THE DINDORI COMMUNITY
Dindori is a district comprised of very small towns and villages located in the eastern part of Madhya Pradesh, Central India. The sacred river Narmada runs through the district which is mountainous and largely covered by thick forest. Dindori district has dense forest and excellent grazing fields where herbivorous species are available in plenty. Tiger, panther species (chita, chitwa, tendua or gulbag), wild dogs (bankutta) and bear are common and spread all over the district.
According to the 2011 India Census Dindori had a total population of 704,524. However, only 5% of the population lives in the more “urban” small towns, with 95% living in rural and often remote parts of the district. Dindori is sparsely populated with an average of 94 people per square km (compare this to India’s capital Delhi with an average of 11,900 per square km in its centre)!
Forest and agriculture
Much of this area is covered by thick indigenous forest and inhabited by people from the Baiga (an aboriginal and ancient tribe of Madhya Pradesh) who live in tiny villages isolated from the rest of the community because of inaccessibility created by forest cover and hillocks. Cattle rearing is an important source of livelihood, milk, curd, ghee and butter are produced from the cattle. Agricultural land is cultivated to grow mustard, gram, soybean and masoor (a type of lentil). People live largely in what are known as “Kutcha” houses, where walls and roof are made of impermanent materials such as grass, unburnt bricks, mud, thatch and reed which have to be replaced frequently In more “urban areas” there are some “Pucca” houses made of permanent materials including cement, metal, asbestos sheets, burnt bricks or cement bricks.
The average literacy rate for the area is 63%, and whilst male literacy stands at just under 75%, female literacy is much lower at 51%. This reflects gender disparities with respect to young boys and girls education as well as practices such as early marriage for females.
Dindori has a dominant Hindu population of 86%, with just under 1% who are Muslims and the remaining 13% divided between Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain faiths. There are almost as many Christians and Muslims, which reflects the historical activities of Christian missionaries in the area.
Transportation and Amenities
No part of the Dindori district is connected with a railway line. The closest rail station can only be reached by covering 144 kms on the state 6 highway No.21. Within the district itself “Pucca”(cement) roads cover 2,299 kms, whilst Kachha”(mud) roads cover 1,434 kms. Herds of pack bullocks frequently travel along these roads with the Banjara tribal peoples. Scheduled tribes make up some 5% of the total population of Dindori. According to a 2011 census, some 40% of the population has access to medical facilities, 18% access to a local post office and bank facilities are locally accessible by 10%. Some source of electrical power supply is available to 87% of the rural population although there are frequent power cuts.
WomenWeave DINDORI PROJECT
WomenWeave works with several small villages in the region and employs 45 people aged between 20-35, of which 22 are men and 23 women. The spinning of yarn for the looms is mostly done by women in Bilaikhar, a tiny village with just 421 inhabitants where 94% are from Scheduled Tribes. Over 60% of the village area is covered by forest. Weaving is done across several other small villages close by, including in Angai where the main income earning activity is to cultivate land or work as an agricultural labourer. The average literacy rate here is 57%, with 68% literacy amongst men but only 46% literacy amongst the female population. The population of Angai is largely comprised of Scheduled Tribes and stands at 1,553 inhabitants with 376 households. Whilst there is well water and a hand pump, no piped tap water is available in the village. Another village where weavers are located is nearby Jaldha, which has a population of just 274 inhabitants comprising 57 households.