Bonda hills, is home to the Bonda Poraja or Bonda. The Bonda (also known as the Bondo, Bondo Poraja, Bhonda, or Remo) are a Munda ethnic group approximately 12,000, according to the 2011 census. These people are the inhabitants of the isolated hill regions of the Malkangiri district of southwestern Odisha, near the junction of the three states of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh.
Who are the Bonda Tribals?
These tribes are believed to be part of the first wave of migration out of Africa 60,000 years ago. They are the first forest settlers of India, who are the members of the Austroasiatic tribes.
The Bonda community is a matriarchal society, in which women prefer to marry younger men (atleast 5-10 years younger) so that the man would be able to serve their needs at their old age. The tribe is divided into 3 groups- the Upper Bondas or Bara-Jangar group, who live on the slopes at over 900 metres above sea level; the Lower Bondas, who live at the foothills, and the Gadaba-Bondas, who live at the same altitude as the Upper Bondas.
The Problems the Bonda Tribals face:
They were primarily forest dwellers and the depleting forest area has posed a big threat to their livelihood. They used to hunt for their food in the wild. They have now started practicing shifting agriculture and their productivity has also reduced. The nearest market is 28 kms away and they have to spend Rs.50 just for transportation.
In 1976, the Bonda Development Agency was developed. But their works have hardly reached the primitive tribal group (PTG). They have only one primary health care centre which is placed in the upper hills. This is headed by an ayush doctor. Cases of malaria and diarrhoea are very common in these areas, says PK. Parida, Chief Medical Officer of the PHC.
A social audit of the National Food Security Programme by Koraput based non-profit shows that most children and pregnant women do not get proper nutrition.
Interactions with the outside world has also come only at an expense to this community, there has been many cases of sexual abuse of the people who have migrated for employment. The BDA, launched an enquiry on the same in 2017, though the findings of the enquiry are not available, one fact is very clear, not only is the livelihood of the Bonda tribes in danger, but they are unable to access basic developmental facilities.
The Bondas symbolise a disturbing trend amongst the indigenous communities- the loss or the break down of the cultural and the traditional self-sufficient lifestyle. The development programmes developed by the various governments are not reaching the communities, this is worsening their situation. The only way to strengthen these communities is by protecting and preserving their cultural and livelihood identities and practices.