Environmental Sustainability of Ethnic Communities in Bangladesh An Overview By Shishir Reza
Philosophy of Marxism clarifies the class relations and social conflict through materialist interpretation of historical development to reform the society, economy and ecological stability. It has a reflective impact on ecology, anthropology, history, sociology, education, economics, ethics, criminology, geography and aesthetics. Keeping the philosophy of Marxism, various hardcore researches provide a real account of life and land, development-deprivation trap, socio-economic status, class conflict, denial of fundamental constitution rights, underdevelopment and uneven development – basically the speculative understandings about a long debated and un-resolving issue of indigenous peoples in Bangladesh.
We know, super-genocide and corporate grabbing took place in different countries ? South America, Congo, Rwanda, Western Sahara, Libya, Eastern Africa, Cambodia, Indonesia, Australia, Grenada and Uganda etc in the name of land development, oil extraction, mining and commercial cultivation. In Bangladesh Marxist based research on common people maps out certain ground realities and dynamics of life and livelihood of indigenous peoples. Also informs us how ‘statistical politics’ can be inequitable practice towards human and humanity. The number of indigenous peoples is 5 million, they are 49 different categories, using over 40 different languages and dispersed in 48 districts in Bangladesh.
“Indigenous peoples” are the best example of ‘diversity’ and a hallmark of human civilization. They live in jungles and protect the nature, they live in hills and protect the biodiversity, they live along the major water resources and protect water, living organisms and they live in deserts and devote all their efforts to maintain much needed ecology of desert. Historically these people are weak in political and economic power. As, the places and territories the indigenous peoples live in – the jungles, the hills, the deserts, the water bodies – are geographically of high geo-strategic values and at the same time they are rich in valuable natural resources including gas, oil, minerals ( gold, diamond, coal, uranium), fresh water, plants and various living species(Barkat, 2016). But in truest sense, their resources have been always grabbed by the colonists, the imperialists and the grabbing elites remaining within the country. As a result, the rich resource endowment has become a ‘resource curse’ for them.
Indigenous peoples are politically marginalized and socio-economically disadvantaged peoples in Bangladesh where identity crisis is a big issue. 60% of the plain land indigenous people in Bangladesh are absolute poor, whereas 39.5% people in rural Bangladesh are absolute poor as well as 24.6% of the plain land indigenous people are hardcore poor. Diverse researchers explain average daily wage of PATRO female 88 tk. And male 113tk; ORAON female 75 tk and male 106tk; DALU 58 tk. And male 91tk; GARO female 72 tk and male 88 tk. It has been estimated that the current household’s savings; RAKHAIN 21, 400 tk; HAJONG 8,851tk; MAHATO 4,371tk; SANTAL 3,735tk; and PAHAN 1138 tk.
According to drinking water, plain land indigenous people in Bangladesh use hand tube wells – a large portion of them use hand tube-wells which are untested for contamination with arsenic, do not preserve – adequate water to ensure supply of safe, clean drinking water, this takes place due to poverty and lack of awareness. On the other hand, in terms of electricity access RAKHAIN 75%, KHASIA 28%, GARO 25%, PATRO 14%, DALU 4% MAHATO 22% and PAHAN 4%. Regarding women empowerment status among indigenous people, it includes – wage similar as men 13%, participate in the power structure 30%, participate in the mainstream arbitration 39%, dowry is not practiced 49%, can go outside for work 89%, and finally girls are encouraged to work 93%. It is important to mention that – land dispossessed totally 20,216,400 decimal and if I convert it to money 62,686,090,900 taka.
In general, aboriginal communities are fighting for their marginality and the common property rights in forest. An indigenous person considers their forest and culture as like as mother. But the international or national rent-seekers, looting class, law abuser, and elite politician are very vigorous at hilly region. They are deprived to access basic food, land and habitation rights. On the other hand, our constitution implies, the owner of the state is only people. The state has said that she will not show any inequality, discrimination, disparity against humanity and general people.
Political economy is exploring ? discrimination or disparity is created by free-market economy where marginal people are powerless and they do not get any platform to show their problems. This is called relation between center-periphery relation where center is actively involved to exploit or dominate the people of periphery or make the people more marginal. It is a natural system of corporate capitalistic economy where it is occurred by the encroachment of land, wetland, and forest of general or indigenous people. We have seen there is disconnected relation between policy formulation and the rights of indigenous people at forest area of Chittagong hill tracts.
Consequently, constitutional value, fundamental rights of indigenous people, collective forest management with the assist of indigenous people, people’s participation of policy formation is under menace. Rather we have seen the bulky and vast hand of local elites, culture of rent-seeking, Dutch disease, encroachment of land, forest, habitation place by so called local land offices etc. This culture disrupts the biodiversity in forest, ecosystem status among forest area, food chain among different animals and plants, environmental management and development, on one side, in other side the looting class or rent seekers create the artificial syndicate within the forest area to make inequality, disparity, discrimination with local indigenous people. It is very shameful at civilized world. Day by day, poverty level at hilly forest area is increasing since the end of 1970 and 1980 due to the demographic engineering under the system of political engineering (Barkat, 2016). Basically two types of poverty they are facing at deep forest – absolute and hardcore poverty. Poverty forces the local people to create unfavorable condition at forest biodiversity.
The indigenous peoples are becoming un-people day by day as they are victim of marginalization, exploitation, distress, destitution, deprivation, inequality and alienation. Their natural resources are encroached – it is a development game rule of an exploitative mode of production dominated by the rent seekers who never create wealth but take away wealth created by others. If we consider it “from politico-economic lens, this is a problem of ethnicity just in “appearance” but in reality this is a “class” problem.
Research explains social inclusion is impossible without economic development; on the other hand, economic development will not be sustainable without social inclusion. In this context, it is the responsibility of the country like Bangladesh to create an enabling platform to trim down inequality, deprivation and discrimination in the interest of indigenous communities and the successful implementation of the ‘CHT Accord 1997’. We have to transform all thoughts and actions from ‘appearance of things’ to ‘essence of things’ to save indigenous communities in Bangladesh.
The Writer is an Environmental Analyst & Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association.