The government of India’s West Bengal state is taking pains to keep the Birhor and the other tribal groups safe as long as the COVID-19 pandemic lasts. While most of the earlier news reports about the Birhor focus on their lives in Jharkhand state immediately to the West of Bengal, a news story dated April 12 concentrates on the work of the West Bengal government for the tribal community within its borders. It also provides some useful information about the small Birhor village there.

The reporter, Pritesh Basu, writes that government officials in West Bengal are taking all possible steps to keep the Birhor and the other tribal people safe and well fed during the national shutdown. The news story focuses on a Birhor community of 89 families, about 300 people, living in the town of Bhupatipalli, in the Purulia District of West Bengal. The town is very near the border with Jharkhand and is quite close to popular tourist destinations in the Ayodhya Hills.

The Birhor live in the forested hills on the east side of the town where they collect firewood to sell for fuel. Many of them also work as agricultural laborers. In recent years their children have started attending school and their young people have been given training as beekeepers.

The Kendumundi resettlement colony consisting of pukka houses
The Kendumundi resettlement colony consisting of pukka (or pucca) houses (Photo copyright by Deborah Nadal and used with permission)

Over the course of the past nine years, the state government, under the direction of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, has been working hard to promote the welfare of the Birhor, the reporter writes. They have received pucca (or pukka) houses. Elderly people over 80 are now receiving a pension from the state of Rs 1,000. As of April 1, over 160,000 tribal people in West Bengal have received the new monetary benefits.