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Mobile Phone and Tribal Women
(A study of use and impact of mobile phone on Gond women of MadhyaPradesh)
Narayan MohantySenior Research Fellow
Rajiv Gandhi Chair in Contemporary Studies
The mobile phone is an extension or new Avatar of communication technology has substantially adopted in between
people irrespective of their social and demographic background. Not only the elites but also bottom beings use it.
This is one of the globalism Indicator. In India, around 70 per cent people having the mobile phone while among
tribes this figure has arrived at 31 per cent. But we can be noticed a mass gap on use of mobile phone in between
sexuality. This is the pessimistic side but positively its impact can be perceived among the tribal women. The centreof attention of the study is tribal modernism and threats to tribal identity based on role of tribal women. The study
was conducted in a Gond tribal village of Madhya Pradesh adopted of census technique and group discussions. The
study argues that mostly working women having the mobile facilities irrespective of varying income and occupation.
The women mobile users have developed non-tribal attitude, behaviours and adopted modern patterns of lifestyle
and means of entertainment in comparison to mobile non-users tribal women. However, the tribal women indicate
for tribal modernism on the basis of non-tribal beings in which non-tribal malevolence have been noticed in tribal
behavior and it often force to them obviate from tribalism.
Since the setting up of globalization, technological extension has been widely dispersed across
the world from larger parts to smaller landmasses. Broadly, this recognizes that technology is as use as
a human supporting hand in respect to communication, transports, nuclear, space science etc. Out of
these numerous innovations, the communication technology like mobile phone is a new avatar of
connection between people irrespective of their social and demographic background.
Telecommunications, as a means of sharing information, is not simply a connection between people,
but a link in the chain of the development process itself (Hudson 1995). This has not only
encompassed among the elites but also it has arrived at grassroots society, which emerges some
anticipation among them.
Since 1997, the growth story of telecom especially mobile technology in India has been
playing an estimable effort to reach as second largest mobile users with over 960 million subscribers
in the world, next to China (TRAI 2012). This is plausible to observe that the largest residents of
Russia are using the mobile phone up to 155 per cent followed by Italy 147 per cent, Brazil 134 percent, Germany 130 per cent, Iran 130 per cent respectively. In this queue, India and China pertain 79
and 75 per cent, in which both countries are more or less lagging with respect to mobile multiple users
On the other hand, the mobile story of rural and tribal India tell that about one in every two
rural households own the mobile phone while this placement pertain in rural tribal areas around 27 per
cent. Accordingly, male and female hold about 53.3 and 44.3 per cent of mobile phone in India while
in the tribal areas the male holds 72.8 per cent and female having 27.2 per cent of mobile phone
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(Census 2011). This figure reveals that not only among non-tribes but also among tribes a discrepancy
can be seen towards women's contribution.
This is well-known that many of tribal communities serve equal individuality to women
though it varies from tribe to tribe (Sashi, 1978). Majumdar (1973) reveals a higher status of tribal
women on some indicators while lower on another. Furer Haimendorf reveals about the Naga women
in the Northeastern states many women in most civilized parts of India may well envy the women ofthe Naga Hills, their high status and their free happy life and if you measure the cultural level of the
people by the social position and personal freedom of its women you will think twice before looking
down on the Nagas as savages (1933, p. 101). Hutton (1921) articulates that among the Nagas women
enjoy considerable freedom and high social status. Naga women have the right to choose their
husbands and are never forced to marry against their will. Similarly, Elwin (1961) alludes to the
freedom enjoyed by Naga women and contended that the latter exercised significant decision-making
power within their societies. Generally, tribal women have enjoyed greater freedom and higher status
than Hindu women (Maharatna, 1998). Rivers (1973), Dalton (1872) and Grigson (1938) have
reported low status of women among Todas, Kharies and Mariya Gonds with reference to certain
taboos during certain periods and ceremonies. Many tribal societies are matrilineal and women in such
social structures enjoy inheritance rights and privileges that are absent in patriarchal societies. Women
in patriarchal societies often do not have economic independence and are therefore subjugated to
lower household and social status. Decisions regarding marriage, fertility, and divorce on the womens
part are severely constrained (Mitra, A, 2007). In this order, Gonds community is patriarchal in nature
and men are key decision makers in a family though women having the equal privileges in terms of
marriage, work participation, inheritance rights etc. (Singh, 1994, p. 353).
Though the tribal women are having more fortunate in comparison to non-tribal women, yet
long disparity can be seen among tribal women on the basis of education, health, employment status
even in household amenities in comparison to tribal men. This is even more or less in every tribal
community (Singh and Rajlaxmi, 1993). Considering these variances if we see the status of mobile
phone among tribal women then this shows a similar tendency as patriarchal point of view comparedto national and state figures. On the other hand, many studies have been conducted on tribal women
and their status though few have focused on communication and tribal women. Pertinently, if we see
then some of Information communication technology (ICT) related projects viz. S. Swaminathan
Research Foundation (MSSRF), Warana Nagar Rural Network Project, IndiaShop.com, SEWA,
TARAhaat.com, e-greenstar.com, SIRIDI ICT project in Betul etc. have been attentive to tribal
communication development. Nevertheless, none of the study has focused on mobile impact on tribal
women especially among the largest tribal group of Gond. Moreover, tribal characteristics diversify in
traditional heritage indeed it distinguishes tribe to tribe. Since each study has their unique outcomes.
On the basis of the above studies and particularly focus on tribal woman's identity, this study
argues on some pertinent questions. These are - though the tribal women having the equal rights to
work participation, marriage, and inheritance rights yet the varying status have observed in terms of
mobile phone uses between male and female. Why it is so? What the key purposes promulgate to tribal
women to use the mobile phone irrespective of non-users women and male counterpart. What
alteration can notice in between them? What are impacts of mobile phone on tribal women? If there
has any impact of mobile phone for tribal women then what the trend has been followed among them.
Whether are they following non-tribal patterns regardless of their tribal identity? If yes what are the
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consequences. More and large, whether mobile phone promulgate tribal modernization and threats to
tribal identity in respect to tribal femininity; are the major discussion of this study.
Based on given research questions some of broad objectives are as under.
1. To understand the availability and extent of use of mobile phone among Gond women,
2. To examine the influence and purposes of use of mobile phone
3. To signify the causes, factors and variation of using of mobile phone in between mobile users
and non-users tribal women
4. To analyze the considerable socio-economic impacts of mobile phone on tribal women, and
5. To reveal the tribal modernism and threats towards tribal identity on the basis of tribal women.
Facts and Methodology
The study has been carried out in Pathai village of the Betul district of Madhya Pradesh (MP). In
MP, almost every five households are tribe. The state has 46 schedule tribes in which 3 are primitive
tribes (Baiga, Bharia and Saharia). Bhil is the most populous tribe having a number of 4,618,068,
constituting 37.7 per cent of the total ST population followed by Gond 35.6 per cent, Kol 31 per cent,Korku 24 Per cent, Sahariya 14 per cent and Baiga10 percent respectively. In order to observe the socio-
economic conditions of tribes then Gond is relatively better than other tribal groups in central India
(Census of India 2001). While in Betul both Gond and Korku tribe dwell with having 39.43 per cent of
its total tribal population. In this order Pathai is absolutely a Gond tribal village where around 90 per centtribal reside adjacently (RGC report, 2010). The study has adopted a census method to identify the mobile
users household. After the selection of the households, every women mobile user households were
subjected of the study. From this, 29 women were selected from 29 households for study purposes. Semi-
structured interview scheduled was used as the main tool for data collection while interview guidelines,
group discussions, discussions with Panchayat representatives, mobile shopkeepers were also shed light
on different aspects of the study. In addition, two group discussions were conducted with mobile users
and non-users tribal women. This experimental study was conducted based on socio-economic impact
analysis of mobile phone in between the above women groups. These were also helped to cross-
examination from main respondents responses during the course of study.
Results and Discussion
Results and discussion section of this study is divided into four parts. The 1st part deals the
respondents profile of the sample village while the 2nd part deals the mobile phone status among tribal
women in the study village. The third part analyses the influences and purpose to obtain the mobile phone
among tribal women. And the final part crucially reveals the impact of mobile phone on tribal women and
their socio-economic life. These are as under.
Profile of the Sample Village
As it has been mentioned above that a village namely Pathai was selected for the study purpose.
This village falls under jurisdiction of Sahapur block of Betul district of MP. Pathai constitutes with
having 217 households out of its 201 households (HHs) are Gond and 16 HHs is scheduled caste and
remain are backward classes. This shows about 93 percent populations of this village are Gond. The Gond
sex ratio of this village is 1030 females per 1000 males. This sex ratio is relatively excellent from the fact
of Betul district (994 female per 1000 males). The family size among the Gond is 6. About 41 per cent
youth, 23 per cent children and 20 per cent adult groups constitute the village as young. Though the
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cultivation is the main sources of livelihood among Gond yet a portion of young Gond women are
depended on wage work, seasonal outmigration and exposure to non-tribal areas for earning purposes.
Whilst the larger portion of adult occupies as cultivator. The literacy rate among Gond is about 60 per
cent though women skewed in low average at 45 percent. The given profile reveals that women's
participation in terms of wage work, outmigration and the literacy rate is less significant in comparison to
Status of Mobile Phone among Women
The availability status of mobile phone varies in between men and women in Pathai. Out of total
201 Gond households, 88 households having the mobile phone facilities. Out of this, 29 women have
owned the mobile phone, which pertains about 33 per cent. In order to 15 of mobile phone has owned by
young wage-working women while 10, 3 and 2 are adult, student and Anganwadi/SHG worker women 1.
Out of these, 18 (66%) of women mobile holders are literate and 11 (51%) are unmarried. Occupationally,
13 young mobile holders depend on wage labours who either working in the village as the availability of
wage works or visit to non-tribal areas for seasonal labour purposes. Other 8 of women mostly visit for
wage works to Itarsi, Hosangabad, Betul and Bhopal as outmigration. 3 of women are both engaged inagriculture mainly assisting to their husbands and doing the domestic works. 3 females are studying in
High School in Sahapur and remain 2 are working in government functionaries. In spite of the fact,
around 50 per cent of non-mobile women make or receive calls on mobile phone almost for a once or
more times. It can be said from the given status that only 14 per cent women having the mobile phone out
of total 201 Gond households though it is become 33 per cent in comparison to men and women mobile
owners. Those women have mobile phone are good in education or literate even engaged in work either in
the village or in non-tribal area. And mostly this women are unmarried which need to discuss on the basis
of obtaining the source of mobile phones among them.
Sources to Obtain Mobile Phone
Obtaining a mobile phone depends on different sources like income, occupation, education, gift
etc. The study has found that 22 of mobile phones have been newly purchased and 4 mobile as old as
second-hand from different places like Sahapur, Betul, Itarsi and Bhopal. The money has arranged from
wage work and selling of crops and firewood. And remain 3 mobile has been gifted from beloved and
spouses. Most of the mobile prices are lower than Rs. 3000/- while the second-hand mobile phone has
purchased below Rs. 1000/-.
Choices of Mobile Phone
This has observed among Gond women that lower pricy mobile handsets have been chosen
among them. This is because with expenditure of lower amount, they own the good looking and extra-
features2 mobile though these all mobile phone is brand-less and no-warrantee periods. Around 90 per
cent of mobile phone is in these categories. The name of these mobile are G-five, Duplicate Nokia,
Karbon etc. However, Original Nokia, Samsung and LG handsets have been owned by very few. Tata-
Docomo, BSNL and IDEA mobile service network is available in village though the network is always
1These school going females are above the age of 16 years who have been studying out from village higher secondary school at Sahapur block
which is almost 4 K.M away from village.2
Now in market, different types of mobile phone can be seen. Some of duplicate companies give good looks to mobile handsets and features like
music, video recording, expandable memory, torchlights, FM radio, Internet etc.
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