is not used for agricultural. Mostly, those areas which are somewhat lower are used for agriculture while those which are higher are left free for cattle to graze. There are some areas which can be used for neither purpose because of low fertility.

The agricultural activity is mainly dependant on the arrival of monsoon because irrigation facilities are poorly developed. The main source of irrigation is rainwater and wells. Rice is the main crop which is sown by the villagers only once a year during monsoon in July– August and is harvested in November. In addition they also grow wheat and vegetables. The agricultural produce is mainly for subsistence but in case there is surplus they sell it at the local market and thus get some additional income.

Due to lack of irrigation, they are not engaged in agricultural activities throughout the year. Also the income they get from agricultural is not sufficient to meet their others needs as education, health, etc. They therefore get engaged in other occupation especially as daily wage labourers in construction work where they get to enjoy the benefits of their labour daily in terms of money as opposed to the benefits in agriculture which they enjoy only after four to five months. So, wage labour is an important source of capital income.

They also plant vegetables in the available space surrounding the house i.e. the kitchen garden. They plant vegetables like potato, gourd, onion, garlic, ginger, pumpkin, brinjal, etc. These are sown all year round and are mainly for consumption and also for their additional income. For all these agricultural activities, they do not use any chemical fertilizers and use only cow dung and ash.

There are some households which prepare a local drink called ‘Mahua’ and they sell it for Rs 15 per bottle. It is made out of the flowers of mahua tree and they collect it from the forest or buy it from the market for Rs 8-10 per kg. The flowers are preserved in a pot and the drink is prepared in March- April. The longer the flowers are kept, the better is the drink. This drink is bought mainly by the non-villagers because most of the house prepared the drink for their own consumption.

They also prepare rice beer. They also rear cows, buffaloes, bulls, goats, pigs etc and sell them. Buffaloes and bulls are also used in agriculture to pull the plough. Besides these, they rear dogs, chicken, ducks etc. The main kind of fuel used is wood which they either buy or fetch from the nearby forest. Women go to the forest to fetch firewood.

The table of the occupational structure collected from the census data is given below:
Daily Labor
Govt. Service

Dress and Ornaments

The dress and ornaments are a reflection of the culture of the people. Women mostly wear a sari with or without a blouse. Their dress is very simple. Earlier, the males used to wear towels or 2-3 yards long coarse handloom cloth. The females used to wear coarse two pieces of sari, which is called ‘Parhand’ or ‘Parhao’. One piece was worn around the waist, and the other half was hung behind over the shoulder around the chest. But this dress has become obsolete now. Modern boys are habituated with Pant, Shirt and banyan; the girls wearing colourful mill series, petticoat and blouse.

Santal girls love jewellery. They mostly use silver ornaments. Among silverwares necklace, bangles, wristlet, earings, need special mention. They buy this from markets. They also use glass bangles. Females work hard, so they can afford this jewellery. Women adorn themselves with flowers during festivals.

Materials Culture

The study of materials culture is important because of their relation to the whole social organization and to the religious and other ceremonial practices. The materials culture includes house types, personal adornments, household goods, agricultural implements, utensils etc.

The houses are simple and identical except for some. The houses have been built with the primary concern for the shelter and with no architectural expertise. These houses are called ‘bari’ and are generally made of mud. They have tiles roofs, the tiles are made of baked mud. The houses are all built on raised platforms.

Traditionally utensils were mostly made of brass and earthen pots. Modern utensils are regularly made of steel and glass. The steel utensils include ‘thariya’ (plate) and ‘bati’ (bowl). The earthen pots include changri, chelang, tukut, thilli, etc. Gurgur is a grinding board and dhiri is the one which are used for crushing spices.

The storing basket, carrying basket is extensively made of bamboo and various patterns are used. Some of the basket they use is thika, dala, jhuri, etc. Agricultural implements are made of wood and iron. The iron part is made by the lohar while the people make the wooden handles themselves. Some of the agricultural implements include haal (plough),
Dataram (sickle), katta (axe), kudhi (spade), etc are used.

There is no market within the village. The market is in Jhargram town where people go. It is about 1km from the village. The market is open daily for everybody but for them, it is open on Thursday only, when they sell their wares. It opens at 10 am till 5 to 6 pm. The mains goods sold in the market are generally consumer goods. Cheap goods are sold here. Mostly the tribal communities visit this market. People staying at long distances also come to this market. Very few traditional products are sold here.

There is one high school called Kadan Kannan Prathamik Vidyalaya. It is a government school which lies at the main entrance of the village. There are morning shift, which is from 7 am to 10 am and the second shift from 10 am to 3 pm. The morning shift is for the nursery baby and the afternoon shift is for classes I to IV. There are 208 students with 115 boys and 93 girls. Out of this 43 are the SC boys and 32 are the SC girls. While the ST boys are 35 and ST girls are 19. The rest of the students are other backward classes (OBC). The headmaster of the school is Bipin Bohori Dey and it has a staff teacher of 2 male teacher and 3 female teachers.

Total students evolved from Santal are 20%. The admission charge is Rs. 10, but it is not compulsory. Those who are able, they pay the fees. The school is under the Government scheme like-
Sarva Siksha Aviyan; this scheme supplies pencil, rubber, slate, and note book to the students every year.
Integrated Child Development scheme
Mid day Meal; this scheme arranged lunch for the student.

Anganwadi: The Anganwadi is a social institution established by the state Government in collaboration with the central Government mainly to provide health services to women and children. Pre-school children come here to learn some basic alphabets and numbers. A woman called Shrimati Siuli Bhowmik manages the Anganwadi. The Anganwadi has a cook who gets monthly Rs. 500/- .The Anganwadi provides chawal, dal and sabji to the children.

Health Centers
There is one primary health centre in Jhargram town which is at the centre of the town. The hospital has 265 beds and it provides allopathic medical care for ailments like malaria, anemia, jaundice, diarrhea, fever etc. But the villager hardly go to this hospital, they ignore their illness due to the economic problem. The hospital also supply medicines free of cost to them. They prefer home made medicine.

Political Organisation
Santhals give great value to the village organization in their social, economic and religious life. Nobody disobeys the rule of the village organization. If any body behaves unsociably or breaks social laws, he can be out-casted.

Each Santal village has its own Panchayet. The Panchayet fixes the dates of festivals and rituals, settles the feuds and maintains the law and order. At the end of the year (month of magh) the workings of this Panchayet are analyzed and a new Panchayet is formed. The office bearers of a Panchayet are like this:

Manjhi- He is the most powerful leader or the chieftain of the village. All the responsibilities of the village are entrusted on him. In birth or death, in marriage or other rituals, nothing can be done without his instructions. Earlier, a free land was allotted to the Manjhi as a sign of respect.

Paranik- He is the assistant of the Manjhi. He does all the works in the absence of Manjhi. If the Manjhi resigns or dies, or if he does not appoint any successor, then the Paranik gets the post of the Majhi.

Jog-Manjhi- He leads the youths of the village. His responsibility is to look after the moral character of unmarried boys and girls. He has to be very alert, so that, any illegal love affair does not take place. If the Jog-Manjhiis unable to perform his duty, he is penalized. The villagers fasten him to the cattleshed of the Manjhi’s house and compel him to pay him fines. He conducts all the dances during the festivals. Without his instruction the youths do not dance.

Jog-Paranik- The assistant of the Jog-Manjhi. When the Jog Manjhi is absent in the village, it is his duty to perform the duty of the Jog Manjhi.

The panchayet is formed just after the village is set up. The members of the Panchayet enjoy their posts for generations. The Panchayet meetings are held under a tree in the village. If the Manjhi of the village cannot solve any problem, he hands over the case to the police.

Kadak Kannan is one of the villages of the Jhargram. There are 17 wards of the municipality with one councelor each ward and the Kadam Kannan comes under ward no.7. The present councilor of the ward no.7 is a Santali woman, whose name is Rekha Hembram. She is the intermediary between the villagers and the Government, whatever they have problem they complain to her.

Socialization refers to the processes by which the individual comes to conform to the norms of the group in which he is born and becomes an active participant of that society. In any particular culture, it is through the process of socialization that a child acquires the attitude and value system of the culture. It makes him an individual with culturally appropriate behaviour pattern. The lifestyles and personality of an individual are largely a matter of socialization. As such socialization is a mechanism of culture transmission. But at the same time, it is also an aspect of culture. The kind of child rearing practices adopted by the parents, the roles that the child is expected to adopt and the pattern no his interactions, with the adults and peers are also prescribed by the culture. Therefore, an understanding of the socialization process requires perceiving it in particular socio-cultural contexts.

In the upbringing of a child, gender is an important factor in the allocation of roles, status and powers in all-traditional societies. The Santhals being a patrilocal, patriarchial, and patrilineal society prefer to have a boy child. They feel incomplete without male children in the family who will on the father’s name. There is a difference in the upbringing of children among the Santhal. When a girl is about the age of 3 years, she starts helping in the household chores, taking care of younger siblings etc. She has less leisure time compared to a boy child who usually roams around with friends. A boy child has more freedom and he is a carefree child and grows up with less or no responsibility. The mother puts more pressure on the obedience of a child and to impart moral values. She does not flog the children the first time they fail to obey but only on repeated disobedience. Punishments are usually verbal scolding and physical punishments are rarely used to discipline the child. The child shares an intensive relationship with the mothers than fathers who are usually away for work. Evidence like performing tasks such as self-cleaning points out that there is an early emphasize on training for self-reliance.

Family is a primary social group universally recognized to be the basis of all human endeavour and activities and family is constituted of members who are related by consanguinal and affinal ties. The local term of the family is parivar. The pre-dominant type of family in village is nuclear family. Other type of family like extended families and single family are also found in their society.

It was found that in nuclear family, often the brothers construct their houses close to each other within the same compound and if they have an ancestral home, one of them along with his family lives there or they sell it and share the money among themselves. Joint family is found only in one family because, they said it leads to quarrels and fights among the members also due to accommodation problem.

In the family, there is division of labour between men and women as well as children. The domestic domain is the prerogative of women and they are responsible for domestic chores like cooking, cleaning, washing, etc. But the men too extend a helping hand if the need arise. Collecting firewood from the forest is mainly done by women and children. Men are usually involved in the fields and hard work. Men and women both contribute to the economy.

Family acts as the unit of socialization. The family also acts as a unit of information where all the agricultural activities are taught to the children by the parents. The children also learn these agricultural activities by accompanying their parents in the field. Girls learn all the chores from their mothers.

Joint family was found quiet few in the village mainly because of the poverty or financial problem. They said that we are daily labor, how can they manage this large family like joint family.

In the family there is no division of labor between man and women. Both men and women can do any kind of work. But only women can do house hold chore, men usually do not. Both men and women are daily wage laborer. They are responsible for cooking, washing, collection of fire wood from the forest, making house, cultivate land, harvesting. Men and women are both contribute to the house hold economy.

Family acts as the unit of socialization. The family also acts as a unit of information where all the agricultural activities are taught to the children by the parents. Girls learn all the house hold chores from their mother within the family.

Family Structure

Sl. No
Type Of Family
Total Household


Rivers has defined kinship as the social recognition of biological ties. Kinship is the study of interpersonal relationships between individuals related to each other either by marriage or by blood and it is the most universal basic bond. Kinship relation is recognized for social purposes.

Kinship plays an important role in the social organization of the village. They are patrilineal- they trace their descent through the male line. They have patrilocal rules of residence. But there is one exception to this- in case a couple is sonless and has only daughters, the eldest married daughter stay in the parental home. There is some kind of avoidance that is found in all the societies and avoidance as a mode of behaviour is said to express respect. Among the Santhal, avoidance exists between a woman and her husband’s elder brother and her parents-in-law. In this behaviour, a woman addresses the elder and the male members with her head covered and her face averted.

Opposite to avoidance is the joking relationship. They have a joking relationship between a man and his wife’s younger sister (bakat kuri Joyai and Sali) and his wife’s younger brother, and between a woman and her husband’s younger brother.

A wife does not address his husband by name neither does a husband address his wife by name. Both the husband and wife address each other by referring to them as the father or mother of his or her child. Also the parents-in-law never call their sons or daughters-in-law by their names.

Kinship terminology forms an important part in the whole kinship system because it serves as an index for understanding the kinship relations and patterns of behaviour among various kin members and groups. It was found that the villagers have mainly classificatory terms. The kinship terms used by the villagers are as follows:

English Santali

1) Father Apung
2) Mother Ayu
3) Brother Bukette
4) Sister Doyi
5) Son Hopen/ Shele
6) Daughter Kuri Hopen/Meh
7) Uncle Hopen Apung
8) Aunt Hopen Ayu
9) Father-in-laws Hozar Meheral/ Baba
10) Mother-in-laws Hanhar Meh/ yu
11) Brother-in-laws Bakatkuri Joyai
12) Sister-in-laws Areling Kuri
13) Elder sister-in-laws Aashrari
14) Grandfather Garam Apung
15) Grandmother Garam Ayu
16) Son-in-law Jamai
17) Daughter-in-law Bahu
18) Father’s Father Dadu
19) Father’s Mother Babai
20) Mother’s Father Dadu
21) Mother’s Mother Mamari
22) Elder Brother Dada
23) Elder Sister Didi
24) Younger Brother Babu
25) Younger Sister Moi
26) Elder Brother’s Wife Bahu
27) Younger Brother’s Wife Boma
28) Elder Sister’s Husband Tinyang
29) Younger Sister’s Husband Babu
30) Father’s Elder Brother Jetha
31) Father’s Younger Brother Kaku
32) Father’s Sister Jhe
33) Mother’s Brother Mamaa
34) Mother’s Elder Sister Kokou
35) Mother’s Younger Sister Kaki
36) Father’s Elder Brother’s Wife Kaki
37) Father’s Younger Brother’s Wife Mami
38) Father’s Elder Sister’s Husband Kokouba
39) Mother’s Younger Sister’s Husband Kaka
40) Wife’s Brother Shalla
41) Husband’s Brother Basu
42) Husband’s Sister Nono
43) Nephew Bhaipua
44) Niece Khodomai
45) Husband Herel
46) Wife Maiju
47) Child Geedara
48) Relatives Perra

From this table we may infer that although they use descriptive terms, classificatory terms are predominant and also they do not make any distinction between cross and parallel cousins.

Inheritance of Property
The inheritance pattern among the sandals is generally patrilineal i.e. property is passed on from father to son and the property is equally distributed among all the sons. But the eldest son has the right to select the property of his choice. The daughters normally get only movable property like jewellery, utensils, etc. But there are exceptions where even the daughters get a share of the immovable property. And this happens when a couple is sonless. The husband of the eldest daughter stays in the wife’s parental home and manages the property.

Other than the allopathic system of medicine the villagers also resort to the healing of traditional and other healers. The village has no specific herbalist. But some old members of the village have an experience of herbal medicine for healing. They collect the medicine herbs from the forest. It cures some illness like gastritis, backaches, pain in the ears, jaundice, allergies and skin diseases. They also heal by Jhar-phook and sometimes with the help of herbs.

The Santhal society recognizes a supreme god called “Thakur”. They call Thakur to saal tree. All men think that Thakur is the guardian of morality, punishing all offences against customary morality with sickness, death or other calamities. They have ancestor worship and infact they believe that all their ancestors reside inside their houses. They believe in naturism and worship is primarily concerned with ancestral and certain other disembodied souls, and nature spirits and deities. They make clay horses, elephants as image of all the deities and spirits. But they have started worshipping many gods and goddesses of the Hindus such as Maa kaali, Ganesh, Hanuman, Shiv, Durga, etc. There is no temple within the village of Kadam Kanan but they go to the nearby temples in Jhargram. Ocimum is also worshipped and around this plant clay horse, elephant sorrounde it as it is a natural beauty.
Before Kaali Puja, cow is worshipped in their shelter. During Navratri festival they do not worshipped idol, they only dance because they think they are the descendant of Aryan race. Santhal is not based on Vedas. They do not obey Manu Sanghita.


i. April Baishakh
ii. May Jyasth
iii. Jun Ashadh
iv. July Sraban
v. August Bhadrab
vi. September Aswin
vii. October kartik
viii. November Agrahayan
ix. December Poush
x. January Magh
xi. February Phalgoon
xii. March Chaitra


The expectant mother is prohibited to see or touch a dead body. She also prohibited cutting fish, meat and breaking the egg and other twin fruit or vegetables like banana etc. She can’t go venture out late at night. This are all for the well being of mother and the fetus. After the birth of a child till 10 to 12 days, until the umbilical cord dries up the mother and the child are ceremonially unclean. Family members are also regarded as polluted. This pollution is removed when the stump of the umbilical cord falls and drops down. On this day family member or other old woman apply turmeric and mustard oil to the baby and mother and then both baby and mother take bath. This bath is a form of purification. The umbilical cords is buried or thrown in the pond or river or any kind of water place.

When the child is about 7 months old the Annaprasana or first rice eating ceremony performed. On this day the child is given rice diet for the first time. There is no particular ceremony performed when child become one years old. On any day after child birth the family members can give name to the child. They don’t have any initiation rites.

Betrothal and Marriage
The santhali have endogamy and they normally do not marry outside their community, if they do so they are excommunicated. But they are also readmitted. They practice clan exogamy because they believe that the members of the same clan are brothers and sisters. But this rule is also not always applicable because there are people who marry within the clan.

This people usually seek the help of a middle man for finding a partner. Santhals mostly followed the three kinds of marriage. They are love marriage, dhekha-sune marriagen (arrange marriage) and marriage in mela or fair. In dekha-suna marriage parents of the boy with some village elders or friends of boys go to visits the girl’s house or place. And if both the parents agreed to the desirability of the match the engage is done. The groom gives cow to the brides parents as bride price. Bride price can be given at the time of the marriage or can also be given after marriage but within five years. Then boy applies sindoor or vermilion on the partition of the hair of the girl or forehead of the bride. Groom gives a iron bangle or luha khadi and shell bangle or shakha to the bride. After marriage till death of her or death of her husband, a married girl wears all this like-sindoor (vermilion), luha khadi (iron bangle) and shakha (shell bangle). These all are symbol of a married woman. In girls house there is big arrangement of feast with dance and handia liquor from fermented rice) and mahua (liquor made from a flower).

All kins and friends attend the death ceremony. When a man dies, his body is taken in to the cremation ground. Not a single woman can go to the cremation ground. After death, the body is wrapped in the white cloth. The male carries the dead body to the cremation ground. After reaching there they burn the dead body. Then at the same place they made a soily structure depicting the deceased. Four bamboo sticks with cloth which protected the body from sun rays and rain they cover it where they burn the dead body. On the 10th day all other member who had attended the funeral ceremony go and take a dip in the river Ganga as it is the holy river. Barber who went with them cuts the nails of the members.

Chapter 4:
Disability in
West Bengal


"The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995" came into force on February 7, 1996. This law was an important landmark and is a significant step in the direction of ensuring equal opportunities for people with disabilities and their full participation in the nation building. The Act provided for both preventive and promotional aspects of rehabilitation like education, employment and vocational training, job reservation, research and manpower development, creation of barrier-free environment, rehabilitation of persons with disability, unemployment allowance for the disabled, special insurance scheme for the disabled employees and establishment of homes for persons with severe disability. It was a major step towards the rehabilitation of the disabled people.
Main Provisions of the “The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act” are:
Preventions and Detections of Disabilities
Research and Manpower Development
Affirmative Action
Social Security
Grievance Redressal

Prevention and early detection of disabilities
· Surveys, investigations and research shall be conducted to ascertain the cause of occurrence of disabilities.
· Various measures shall be taken to prevent disabilities, Staff at the Primary health Centre shall be trained to assist in this work.
· All the Children shall be screened once in a year for identifying `at-risk’ cases.
· Awareness campaigns shall be launched and sponsored to disseminate information.
· Measures shall be taken for pre-natal, prenatal, and post-natal care of the mother and child.

"Right to free Education"
· Every child with disability shall have the rights to free education till the age of 18 years in integrated schools or special schools.
· Appropriate transportation, removal of architectural barriers and restructuring of curriculum and modifications in the examination system shall be ensured for the benefit of children with disabilities.
· Children with disabilities shall have the right to free books, scholarships, uniforms and other learning material.
· Special School for children with disabilities shall be equipped with vocational training facilities.
· Non-formal education shall be promoted for children with disabilities.
· Teacher’s Training Institutions shall be established to develop requisite manpower.
· Parents may move to appropriate for the redressal of grievances regarding the placement of their children with disabilities.
1. 3% of vacancies in government employment shall be reserved for people with disabilities, 1% each for persons suffering from :
Blindness or Low vision
Hearing Impairment
Locomotor Disability & Cerebral Palsy
2. Suitable schemes shall be formulated for
· The training and welfare of persons with disabilities
· The relaxation of upper age limit
· Regulating the employment
· Health and safety measures and creation of a non-handicapping environment in places where persons with disabilities are employed.
3. Government Educational Institutes and other Educational Institutes receiving grant from Government shall reserve at least 3% seats for people with disabilities.
4. All poverty alleviation schemes shall reserve at least 3% for the benefit of people with disabilities.
5. No employee can be sacked or demoted if they become disabled during service, although they can be moved to another post with the same pay and condition. No promotion can be denied because of impairment.
Affirmative Action
1. Aids and Appliances shall be made available to people with disabilities.
2. Allotment of land shall be made at concessional rates to the people with disabilities for:

· House
· Business
· Special Recreational Centers
· Special Schools
· Research Schools
· Factories by Entrepreneurs with Disability

· Public buildings, rail compartments, buses, ships and air-crafts will be designed to give easy access to disabled people.
· In all public places and in waiting rooms, toilets shall be wheel chair accessible. Braille and sound symbols are also to be provided in lifts.
· All the places of public utility shall be made barrier-free by providing ramps.

Research and Manpower Development
Research in the following areas shall be sponsored and promoted:
· Prevention of Disability
· Rehabilitation including CBR
· Development of Assistive Devices
· Job Identification
· On site Modifications of Offices and Factories
Financial assistance shall be made available to the universities, other institutions of higher learning, professional bodies and non-government research units or institutions, for undertaking research for special education, rehabilitation and manpower development.
Social Security
· Financial assistance to non-government organisations for rehabilitation of persons with disabilities.
· Insurance coverage for the benefit of the government employees with disabilities
· Unemployment allowance to people with disabilities registered with the special employment exchange for more than a year and who could not be placed in any gainful occupation.

Grievances Redressal
In case of violation of rights as prescribed in that act, people with disabilities may move an application to:
· Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities in the Centre or
· Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities in the States.
These are the major points that were enacted to rehabilitate the disabled people.


The population of the persons with disabilities

Table I
S. No.
Total population
Disabled population
West Bengal

Table I: Population of India and disabled people in India

In the above table, the data on the number of the persons in India and the disabled population in India has been given. The data has been compared and the male female population in rural India and urban India has been compared with the data on the rural and urban population of West Bengal. In the next column, the rural disabled population and the urban disabled populations have been compared with respect to males and females in both India and west Bengal. What we can observe from the table is that the percentage of the disabled with respect to the total population of India is 2.13% (2.21% in urban areas and 1.93% for rural areas). On the other hand, this value is higher in respect to West Bengal. The percentage of the disabled people to the total population in West Bengal is 2.30% (2.35% in the urban area and 2.20% in the rural area). Therefore, the percentage of the disabled population is higher in West Bengal than the total population of India.

Table II

India/ State

Total Population
Percentage to Total Population
Disability in Seeing
Disability in Movement
Disability in Speech and Hearing
Disability in Mental

West Bengal

Table II: A comparison in the population of Disabled people in India and West Bengal, depicting different populations.

In Table II, we can see the number of people with different kinds of population in the state of West Bengal. We can observe from the table is that the number of the visual disabled, hearing Impaired and the mentally disabled in West Bengal is more that in India. On the other hand, the number of locomotor disabled persons in West Bengal is less than the total number of locomotor disabled people in India.

In Midinipur, according to Census of India, 2001, the number of disabled persons is:-

Table III

Hearing Impained
Locomotor Disability


Table III – The number of disabled people in Midinipur District.

In the given table, we can observe the number of the people with different disabilities in the Midinipur District. Here, the difference in the rural and urban population can be seen. The disability with maximum number of people is Visual Disability. On the other hand, least number of disabled have Locomotor Disability.

State Government Schemes for the Disabled people

These are the State Government schemes and policies for the disabled people in West Bengal

Scheme to promote voluntary action for Persons with Disabilities

Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, simplifies and facilitated the procedure for easy access to Government support for the NGOs with the aim to widen the scope and range of programmes mainly through the under mentioned schemes:-

· Scheme of assistance to organizations for the disabled.
· Scheme to NGOs for the rehabilitation of the leprosy cured persons.
· Scheme of special school for the handicapped children
· Scheme for persons with cerebral palsy and mental retardation and project for cerebral palsied children
· Scheme of assistance to disabled persons for purchase / fittings of Aids and Appliances (ADIP)
· Half – way home for the mentally ill persons
· Loan (financial assistance for starting business)

Case Study - Sevayatan Kalyan Kendra,
A Non Government Organization
for Deaf and Mentally Impaired children

Rehabilitation can be defined as the aim to restore the person's functioning and thereby their physical and psychological well-being. It is a complex process, and has been subdivided into identification and realization of potential, re-ablement and resettlement of the persons with disabilities. It also includes role identification and fulfillment and readjustment in the family and the society

Rehabilitation isn’t time limited and it continues well after the impairment is assessed or a treatment (the person is more than a passive recipient). It is also not a mono-therapy and inputs are needed for co-ordination of the disabled person.

Rehabilitation of the disabled persons requires positive attitude of the person with disability, the family and friends and the health workers. It directly involves the family and team working. The major achievement of rehabilitation is the promotion of independence and a sense of major accomplishment in the mind of the disabled person.

In Jhargram, I visited a Non Government Organization that was working for the rehabilitation of the disabled children. The name of the Non Government Organization was Sevayatan Kalyan Kendra - Panchkari Swarabodhan Niketan, a school for the deaf and mentally handicapped and has residential facilities for the disabled children. It is a vocational training and an educational institute. As the title suggests, it is a school where the disabled children live and study. Only mentally handicapped children and hearing impaired children live there.

It was established in the year 1992 at the residence of Shri. Panchkuri Dey. He was the ex principle of Sevayatan B.Ed. College, Jhargram.

The principal of the school, Shri Dakshinarajan Parihari, said that the school caters to the disabled children who are in the age group of 5 years to 22 years. They belong to the category of Mild Mental Disability and Hearing Impairment. The number of the students enrolled in the Non Government Organization is 93. Among them 66 students live in the hostel and 27 live outside who come to learn, to study, and to have lunch.

There are 60 students who are Hearing Impaired and the rest 33 students are Mentally Disabled. Also, among them, 80% of the students are tribals and the rest are general the tribal children belong to Santhal, Lodha and Bhumij tribes. Other students are of Hindu, Muslim and Christian religion. The school is situated in a 4 bigha land and the NGO consists of a school, hostel, plant garden, playing ground and a horticulture and a kitchen garden. One of their Hearing Impaired students, Amit Kumar Mahato passed his Madhyamic Examination successfully with II division, obtained computer training certificate and will be appearing in the Higher Secondary Examination this year. Their students are also doing great in the field of sports. They bagged four first prizes, three second prizes and three third prizes in the district level sports competition organised by District Sports Committee, Paschim Midinipur.

The president of the Non Government Organization, Shri Raghunandan Sannigrihi said that the aim of Sevayatan Kalyan Kendra is to educate them as much as possible and to rehabilitate them so that they can lead a life of dignity and their objective is to make mentally challenged and deaf children self reliant, confident and useful citizens of the society. The institution was established by the Sevayatan Trust which operates a number of institutions.

The trainings which are imparted in the school are
1. Tailoring and cutting
2. Drawing, painting and craft
3. Two and three wheeler repairing
4. Handicrafts from leaflets.

They teach these things so that the students when going out of the school can earn something and are not regarded as a burden by the family and the society. They are joined by Bikas Bharati, another NGO working in Lodha Shuli and they help each other and exchange some students so that they can know how to adjust well. They are also in constant contact with Midnipur Rehabilitation Centre for Children (MRCC), another NGO working for the rehabilitation of the disabled children.

The students of Sevayatan Kalyan Kendra are encouraged to take part in sports and other activities. They play football, volleyball, badminton and cricket. Their students take part in the sports meet organized in the neighborhood. They are also thought Yoga and there has been made a makeshift gym by the students itself to keep their body and mind in shape. Every year, a sports day is organized on the birthday of the founder of the institute, where the students get a chance to display their performances in various fields.

The students are taken for excursions to various tourist places and encouraged to open their mind and have a broader view. They visit Jamshedpur, where they visit a number of places and also the zoological park. Cultural functions are organized by the NGO where all the children

They are single handedly running two projects. One is Panch Khodi – Mass Awareness Program especially in tribal and backward areas to eradicate illiteracy among the disabled population, a community based rehabilitation programs for the disabled has been running towards comprehensive development. Another is the Rehabilitation Program for the disabled children

The staff of the Sevayatan Kalyan Kendra consists of 11 full time teachers, 3 vocational teachers, 1 yoga and physical educator and a 1 craft teacher. A speech therapist, Psychologist and Psychiatrist and an ENT specialist also visit the NGO weekly. They are given grant by the Government of India but only for the payment of Taxes. Other expenditure is done by the Trust like payment to the teachers etc.

According to the principal, the disabled children in the villages are not well kept. They are considered by all as burdens and are generally mistreated. But as the time is changing, the attitude of the people is also undergoing a massive change. They are realizing that the disabled persons can also contribute to the society and are not a burden.

When talking about the goal of the NGO, the principal said that to ensure the effective implementation of the Equal Opportunity and Protection of Right Act of 1995, their organization has taken a big step towards extending its service in the field of disabled persons and the mass awareness program to eradicate illiteracy. Their organization is making best endeavor:-

To bring about improvement in the lives of the disabled children through acquiring skills as basic as activities of daily living and to their integration into regular institutions for learning and society in general.

To make continuous improvement of the mentally retarded and hearing impaired children by teaching, training, and sophisticated therapy as speech therapy, physiotherapy psychological treatment, behavior modification vocational training etc.

To provide them with nutritious food and drink, well ventilated accommodation, hygienic accommodation and close association.

Chapter 5:
Disability Knowledge –
Views and Terms


The knowledge of the people regarding Disability was recorded and ascertained by the author. This process involved going to a number of villagers and enquiring them about the disabled people in the village and their views on disability. I collected the terms with which they address the disability.

Starting with the residents of Kadam Kanan I asked the questions regarding disability. That was followed by conducting interviews in Sirish Chowk and Gogna Shuli. There I met the village elders and other residents and asked them the questions. I conducted structured interviews among them and collected the various terms used by the people regarding disabled peoples.


I asked the villagers about their views regarding why people are disabled? In response to this question, I got three answers. Firstly, majority of the respondents replied that in their view, ‘disability’ was due to the will of God. They said that if God wants, then we have a certain disability. Otherwise we do not. According to the villagers, if one becomes disabled, then we cannot do anything. We can only take the person to a doctor or to a ‘baba’ and pray that all becomes well. If God wishes, all will become great and the person will be cured. And on the other hand, if God wished the person to remain disabled, nobody can do anything. The will of God is supreme.

Secondly, the people said that the disabilities are due to the deeds of the past. This was given by very few persons. They said that if a person, in his previous birth, had done something wrong like cutting a particular tree or kill any special animal or do anything that is prohibited and considered bad then the person might become disabled in his next birth. If even his forefathers had done something wrong then they might also become disabled.

Thirdly, the answer which I got was that ‘disability’ is caused by any accident or by birth. They said that people might have an accident and thus, become disabled. One person said that disability might be caused due to some illness. Also, a person remarked that one might get disabled when lightning strikes the person concerned.

These were the three types of answers that I got from interviewing the villagers about how a person can become disabled.

I then asked them about their attitude towards disability. i.e. how will they react to a disabled person. To this question, almost all said that they will help him and do whatever they can do to help them. When asked in what way, they replied that they will help him in his activities like walking, eating. But none of the answers were specific. They ranged from giving him water to offering him liquor. One person said that he will work for him to help him.

I asked the villagers about how they treat the disabled people. I asked about the people who were disabled and resided in their respective villages. To this, they said that they treat them normally.

When asked about Chandra Soren, a fesident of Gogna Suli, who is visually disabled, the villagers of Gogna Suli said that they consider him one of the village elders who know about everything. He was a worker in Kharagpur so he knows the worldview and the attitude of the outsiders. Also, he knows a lot about farming. People go to him to ask about what crop to sow, how to sow and other agriculture related questions. People also go to him to ask about their personal problems as he listens to everything and gives good advice. They do not consider him disabled in the sense that he cannot do anything as he cannot see. He is the head of such a big family and all his sons in law are working in the fields and he manages the household without any friction. He cannot see but he can easily recognize whether a person is lying or not.

When asked about Luxmi Soren, who is the wife of Chandra Soren and hearing impaired, the villagers said that all the women go to her to learn how to prepare dishes. She is like a mother to all. Although she cannot hear and that makes a little difficult conversing with her but when she comes to know the issue, she explains it entirely and wonderfully. She also prepares food when there are any celebrations in the village.

When I asked about Kalika Hembrum, who has poIio, I got very different answers. People of her village said that she is very shy girl and does not venture out much to other villager’s houses. They said that she should come out of her hut and play with other children. So here the villagers commented on her behaviour than on her disability. They said that it might be that due to her disability that she does not come out of her hut. They said that we all like her but she should play and come out and not remain in her room always.

When I asked about Mitra Mullik, an ex. ‘mukhia’ and now a paralyzed person, all the villagers said that he is held in high esteem in their eyes. As he was the mukhia of Sirish Chowk, all the people respect him. They said that before the disability, he went to all the places to help then and solved all the problems that erupted between them. But after the disability, as he could not go anywhere, he did not remain the mukhia. This was due to the fact that the mukhia involved a lot of walking and movement from he place to another. But some said that after his disability, he remains sitting outside the hut and does not move anything. His land is being farmed by the labourers who have been hired. They said that he should not remain out of the hut in sun all day doing nothing. When I asked that how will he move, they did not answer but said that he should not remain outside the hut all the time. .

When asked about Roop Chand Mullik, a small child who is also paralyzed due to paraplegia, the villagers said that he is ‘pogol’ and he has seizures. They said that his mother does not look after him adequately and only his father cares for him. The people do play with him but as his mother does not let him go out so only when his father is in the hut, and then only does he take him for long visits to the farms. The people do want to talk him but he seldom goes anywhere.

In the end, when I asked about Shonali Bhukta, a girl who has locomotor disability, all said that she is a very naughty girl with a glint in their eyes. They said that she roams here and there all the time and plays with the village children. They said that she is a really nice girl and she is a very sweet girl. About her disability, they said that they see her as a child and not as a disabled person. They said tat she must be conscious of her foot but all the villagers do not see her foot abut consider a simple village girl.

This data collected through the interviews gave a distinct view about the attitude of the people toward the disabled people in the village. They generally do not see the disability but the ability. But they almost always addressed the person with disability like ‘pagol’ and ‘kada’.


The terms used by the people are:-
Locomotor Disability
Visual Disability
Hearing Impairment
Mental Disability
Koka, Pagol

Table I: The terms used for different types of disabilities

When asked about the types of disabilities that are present, they generally spoke of Mental Disability followed by Locomotor Disability. Some of them also took the name of Visual Disability, but only when they were in a group and they discussed among themselves.

Most of the people said that there are only 3 types of Disability. They were:-

1. Mental Disability
2. Locomotor Disability
3. Visual Disability

Only two persons said that there existed a disability in which a person could not hear or speak.

Chapter 6:

Life Histories of The
Persons with Disabilities



In Jhargram, I visited three villages (Sirish Chowk, Kadam Kanan and Sirish Chowk) to study the People with Disabilities and the attitude of people towards disability. I talked to the disabled people in those villages and collected six life histories. I asked them about their life, their childhood, their family, their abilities and disabilities, the impact of disability on their lives and the attitude of their family and villagers towards them. This material thus collected became the data basis of the dissertation.

The following are the accounts of the six disabled people who spoke about their experiences with disability and its importance along with its influence on their lifestyle.

Life History of
Chandra Soren

Name: Chandra Soren
Age: 72
Sex: Male
Father’s name: Jaleshwar Soren
Mother’s name: Hiremoni Soren
Marital Status: Married
Wife’s name: Luxmi Soren
Children: 3 daughters
Address: village Gogna Suli, Jhargram, West Midinipur, West Bengal.
Tribe: Santhal
Disability: Visual Disability

Chandra Soren was born in the village of Gogna Suli. His father, Jaleshwar Soren was a farmer and had land on the outskirts of the village. His mother, Hiremoni Soren was a housewife. They used to live in a large house which had 6 rooms and a courtyard in the middle. He was the only son so he was loved a lot and always given liberty to play all he wanted. They used to love him a lot.

He started going to the school when he was very small. The teacher in the school knew his father so Chandra was sent to the school when almost all of the village children did not go to the school. There he used to study and after the classes finished, he used to play all the day and roam around with his friends. In the night, he used to reach home and then have dinner, study if there was any work to do and then go off to sleep.

When he started growing up, he started helping his father in the farm. He used to reach the farm in the afternoon, the moment the school got over and then help his father with the agricultural work. He came to know the working of the machines there were in the farm as his father used to hire tractors and other machines to aid in his cultivation. His studies continued side by side. After finishing class 5th, he went and studied till class 8th from the school in the town. At that time he was helping his father almost all the time in farming. After some years, his uncle, who used to work in a factory in Kharagpur, visited them. There he met Chandra and asked him whether he would like to work in factory. Chandra had never been to Kharagpur so he said that he would like to. Even his father supported him and said that he will hire one more help to aid him in the farming.

His uncle took him to the city of Kharagpur. There he got a job in a private factory as a packer. He used to pack the boxes that came filled with electronic goods and then he used to take them to the godown for further processing. For some time, he lived with his uncle in his house but afterwards, he rented a room and started living and working. Usually the work was very tiring but after some time, he became accustomed to the hard life and made few friends. Thus, he worked there in the factory and started a new life away from home.

He used to visit his village every month and on festivals as it was a very small journey to his village. It took 2 hours in train and further 2 hours by bus. He used to buy gifts for his father and mother. One day, when he was about 24 years of age, he was enjoying in the village fair when he saw a girl with her friends roaming around. He liked her and followed her. He asked his friends who told him that she was a santhal girl and her name was Luxmi. She lived in the nearby village of Davankpura and was a daughter of a farmer. They also told him that she could not hear at all. This did not deter him and investigating about her and the next day, told his parents. When he told them about the girl, they were ready to meet her parents but when they got to know about her disability, they got angry. They said that how will he live with a disabled girl they were quite well off and could get a better girl but he refused. He came to know that the girl could speak a little because she was fine some months ago but due to a brief illness, she could not hear anything.

His father then started talks with the family of the girl and then both the families met and the decision was taken to get them married. Most of his family members and other relatives told him not to marry that girl as she could not hear him and she will not be able to take proper care of him. But Chandra did not listen to them and went ahead with his decision. His parents and friends supported his decision of marrying her. Finally, a date was decided by the elders in the family and they got married in a customary 7 day celebrations. They had the marriage ceremony in her house followed in his house.

After the marriage, he went to Kharagpur and Luxmi remained in his villages. She moved in with him in some months when he got a small house in Kharagpur. He lived there and worked in the factory for many years. He had three daughters and he loved them all very much. The first was born a year after his marriage, the second was born after 4-5 years and the third girl was born about 8 years after his marriage. His life consisted of going to the factory and coming back to his family. He says that he did not know it would be girl of boy and did not show any preference to boys. According to him, both the boys and girls are equal and are a gift of God. A girl is as good as a boy.

After some years, when he was 42 years old, he had sudden burning in his eyes. He washed them with water and the burning sensation went away. After some days, it again occurred and his eyesight started decreasing. He went to a doctor who did his medical checkup and told him to take certain medicines. One day, even after taking medicines, he had sudden burning sensation and slowly, he lost his vision. Earlier, it was partial but afterwards, it started becoming total. He again went to see the doctor. The doctor told him that his eyes had got infected and he will not be able to see again. He gave Chandra some medicines to prolong the slight vision that was still left. But in some days, his entire vision vanished and he could not see anything.

This caused a big blow to him. When he told the officials in the factory, they asked him how will he work in the factory and thus, he lost his job. With no means of subsistence, he decided to return to his home in the village and live there. He, along with his wife and daughters, returned to the village where his elderly father still lived and looked after the farming. His wife had been a great support to him all through his illness and had helped him whenever he needed to do something. He had lost all senses as he was too sad and wanted his eyesight to come back. In his village, his father told him that there was a baba who was visiting the neighbor village and he should visit him. Therefore he thought that maybe the baba can cure his eyesight. The next day, along his wife, he went to see the ‘baba’ and hoped the baba might perform a miracle. He took with him fruits to offer to the baba. When he reached his hut, the baba saw him and said that his eyesight loss was due to the misdeeds of his forefather who had cut down a ‘saal’ tree. Therefore, he will remain blind all his life. He also said that he should now forget about the blindness and concentrate on his life.

From that day, he started a new life. He decided to live life with the disability and then started performing al, the functions himself, without his wife’s help. Slowly he learnt to do almost all the things. Around that time, his father passed away after a brief illness. Now, he was alone with no means of earning except farming, he decided to farm. He hired a number of men who used to labour in the farm for him. he used to pay them both in cash and in kind. Everyday, he used to get up, go to the field with his eldest daughters and oversee the farming. With the help of villagers, he had a very good crop and started earning decently.

His daughters had grown up and one day, a family friend brought a marriage proposal for the eldest daughter. He met the family of the boy and then decided to marry his eldest daughter to Home Hembrum. Home Hembrum was a resident of Gopukonda, a village near Kharagpur. The marriage was performed amidst much fanfare and likewise, both his younger daughters were also married. Only his wife and he were remained in the house.

One day, he came to know that a worker had stolen grains from the farm. Then he realized that he would have to do something about the farm. He invited his son in laws to come live with him and manage the farm. The husband of the youngest came to help him, followed by his middle son in law. They started living in the house and looking after his farm. The youngest one even introduced some machines to increase the yield and in fact the yield increased. The husband of the eldest daughter also joined him in the house and all his three daughters and their husbands joined him to help him in farming.

Today, all his sons in laws are living with him and managing the farm. They live in the house and are working with him in the farm and managing it. He is today a grandfather and his 5 grandchildren play with him all the time.

He said that he was told once that the Government gives some money to the Disabled but he has never got neither any help nor any money from the officials.


From the life history of Chandra Soren, it can be seen that the disability of Chandra is seen as a ‘Punishment’. He says that the ‘baba’ told him that he has become blind due to a misdeed of the forefather. The baba had said that as his forefather had cut down the saal tree, he has become blind as a punishment. Thus, a cause of the disability emerges. According to the baba, punishment for the deed has made him visually impaired

From the comments of Chandra Soren, it is evident that he himself sees his disability as a punishment for his forefather’s deeds. His view of disability is in direct relation to his ancestral action of cutting a religious tree and he does not consider it as a normal occurrence that took place just because he had a medical problem. His disability is a punishment and this fact makes him accept the disability because he is doing penance on behalf of his forefathers.

Attitude of the people

When I asked about the attitude of the people about his disability, he told me that he has been living with this blindness for almost 30 years. He has encountered all types of people and has seen helpful people who go all the way to help him and others who rob the moment they come to know the other person is blind. When he had got blinded, his friends had helped but the factory people had directly thrown him out of work saying that there is no use of him as he cannot see.

When he came to the village, most of the people came to offer assistance but only some people helped. His family members thought that he will be a burden to them and they tried to grab his land. Only due to his father and his wife has been able to control the land. People think that he cannot see so he must not be able to do anything. But now he can understand a person by his voice.

Also, there were people who were always helping, who thought that he can do something. They felt pity and helped him in everything. They advised him and also assisted him in all his deeds. All his sons in law are there, living in his house, and helping him and they treat him like their own father. His villagers come to him and ask his advice in all the matters. He is one of the eldest members of the village so they respect him a lot and he is invited to all the functions of the family. He is thus living a great life with his wife and his children and grand children and has no problems with anything.

Community Acceptance

The acceptance of Chandra Soren and his disability by the villagers can be easily observed. As he is one of the elders of the village, his advice is sought by all the villagers and even obeyed. He is considered as an elder and even takes part in the panchayats that makes decisions on the matters that come in front of it. He and his family are always invited to all the functions and there is no kind of marginalization that can be seen in the village. His house is in the middle of the village and all the villagers when passing by, offer salutation to him. They have accepted him since he settled in the village as a part of a village and do not see him as a disabled person.

One of the reasons of his acceptance may be due to the fact that the baba has remarked that he is disabled due to the misdeed of his forefathers so he is not blind due to him but due top others. And in the santhal mythology, the ancestors are to be worshipped so that may be an important fact of his being accepted by the community.

A major observation was that his sons in laws were staying with him, in his own house. As their community is patrilocal, this was a deviation. But when seen from the point of view the persons who have settled with their father in law to help him in farming in his farm, this can be considered. And as Chandra Soren is blind, his sons in law are there to help him with his farming.


Name: Luxmi Soren
Age: 55
Sex: Female
Husband’s name: Chandra Soren
Father’s name: Sharna Hembrum
Mother’s name: Patuni Hembrum
Marital Status: Married
Children: 3 daughters
Address: village Gogna Suli, Jhargram, West Midinipur, West Bengal
Tribe: Santhal
Disability: Hearing Impairment

Luxmi Soren was born in the village to Sharna Hembrum and Patuni Hembrum in the village of Davankpura. Her father was a farmer and mother was a housewife. She had a younger brother whose name was Gopal Hembrum and they lived in their hut near a small canal. She used to play with her friends and then started going to the school. Then as she grew older, she started helping her mother with the household chores. She learnt how to do all the work and to prepare food.

One day, when she was playing outside, suddenly a big blast occurred near her and she feel, unconscious. She got hurt and blood started coming out of her ears. She was taken to a doctor and was given aid to stop the flow of blood from her ear. From that day, her ability to hear voices diminished. She could hear very faintly. Her father took her to a number of doctors but her ability to hear did not come back. Her parents became very depressed due to her disability. The only consolation was that she knew how o speak so she could speak some words.

Then one day a marriage proposal came and then the parents of he boy along with the boy came to meet then. And the marriage proposal was accepted. She was married in simple celebrations to Chandra Soren and went on to live with him to Kharagpur. There he used to work in factory and she used to do all the household chores. She became the mother of three daughters and then one day, Chandra complained of burning in his eyes. He showed it to doctors who gave him some medicines. But in some days, the burning increased and he became blind. He could not see anything. Then she had to do all his work and help him in his daily chores. After Chandra Soren lost his job, they left Kharagpur and came back to his village

Returning to the village, he, along with his father started farming. Thus, over a long period of time, their financial position once became strong and they started living comfortably. All of her daughters got married and after some time, along with their husbands, came to live with her in the house. All her sons in law are now helping Chandra in farming.

It can be seen that her disability was caused due to her an accident and since then she has been hearing impaired. She is a very strong willed lady as her taking over the household chores and simultaneously taking care of her husband when he had become visually handicapped. A family life involving two disabled persons is very difficult to lead as a visually disabled person cannot see the actions made by the hearing impaired and a hearing impaired person cannot listen to the voice of the other. Here, Luxmi showed her strength and thus, she took care of Chandra nd is still lving a fruitfull live with her husband.

Attitude of the people
The attitude of the villagers towards her is respect and caring They refer to her as Luxmi Soren as ‘mai’ which means mother. Usually a village woman is there in his house either to learn how to prepare some dish or some other thing. And all the villagers respect her a lot.

Today she is living in the house along with her husband and their husbands and her grandchildren and helps her daughters in doing all the household chores. Her husband says that her disability is not a problem at all as it has been almost 40 years since he has been living with her and now all of the family knows how to live with his blindness and her deafness. Earlier just after the wedding, he faced a little problem due to the fact that he could not communicate with her. He explained with actions what he wanted and she used to do them expertly. But after his blindness, their disabilities created huge problem. He could not see and she could not hear. Conversation became very tough. But due to her affection and dedication, she helped in everything and they communicated very effectively. She was always there beside him and carried out whatever his wishes were. She was a huge support for him. Their disabilities have a negligible effect on their lifestyle and they neither earlier nor now consider it as a burden or a barrier in their living their life to the fullest [1].

Social Inclusion
Luxmi Soren is a well respected person in the village. People in the village consider a mother figure and the women in the village are always around her to ask for help. As she is a very powerful personality, all are in awe of her and she, on the other hand, helps all in every way possible.

[1] She still cannot hear anything until it is too loud and most of the times, has to be explained with actions what the other person is saying. The present conversation took long time but because of the help of Chandra Soren, I could get the answers. Almost all of the answers were given by Chandra Soren. He provided me with all the facts about her.


Name: Kalika Hembrum
Age: 16 years
Sex: Female
Father’s Name: Helu Hembrum
Mother’s Name: Chavi Hembrum
Educational Qualification: 4th Pass
Marital Status: Unmarried
Address: village Kadam Kanan, Jhargram, West Midinipur, West Bengal
Tribe: Santhal
Disability: Locomotor Disability (Polio)

Kalila is a young girl who is suffering from polio. She lives in Kadam Kanan village in Jhargram and was affected with Polio when she was 2 years of age. I met her and her parents and then noted down her life history. I started talking to her father and asked him about Kalika. I asked him about her everyday life and how her disability has has influenced her life and the way she has tackled the disability.

Helu Hembrum, her father, along with his brother, bought land for cultivation. They started farming and their financial position became comfortable. Then his brother got marred and moved to a hut some distance away. But they continued farming on that land. Then he got married to a girl, a resident of a nearby village Chardapur, and they settled in their hut in Kadam Kanan. They settled there and started a new life. Then Chavi got pregnant. He was very excited and happy when he came to know that he is going to be a father. He took his wife for periodic checkups to the doctors at Jhargram Hospital. There the doctors gave the medicines to her to eat. They were energy capsules and other tablets. That she used to take daily. Then, after months, a daughter was born to them. The birth took place in the hut with the help of a midwife. He said that there was no need to go to the hospital as all children are born in their houses. He named her Kalika, after the Goddess Kali. She was a healthy girl and did not have any health related problems. All the family members, along with the villagers came and blessed the girl child.

The baby lived there and started growing in the hut. She did not have any health related problem and was never sick. Then one day, when she was 2 years old, she had high fever and he did not get too much thought as “all the children are always falling sick.” He did not take her to any doctor hoping that the fever will recede. Soon the fever increased ant then they took her to Jhargram Hospital. There the doctor saw the girl and prescribed medicines and they brought Kalika home. Soon the fever went away but in a month, her leg started paining. She was able to walk but she started dragging her left leg. She used to complain that her foot is paining. So he bought a oil from the market and massaged her foot but it still dragged. One day, she could not feel her leg and told her parents. Helu Hembrum rushed her to the hospital where the doctors did full checkup and then told him that she had polio and her leg will remain that way. He was told that she will have trouble walking and suggested to bring his daughter regularly for exercises.

The day he came to know about it, he became very sad and thought whether she will ever be able to walk or even stand. He brought her back from the hospital and then his wife started messaging her foot every night with hot oil so that it might make her leg better. He also told him to give her fruits as she was very weak due to the fever.

When asked about his consulting any Tradition Healer, he responded that he the doctors had made it clear that her foot will not heal completely. They had added that he should have the foot massaged because that will help her a lot. So he knew it will not make any difference to her or cure her polio. He had been explained by the doctors that the medicine that might be given to her may harm his daughter. So he never consulted a shaman or any other healer. He did take her to a Kali temple on the outskirts of the town so that she may not face any other problems. Kalika grew up in the hut and was always a quiet child. She did not speak much and usually spent her time in the house, helping her mother with household work. She gained strength over time and became very healthy. After her, two boys were born to Helu Hembrum. She lived in the hut all the day and used to play there itself and did not go out. After some time, she started venturing out as the children of the village used to force her to play with them. Thus, she began going out to play,

As she grew up, she started going to the school. She used to go there in the morning. Her disability never hampered her going to the school as her foot did not have severe problem. It was just slightly twisted and it was thin. This caused her to walk with a slight limp. She was not taunted by her classmates. They were helpful when she had to walk a lot and used to wait with her if she had any pain in her leg. She was very good in studies and her teachers liked her. She studied till class 4th and then started staying in the home, helping her mother with household chores and used to go to the jungle to collect firewood.

The changes brought due to her disability are very less. She was never conscious of her disability and never even complained about it. She knew that this had been caused by the illness so she does everything she wants to. She does all the household work like cleaning the house and wipes cow dung paste on the floor, washes all the clothes, prepares food for the family. On top of that, she goes out and collects firewood from the jungle nearby. She does all this work and on top of it, sometimes goes to the fields with the buffaloes.

Her father said that she was the best in her school. She was very good in her studies and was always studying. Her teachers were always praising her and said that she is the best student in her class. But he did not send her to school for further education as he thinks that it’s a waste of time as the girl has to marry and then will be a housewife. Her studies will make no difference. But he said that she has enough education that is necessary. She can read and write, which is optimum for her. He said that there is no need for her to get further educated. He said that even if she graduates from the college, it won’t make any difference as she will be a housewife after her marriage.

Her father is now looking for her groom for her and has started telling people to be on a lookout for a groom for Kalika. He said that he will get her married in a year as she is growing up and in this age, the girls should get married. When I asked what will be the influence of her disability on her marriage prospects, he said that firstly, her polio is very slight and does not hinder her work. She does all the work in the house and is an expert in them. The boy who will be marring her will see that she does all the work with expertise and ease. Why will he look at her disability?

He then said that even if she is disabled, its not a big thing as she is not sick and even her disability is slight. She limps slightly and can’t walk continuously for long distances but that fact alone won’t hamper her chances of getting married. He said that once an NGO had approached them to help Kalika some help from the government but they did not return afterwards. He said that he has no idea of any programs or policies made by the government.

Then her father called her out of the house. Kalika came out and met me and went back almost immediately. He called her back and then she came and I tried to talk to her. But she did not respond at all and then went back to the hut laughing. Her father commented with a smile that she is a very shy girl. Then I took leave and went back.

The next day I again tried to meet her. Then she came out and sat on the charpoy in front of her house but did not respond. Pabak talked to her but after responding to some of my general questions, she said that she had to prepare food and yet again ran in the house.

Attitude of the people

The outlook of the villagers towards her is congenial. They do not look at her disability as an issue. He said that people do not care of her disability. She is a nice girl, does not roam here and there, stays quiet and seldom goes to other people’s house to meet them. Also, she does not play all day but is usually busy in the household work which makes others feel that she is a nice girl. So to speak, it’s her mannerisms that have created a difference in the mind of the people so that they look at her personality and her manners and not her disability. He said that when she was born, some of the relatives said that she is cursed but over time, that attitude has changed.

Social Inclusion

The changes in the bahavioue of the people are not a matter here as she got polio at a very early age and the people see her as a girl with polio. It’s not a matter of exclusion or a bad thing to be. On the other hand, its just that she is disabled. It’s just that she is a young girl who has polio. The people of the village consider her another girl and do not see her disability. Kalika usually remains in her hut and usually does not venture out. The villagers want her to come out and visit them, this being a signal that the inclusion of her exists. They invite her to all the functions.


Name: Mitra Mullik
Age: 50 years
Sex: Male
Marital Status: Married
Father’s name: Indra Mullik
Mother’s name: Boroni Mullik
Wife’s name: Shardha Mullik
Issue: None
Address: Village Sirish Chowk, Jhargram, West Midinipur, West Bengal
Monthly Income: Rs 500
Tribe: Lodha

Mitra Mullik was born in a village called Namapara which is in Bachu Doba. He was born in a joint family where his family lived along his father’s brother and his family. His father was a laborer and used to work in a coal store. There he used to load and unload the coal that was brought there. He usually suffered from ill health and remained weak all through his life but continued to work all his life. Mitra Mullik did not go to the school as the financial condition was bad and sometimes he had to spend the night without any food and used to remain hungry. His mother was a housewife and mostly remained in the hut. She used to venture out of the hut with her sister in law in the evenings to collect the firewood. In the evening she, along with her sister in law used to prepare dinner and all family members used to eat whatever there was.

Mitra Mullik, in his childhood, used to roam around the village and play with his friends. He says that his childhood was the happiest time of his life. He had no troubles and could play football all the time. Mitra Mullik used to love playing football and used to play it all the time with his friends. Once, a local club had organized a small camp for one month and he attended that camp. But one day, a wound appeared on his foot and that made his playing painful. Whenever he tried to run or to kick the ball, his foot would pain a lot. After a year, another wound appeared on his hands. Then his father showed it to a number of doctors who tried to cure them but nothing happened. Then, when the doctors failed to cure the wound, his father took him to a ‘Mahato’. He was a shaman who used to cure people of their miseries and wounds. Mahato is not a lodha or a santhal but he belongs to the community called Mahaot. Mitra Mullik went to his hut where he sat in front of him and then the mahato started uttering incants and used fook, dhuno, fool, and mantras. He distinctly remembers that there was a big picture of Goddess Kali and a skull in front of her. The Mahato kept uttering enchants for a long time and then told him that his both wounds would heal. But nothing happened and his wounds did not heal. Then again his father showed him to a number of doctors. Firstly, they went to Dr. Sitanath who did his check up but still his wounds did not heal. Then he went to Dr. Pahari in Jhargram Hospital. He gave him medicines but they did not work. Thus, due to these checkups they were facing severe financial crisis as a lot of money had been spent on his treatment.

Then, due to the crisis he started working in another coal workshop. He used to work as a labourer and in his spare time, he used to work as a kuli. Not a kuli of the railway station but he used to carry loads of people from the shops to there godowns. In the coal workshop, another accident occurred when a pointed coal pricked deep into his already present wound and aggravated it. Ha took a weeks leave but when it did not heal, he went back to the shop and continued with his work.

Mitra Mullik has two brothers and three sisters. At that time, they left Namapara and settled in Siris Chowk. His uncle stayed in that hut. They illegally occupied the Government land, as everybody was doing it, and settled there. Then they built a hut there. At that time he was only 19 years of age. His brother went to school. His sisters did not go to school and as his father thought that it was a complete waste of time and money. After all, they had to marry and have children, not work. The financial problem also existed which practically made it Impossible for them to go to school. So they used to help their mother with household chores, also going to the forest to collect the firewood that was used for cooking.

When he was 25 years of age, his eldest sister got married to a carpenter. He spent about Rs. 2000 on her marriage. Then, in a span of a year, his second sister got married too. His youngest sister had a sort of love marriage. She and another Lodha man fell in love and confessed their desire to marry each other. As both the parents of the groom and Mitra Mullik did not have any problem they got marriage. This marriage cost him much less as an uncle of the groom met with an accident a day before the marriage, so no fanfare was done and celebrations were minimal. Their family today lives just near the hut of Mitra Mullik.

When Mitra Mullik was 25 years of age, his aunt (his mother’s brother’s wife) brought news that a girl from her home village was of appropriate age and good looks whose name was Shardha and her parents were searching for eligible husband for her. She lived in a village called Tenga which was near Jambani Road. His parents visited her house and started the formal talks about his marriage to that girl. After few days, he consented to get married to Shardha. She was 19 years of age. The marriage was arranged and after 7 days of elaborate rituals and celebrations which took place both at her house and then at his house. He said that after years of hard work and getting all three of his sisters married, he got married and then he was very satisfied. They settled down at the hut in Sirish Chowk.

His brother, in the meantime, had completed his studies till class 10th and had moved away when he hot a job in a firm dealing in Cashew. He lived there and over a period of time, got married and settled there. He is still working in that firm and also works in the Cashew farm that his firm manages.

Indra Mullik, father of Mitra Mullik, worked and lived in Sirish Chowk and due to his hard work and honest nature, had won respect of all the villagers. He was thus, with the consent of all the fellow villagers, had been made the Mukhia of the village. He thus, used to manage all the joint meetings and hearing and solve the disputer which came up in the village. He also took the problems of the villagers of Sirish Chowk to the government officials whenever the need arose. He was thus, the most respected and respected man in the village and attained a high status.

His father, mother, he and his mom used to live in the two adjoining huts in the village. They then collected money and bought 2 acres of land where both the father and V used to work in there spare time and cultivated the field. They grew paddy there as that was considered most profitable and least time consuming. But he still continued to work in the coal depot, which he left to work in the Reck, where he used to load and unload coal from the train that carried coal all over the country. He also used to load bamboo shoots in the trains and trucks. The earnings made the main contribution to the family earnings.

When Mitra Mullik was 35 years of age, his father passed away. His father was in home when he had severe stomach ache. Mitra and others rushed him immediately to Jhargram hospital where he was admitted. By that time his pain had increased tremendously. The doctor in charge put him on saline drip and said that he will look into the matter. The pain increased but the doctor said that he was confused and will conduct that patient’s X ray the next morning to diagnose the problem and then only take the next step. Thus, his father lay in the bed all the time in agony and he could do nothing to cure him. The pain was in the right side of the lower abdomen. Around midnight, before the doctors had done the X ray and diagnosed his problem, his father passed away. It was a big blow to the family. His mother fell ill and all the responsibilities fell on his shoulders. He became the head of the family. He oversaw all the arrangements and the cremation and then cremated his father. Then he became the sole bread earner in the family and all the responsibilities fell on him.

He started living with his wife and mother in the huts. In one, smaller hut lived his mother and in the bigger hut lived Mitra Mullik with his wife. He used to work in the reck and also cultivate the field. After some time, he was approached by the village elders to take his father’s place and become the new Mukhia of the village. This he accepted and became the Mukhia of the village. He, just like his father, used to solve petty disputes and boundary related disputes that arose among the villagers. He also used to visit the government officials whenever the need arose.

One day, his mother fell ill developed high fever lay on the cot all the time as she became very weak. He tried to take her to a doctor but she refused to go to him and said that she did not want to move from the hut at any cost. She passed away after three days. He had two huts with him and he converted the smaller hut into a store house where he used to store hay sacks and lived in the bigger hut with his wife.

One evening, while he was sleeping on the cot outside his hut, he suddenly felt very giddy. He felt he was going to die and fell on the ground. He had severe pain in his body and became drenched in sweat. He could not move and could not even speak. He then fainted and lay there for a long time. But after some time, he woke up and the pain was almost gone and he was feeling numb. He tried to get up but could not. It was then he realized that both his right arm and right leg could not work. He could not even move them. He had no control over them. They had also become twisted. His hand had curved and his foot was also turned backwards. He felt very helpless. He started shouting and wife came to him and picked him up. The next day he went to Dr. Pal in Bachudoba but he could not cure him and he became dissatisfied with him. Then he went to a Non Government Organization, Sevayatan that has been working in the town. There he is still getting treated till now.

He said that he did not go to any Shaman or a witch doctor as he knows. That it would not do any good. This has happened due to the will of God and one cannot fight against God’s will. He did not harm anyone and took all the decisions that were considered right and he has no enemies. What God wanted was him to rest and to lead life as a disabled, which he is leading till today and will lead.

Ever since the disability, he is leading his life and trying to live normally. He is a Paraplegic and his right arm and leg are paralyzed. He lives in his hut and all the work is done by his wife, Shardha Mullik. Before the disability, he used to work as a labour and farm in his land. After disability, he cannot work which has made his financial condition very unpleasant. He has employed some fellow tribesmen who go to his land and do the cultivation. Paddy is cultivated there. That paddy is sold in the market and the money earned is then used to pay the labourers. The remaining money in then used by them to lead life. On that meager money is the house run which is simply inadequate to lead a comfortable life.

His wife does all the household chores and manages the house. She looks after the meager budget and balances the expenditure. Although Rs. 500 is not a lot of money but enough for them to eat every day and not go hungry. As he has no children, he knows he will die in some years. He has no problems about his lack of issues. He says that at least they can easily live and don’t have to feed the children. He never feels unhappy of not having children as all the day, he is surrounded with his grandchildren who surround him all day and who play with him.

He says that he never wanted to be a burden on anyone and is not a burden. He is leading a respectable life which he will continue to lead till his death. He is happy that he is not a liability to anyone and never wanted to be. He feels wanted and is comfortable with life and leading a life of dignity.

In the interview, he said that he did not visit any shaman or nay baba as he knows that his disability has been caused by God. He said that his disability was due to the will of God and as the God wants him to lead a life of a disabled person who cannot live without assistance, he accepts the will of god. He says that he has not been punished by God as he has never done anything wronh or harmed anybody. On the other hand, he has atken all the decisions thet were accurate and all were in the favor of his decisions. He says that he will lead his life as he is without any complaint as his complaint will be against an act os God.

Attitude of the people

Since the disability, there has been no change in the in the attitude of the people. He has been leading a normal life and till today, he has not faced even a single act of discrimination and all his fellow villagers have been very supportive of him. He had left the post of Mukhia as it involved a lot of traveling and another man is now a Mukhia. He is still respected a lot and is a valued man in the village. People still come to him to seep his advice and guidance. He says that all the people have always helped him and everyday, at least someone comes to his hut and talks to him so that he does not feel lonely. He is very satisfied with all the villagers and says that they have been invaluable in his life since the disability.

Social Inclusion

Mitra Mullik was a mukhia of the village, who was involved in all the major decisions of the villagers and functioning of the village. After his paralysis, he usually stays outside of his hut and seldom goes anywhere as he cannot move without and assistance. All the people now consider him an invalid but also respect him. They said that he cannot move but everyday someone went to him to talk to him. He is still consulted by the villagers and the villagers usually come to ask for his advice. They have accepted him along with his disbility. Though they cannot shake off his disability, they see him as a disabled person who was their mukhia and a respected person.

Life history of
Roop Chand Mullik

Name: Roop Chand Mullik
Age: 10 years
Sex: Male
Father’s name: Vidhu Mullik
Mother’s name: Ola Mullik
Address: Village Sirish Chowk, Jhargram, West Midinipur, West Bengal
Tribe: Lodha
Disability: Paraplegia

Vidhu Mullic is a lodha, living on the outskirts of Sirish Chowk. He is usually unemployed, only working when there is some work in loading and unloading the trains. He was born around 40 years ago, in the same village. He has been living here since then. His father died some years after his birth, and he does not remember his distinctly. He has 2 elder brothers and no sisters. They all live with him, in the nearby huts. When he was young, he used to play and roam here and there, his elder brothers and his mother used to work but he did not. His mother tried to send him to school but he preferred playing to studying. Thus, he did not go to the school.

They were very poor at that time. Although they all used to work, they never had full stomachs. His eldest brother worked in a shop but was thrown out when the shop keeper accused him of robbery. The police also threatened him as they said that lodhas are all robbers and thieves. He was then beaten up but he was not arrested and he had no job thereafter as none other shop then employed him. He grew up and started doing odd jobs everywhere. One day, a neighbored took them to the rack, where the loading and unloading of the trains took place. Thus, they all started working there and their economic condition improved slightly.

They had gotten into the habit of drinking. All the family used to drink liquor. They used to get it cheap as they used top get them very cheap and was a great means of forgetting the poverty and suffering.

One by one, all the brothers got married. The eldest married a girl who lived next door. Her family was equally poor and when they got married, no elaborate function was held. The elder brother married a girl from Jhuma Tola, a village 40 miles away. And the father of the disabled child, Vidhu Mullik got married to a girl again from the village Jhuma Tola.

The earning from working in the rack was optimum but the money spent on liquor was too much. That made their condition as in perpetual poverty. The money was insufficient to provide adequate food to all the family members. Then the elder brother had 2 children and the middle brother a daughter. This brought them immense poverty. As they continued spending on liquor and drinking, their health also deteorated due to drinking.

Then a son was born to him but soon, he got fever. They showed him to a doctor at Jhargram Hospital, where the doctor gave some medicines but they did not work and the fever did not subside. Thus, in a week, his condition got worse and he died. He started drinking more and more.

His second son was born soon after that. He named him Roop Chand Mullik. In the starting, in his infancy, all was fine. But it seemed weird when his mother used to bath the baby, his legs and arms used to be stiff. They thought it was nothing extraordinary and carried on. Also, he did not cry. All the children cried but he just did not cry. He stared into space and seldom responded to anything. He used to sit still but sometimes, he used to start shaking and his hands and legs had jerky movements. These conditions got worse and then they went to see a doctor. The doctor checked Roop Chand and then told his parents that he was disabled. He told them that their son was ill and will remain like that forever. They came back home sad and full of misery.

As the boy grew up, he used to sit at one place and just stare at everything. He could not crawl properly and used to remain at one place. They went to the temple to pray too. As they had no money, even consulting a doctor became tough. Thus, they had to stop visiting the doctor.

A Baba visited his village many years ago and he saw Roop. Then baba tried to cure him. He said that a spirit has entered his body and until he does not take it out, he will not be cured. He took Rs.100 and then gave them a locket to tie it around his arm. He said that it will cure him in a month. Then the Baba went away. But as the month passed, no change came over Roop and he remained like that. Roop wore the locket for months but nothing happened. He said that it’s all in God’s hands and he cannot do anything.

He has been growing up since then among the joint family. As there is loved by all and they say that as he is fully normal, they don’t consider him different from others. But they called him pogol in front of me. He spends all his time at home. He sits outside his home all the day on a dirty mat and stays there. His fits come at high frequency. His mother said that his fits increase when there are the nights of amavasya and purnima. As those nights approach, he stops eating food and drinking water. And then the fits start.

His mother commented that he is very intelligent. When I asked about his education, they said that they never sent him to school and said that what he will do in the school. They said that it might be dangerous to him as other boys might beat him up. She said that as he is unable to talk properly, he is mad. But she loves him dearly and cares for him too. All the family is there to look after him and they also give him numerous gifts. His brothers also love him and play with him.

His father’s life has changed since he has been diagnosed. He says that he has left drinking and is always there to take care of his son. All the villagers also try to get a job for him since they know about his son. He takes him for long walks, with Roop Chand sitting on his neck. He said that he enjoys it very much as at that time, he can be with his son and they together talk a lot. His father said that he loves his son very much and will earn enough money to cure Roop of the disease.

Today, he roams around the house on his legs as he cannot use his right limbs i.e. right hand and right leg. He pulls them and they are seldom cleaned. He lives in that state and continues to live without any exposure to outside world. No NGO or any other person has been there to see him and to do anything. He is still leading a life of a disabled person who has nothing to do and no care is being taken to develop his personality.


Roop Chand Mullik, a small child with disability has been living with his family in the village of Sirish Chowk. His disability has been there since his childhood. His father loves him a lot and takes him out for long walks. But the absence of any medical assistance or counseling, his family will have to work harder to make him as much normal as possible. His own mother considers him mad and his family calls him mad. This is in itself an indication of what his condition is in his home. On the other hand, his father loves him a lot. Roop Chand sits all day outside his home and there is nobody who can help him in overcoming his disability.


Name: Shonali Bhukta
Age: 12 years
Sex: Female
Marital Status: Unmarried
Father’s name: Laltu Bhukta
Mother’s name: Shambari Bhukta
Education: None
Address: Village Sirish Chowk, Jhargram, West Midinipur, West Bengal
Tribe: Lodha
Disability: Locomotor Disability

Laltu Bhukta, father of Shonali Bhukta, is a daily wage labourer. He is 40 year old. He was born n Sirisah Chowk. His father was a labourer too. He has an elder brother whose name is Monmoth Bhukta. He did not go the school as there was no money and inclination to study. He started working from the moment he could. His was a very poor family as his father was perpetually sick. Even he does not remember the time when he started working. All he can remember is he was too young. He worked in a shop where he used to do odd jobs. They he started going to construction sites where he used to help the labourers. He was paid minimal but that was enough for him to sustain and help his family in a small way.

He, along with his elder brother, used to work in the rack where they used to load and unload the coal from the trains. They used to leave for work in the morning and return late. Working all day, only then they could feed the family and see that nobody slept on empty stomach.

His elder brother, Monmoth Bhukta got married when he was 24 years old. He had seen the girl in the village fair and then met her again in the same fair. She lived in Lodha Shuli, a village some miles away from Sirish Chowk. They liked each other and decided to get married. He asked his ever-ailing father about his wishes. His father approved of the girl so he proceeded to seek the consent of her parents. He first sent them a message that he will be visiting them and then went to meet them. Laltu Bhukta and his uncle accompanied him to there house. They also readily consented to get their daughter married to him. Thus, they got married and started living in a hut adjoining their hut which all the villagers helped to build.

After 2 years, his mother told him that a girl, also from Lodha Shuli was of appropriate age and her parents were searching for an eligible man. When he said it would be fine with him if he got married, she started the talks. Both the families met and decided to get them married. The name of the girl was Shambari Bhukta. They got married in a small ceremony in Lodha Shuli followed by celebrations in Sirish Chowk. He decided to build a new hut and after his marriage, made a new hut near the two huts. There, he started living with his wife and started a new life. He used to go to work in rack and come back in the evening and that became to normal pattern.

About a year passed when his wife informed him that she was pregnant and he was going to be a father. He was filled with glee and started worki9ng overtime to earn more money so that he could afford the baby and the medicines for both his wife and the child. He took his wife to a doctor in Jhargram Hospital for periodic checkups. He also took her to a private doctor who prescribed some medicines.. But his wife did not take the medicines as she said they choke her. She only started taking them when he forced her the eat them. He told her that if she would not eat them, it would harm the baby. Celebration took place and the family, along with village women, performed some rituals and blessed the unborn baby. After some time, she went into labour and delivered a daughter. She did not go to the hospital and gave birth to her in their hut.

When the girl was born, she had a slightly deformed foot. Her malformed foot was a little source of disappointment. But the family did not make a big deal of it as they said that a girl in a Goddess Kali.

They named the girl Shonali. All the relatives that came to see her gave her blessings. They all saw the foot but did not say anything. They did ask what that was but when he explained about it, they left reassured. Most people commented that it was the will of got that it had happened and wished that girl.

They did take her to doctor for monthly checkups and showed him her foot. The doctor examined it and said that it was an abnormality but it is not at all harmful and will not create any problem to her all her life. He said that taking any medicines will not help as that will not be entirely cured. He said that it will not affect her in any way,

Her parents did not go to any shaman or any Mahato as they knew it is not a bad thing for them. Her father decided not to go to any of them as he knew they cannot change her foot and cure it and make it seem absolutely fine.

But they did visit the temple of GUPTO MUNI, a god whom they prey for blessings. People generally go there on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The purohit of the temple is of Lodha cast. The priest can only be a lodha and cannot be a Brahmin or of any other caste or tribe. But it attracts people from all casts, creed, religions and tribes. There, it is a custom that all the travelers and drivers driving on that road stop and offer money and move on. This is due to prevalent saying that if they do not offer any money; they will meet with an accident and might even die in the road accident. So to prevent that, and to be blessed by Gupto Muni, they offer money. There, they had asked a Mannat and if her foot was cured, they would have sacrificed a goat. But it did not cure.

He remarked that he and his family considers it an act of God they have nothing against the girl. His grandfather then said that it is only the will of god that the outgrowth is there. When asked about it, he said that it is not at all connected to her previous birth in any way. He said that neither is not a curse of any kind and nor due to her misdeed of previous birth. He said that now she has got it and that cannot be changed. What can be changed that none in the village looks at her in different light. Thus, from that day, they all have never discussed it at all. They consider it as just another characteristic of her and they now totally disregard it and have ignored it.

Shonali has grown up in the midst of children. As her uncle has 3 children and she has a younger brother, she has played among them all the time and thus, her outgrowth is not seen by them. They all play with her and she is very happy with her friends, saying that it’s ok with her.

She is currently in 3rd class in her school and is the best in her class. His father wants her to study further but the problem is that the school is till class 4th and after that, to study further, she would have to travel to the city and that is not acceptable. He said that it’s all in the Gods hands and let’s see what happens. When I had reached there, she was preparing curry for lunch. When I asked about all the work that she does, her grand father said that she is an excellent cook and can cook everything. She is great in all the work she does. She mixes masala, cuts vegetables and even brings water from the well to the house. She does all the work she is asked to do cheerfully. He remarked that she can carry a load of 25-20 kilograms everyday and move it from one place to another.

Every week, she prepares chutney with small red ants (kurkut). Her father buys them ans she boils them with mustard oil mixed with salt and chillies and they ear eaten along with food by all. Also, after boiling them, they are used as a bakm to be rubbed on the chest of her mother and any new born child in the village. It is considered to have healing powers.

When I asked her about her disability, she laughed and said that its nothing. She said that she has no problems. Only, when she has to walk on the paved, pukka roads, it results in her foot being bruised. Then only she complains to her mom that why she has such a foot and she cannot wear footwear on her foot. Her father added that she is a kid, she will ask such questions. Buy they are sometimes unable to answer her.

On the topic of social inclusion, her father said that it is tremendous. All the people love her lot and treat as their family. There have been no incidents of anybody commenting about her foot. He said maybe they love her more because of her deformity. She roams around the village and plays with all the children but all if the children, with exception to her, are scolded. Only she is not scolded. That may be due to the regards that people have for her.

When, in the end, I asked about her marriage, her father became emotional. He said that she will definitely get married. The boy will look at her ability and the immense work she can do. Thus, he will forget about her deformed foot. But, it surely depends on the buy and his family.


This was a case study where the disability has not made any negative impact on the family and also on the villagers. On the other hand, there is a lot of help from the family. Her family has supported her and sent her to school. They have never made her feel as if she is different in any way at all. They have explained it to het that her foot may be different but that does not make any difference to them as her intelligence is of more importance to them. Her personality is what the people will se so she must discard her disability and see her ability. They have provided her with everything and given her all the love they can. They send her to school and encourage her to play outside with all. She is very first-rate in all the household chores and can do everything a ‘normal’ person can do.

Social Inclusion

Her father commented that even if she does something wrong, people seldom reprimand her because they love her more than others. This is a very important fact. The people know that she has a problem that is purely physical. They have never made her feel as if she is different from other children. Like all other children, she is also invited everywhere and treated normally.

On the other hand, even the children do not see her foot and they treat her as if she is one of the children. She plays with them all the time and they also call her to play with them. There is no discrimination even in the eyes of the children. They play with her and treat her as equal.



Medical Anthropology is a comparatively a new discipline of Anthropology, which emerged only in the 1960s giving a definite shape to the discipline of medicine in anthropology. It studies the relation between illness and health from the perspective of biological and socio-cultural dimensions. Human growth and development, the role of disease in human evolution and palaeopathology are placed under the biological focus. Traditional Medical systems, ethnomedicins, medical personnel and their professional preparation, illness behaviour, the doctor patient relationship and the dynamics of the introduction of western medical services into traditional societies comes under the socio-cultural perspective. Thus, in reality, it deals with the mechanisms provided by the society to deal with illness. It studies the ways with which the bio-cultural and socio-cultural systems interact and have interacted throughout human history to influence health and disease. (Fosrter and Anderson, 1978)

While working on the topic of Disability and Rehabilitation among the Santhals and Lodhas: an Anthropological study among the Tribal Population in Jhargram, West Bengal, a number of facts emerged from the data collected. I visited the villages of Kadam Kanan, Sirish Chowk and Gogna Shuli. There, I interviewed a number of villagers to access their knowledge on disability and their attitude towards a person with disability. I also asked the people as to why do people become disabled? The answers to the first question were numerous, ranging from helping them to offering them liquor. On the other hand, according to the villagers, people become disabled due to the will of the Gods, because if God wants a person to be disabled, he will become disabled. They also said that they become disabled due to their misdeeds of the last birth. Some said that they become disabled due to accidents.

I met six disabled persons and recorded their life histories. I recorded their lifestyle before their becoming disabled, and after it. Also I recorded the changes disability has brought to both their attitude towards life and the change in the attitude of the people. This was an eye opener to the existence of the disabled people in the villages and I came to know their everyday life along with their disability.

These life histories were an enormous source of data on their living conditions and the attitude of the people towards their disability. I also came to know about the social inclusion of the disabled people among the fellow villagers

One major point that emerged from this study is that the Social Inclusion in small scale societies is very different that the large scale societies in the villages, the social inclusion is fare more that the urban areas. In the urban areas, they are considered as invisible people as their parents and guardian’s seldom let them out. People are not even told that they have a disabled child. In the village, on the other hand, the social inclusion and the acceptance of the person with disability is much more. The people regard him as a fellow villager and his disability, though it exists, is not considered a limiting factor in the socialization of the person with disability. It is not seen as a confinement.

In the village of Gogna Suli, Chandra Soren is one of the most respected people, inspite of being visually impaired. In Kadam Kanan, Mitra Mullik was the ‘mukhia’ or the headman of the village but after his paralysis, he is no longer the village headman as the job involved traveling. But the respect for him has not lessened. The people still go to him with their grievances. The children who are disabled, Kalika Hembrum, who has polio, Roop Chand Mullik, a small child who is paralyzed due to paraplegia and Shonali Bhukta, a girl who has locomotor disability are not seen as disabled persons but considered as simple children with a problem. Their disability is not seen as something which makes them marginalized or keeps people away from them. Contrary to the fact, they are seen as playful and people disregard their disability. Their behaviour is affectionate and very cordial towards these children. Thus, the villages have a high social inclusion of the people with disabilities and their ability is seen, not their disability.

On the point of Rehabilitation, the disabled people are again having no problems. In the srtudy, I found out that all the disabled people (except Roop Chand Mullik), have been rehabilitated without much problem. Chandra Soren, Luxmi Soren and Mitra Mullik have been accepted by the villagers even after their disability and they have integrated into the fold without much problems. The children, Kailka Hembrum and Shonali Bhukta are being brought up with other children of the family and the village, without any emphasis on their disability. Only in the case of Roop Chand Mullik, there is lack of training to make him better adjusted to his disability. This may be due to the low financial condition.

The programs of the Government have not been of aid to these disabled persons. The help of the government has not reached them. The implementation of the plans and policies at the grass root level has to be stressed upon by both the Central and the State Government. While interviewing an official of the health department, all he could answer to my queries on disability was the number of the hospitals and doctors in Jhargram.

They had no idea about the various schemes of the disabled people and they were not getting the pension which they are entitled to. This is the lack of information among them which has to be removed

Though rehabilitation of the disabled people is being done in the village by the different Non Government Organizations, until the Government takes the initiative of implementation of the schemes, its still a long walk for the disabled people.

The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 should be implemented by the government ant the people should be sensitized about the problems of the disabled people and their rights. Until and unless this is done, the disabled population in the villages will not be able to emerge as an equal to a ‘normal’ human being.


The government apathy was evident when the Health Inspector had no idea about the various plans and incentives for the disabled people. All he could provide was the data depicting the number of doctors and nurses along with hospital in Jhargram. Thus, some suggestions will not be out of place to provide some aid and comfort to already tough life.

Education is the birthright of every child. And there are countless who are devoid of education. If normal children are not being educated, what will happen to the disables children is not difficult to guess. So the disabled children must be provided incentives and their parents could be made to understand that education is the only arm that can make them fight and become something.

The various Government policies shout de fully and strictly implemented by the officials so the aim of the policies is fulfilled. The disabled persons must actually get Disability Pension. All the people I met, no one had any idea about any such pension program.

Centers for occupational training should be opened as that they can learn something and lead a life of dignity and are not considered a burden by the family.

The information about the Government schemes and plans should be told to the people as then only they will come to know about their rights and they get what they are entitled to.

The various NGOs that want to work for the disabled people should be helping in all way possible, though they should be monitored. These organizations can do a lot to help the disabled persons in realizing their capabilities and to emerge from their shell

Lastly, peer counseling should be done in order to tell the guardians as to how to make the child with disability realize his/her true potential and to become what he desires by discarding his disability as a limiting factor. The parents should know how to interact with their wards.



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