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Andhra Pradesh - Hyderabad Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Chenchus changing with times

B. Chandrashekhar

Tribe seeking new avenues for sustenance


Youth being drawn for works taken up by Forest Department and ITDA

‘Only the older people are engaged in collection of forest produce'


– Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

In transition: The dependence of Chenchus on forest for their sustenance appears to be declining.

HYDERABAD: As lifestyles of Chenchus, a primitive tribe struggling for survival in the Nallamala forest, is undergoing a transformation with the increasing invasion of civilised communities into the forest for different purposes, their dependence on forest for sustenance appears to be coming down.

From their complete dependence on “gondh, gadda, kaya, pandu” (gum, root, fruit and nut) available in the forest the Chenchus are seeking new avenues for sustenance. The wage work being provided by ITDA and Forest Department under MGNREGS is turning out to be their major means of livelihood in the recent period.

“Influenced by the world outside, the youth are refusing to go into the forest to collect the forest produce. They are interested in earning good wages being offered by forest officials (under NREGS). Only the older people are engaged in collection of forest produce,” explained Nagaiah, a middle-aged Chenchu of Bowrapuram penta.

The youth, particularly male, are after the niceties of civilised life and are interested in work that gets them money.

They are being drawn for works like contour trenching, stone-bunding and other work being taken up by Forest Department and ITDA. But for the wage work being offered to them it would be difficult to sustain nowadays, said Mallaiah another middle-aged Chenchu.

However, most of the youth are taking to consuming liquor with their earnings. “I go to Mannanur along with few other youth once a week and enjoy good liquor there,” admitted Lingaiah, a 20-year-old Chenchu of Rampuram penta.

Change in Chenchus' language, clothing and food habits were visible during a recent visit to some of their habitations deep in the Nallamala forest. While it is being viewed as the process of their development into a civilised community, others are observing it as the process of the tribe's extinction.

“Chenchus used to be very tall and strongly built 3-4 generations back. But, most of those in the present generations are short and weak -- a clear indication of the degeneration of a tribe,” said Jayaprakash Narayan, an anthropologist studying the Chenchus for long.

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