Sociologists in India are warning that the Birhor society in the state of Jharkhand may be on the verge of extinction, according to a news report this last weekend.

The sociologists particularly criticize the state government of Jharkhand, created five years ago out of a part of Bihar state, for not providing proper resources for the smaller “tribal” societies. According to Jainendra Kumar Singh, “the [state] government has done nothing to help the tribals.” His special concern is for the Birhor—“It is important to do something before the tribe gets extinct.”

This column reviewed on May 12 a scholarly article published earlier this year that analyzed in detail the problems widespread deforestation are causing for the Birhor. The article from this past Saturday emphasizes the same point: the dangers of forest destruction for them. It points out that they are facing malnutrition and even starvation from lack of access to their wild fruits and other forest foods. They also do not have adequate medical services.

The news story quoted one Birhor, named Sukar Birhor, as saying, “We cannot be sure where the next meal comes from. We drink unclean water from rivers and streams. We have no safe and permanent houses.” The article also quotes the defensive response of an administrator from the state government, Augustin Praful Bake, who blames the Birhor for not being aware of the many programs that, he says, the government offers to help them.