8888677771 | Vulnerable Didayi tribe, ‘wrongly’ bracketed under Poraja group, craves for identity

For the past ten years, every Friday, Roton (52) (name changed) treks about 15 km carrying a head load of pumpkins he grows on his half-acre land to do two things. First, sell the pumpkins at the weekly shandy, and second, check the list at the Village Revenue Officer’s (VRO) office to see if his name is included in the list of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG). Every time, however, he comes back dejected and angry, as he finds that his name has been included under the tribal group of Poraja.

He hails from the tribe called the Didayi and both the Didayi and another tribe, Pengu, who, despite being different from the rest of the tribes in the Eastern Ghats, find that they have been listed under the tribal common head of Poraja, hurting the very existence of the Didayis and Pengus.

“We are different from every other tribe inhabiting the Eastern Ghats valleys. Our language is different, our culture is different, and we are geographically and economically secluded. Then why include us under the Porajas? We should have our own identity, and we have been fighting for it for over a decade,” he says.

There are about six PVTGs in Andhra Pradesh, four of which live in the Alluri Sitharama Raju (ASR) district. The ASR district was recently bifurcated from the erstwhile Visakhapatnam district.

The total area of ASR district is around 12,251 sq km, and about 6,800 sq km of this was carved out of Visakhapatnam district. Covered by thick and pristine forest, the area was called ‘Visakha Agency’ by the British since its administration was under an English Agent. The term ‘Agency’ has stuck, and to date, it is called the agency area, where once the banned LWE (left-wing extremist) group of the CPI (Maoist) had held considerable sway.

Geographically segregated

Appanna hails from a village called the Rangabayalu, located on the Rangabayalu hill range, perched at about 910 Mean Sea Level (MSL). The Didayis live on the Rangabayalu hill range, which houses about 11 Didayi villages or hamlets, and the total population is between 1,900 and 2,000. The Pengus, on the other hand, inhabit the Lakshmipuram hill range, which has about 14 Pengu villages with a total population of about 2,400. Most villages in both the hill ranges have no road connectivity, and the tribals have to trek about 18 km to reach the nearest road point.

For Appanna, the nearest public health centre (PHC) is about 21 km away, at Laburru, and the sick are forced to either trek all the way or be carried on ‘dolis’. The geographic seclusion also hinders them from availing of many government welfare schemes. That is why Appanna has to trek for about 15 to 18 km to sell his produce at Munchingput, the mandal headquarters, says Professor P.D. Satya Pal, chairman of the Department of Anthropology, Andhra University, who has done considerable research on the tribes in the Eastern Ghats and in the State.

They are one of the poorest tribes, as they are geographically secluded, he adds.


The language of the Didayi is different from that of most other tribes. They are trilingual and speak the Didayi language, which belongs to the Mundari (Austro-Asiatic) family of languages in addition to Telugu and Desia Oriya (the tribal dialect of Odisha), as Rangabayalu hill range borders the State of Odisha.

There is no reason why the Didayis should be included under the Porajas. It hurts their very existence, and their identity is lost, says the professor. “United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2010 sought to redefine the agenda of dealing with tribes as ‘Development with Culture and Identity’, and this should be followed. We have represented it to the State government, and the recommendations have to be forwarded to the Union government. But it appears that it is still pending at the State-level,” he adds.

As per norms, any such proposal for inclusion must originate from the respective State governments. The proposal is sent to the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry, which then sends it to the Office of the Registrar General of India (ORGI).

Social exclusion

Other tribes, such as the Bagathas and the Gadabas, discriminate against the Didayis because they consider them to be Porajas and tribals from the lower rings of the tribal hierarchy.

We are not Porajas, but because we are categorised as them, we also face discrimination at various forums, including at the weekly shandies, says Satyanarayana a Didayi from Kusumputtu village.

The Didayis are also different culturally. Their marriage system is different. They still follow the bride price system, and women play a dominant role in the family and society, unlike other tribes. They follow the ancient system of burying the dead with grave goods and erecting ‘Dolmen cists’, says Prof. Satyapal.

He says they have so many distinct features, and it is time they were given their identity.

A senior official at the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), Paderu, says that an enumeration of the Didayis has been done, and the recommendations have been submitted to the authorities concerned.

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