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International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Volume 5, Issue 1, January 2015
ISSN 2250-3153
Health and Hygiene Status of the Deoris of Assam: -A
Case Study
Surjya Chutia
Asst. Prof., Economics dept., Tinsukia College, Tinsukia, Assam-786125
Abstract- Health and hygiene status of a population group is one
important indicator of human development. It is largely depends
upon the physical quality of environment of a region. It is a
matter of concern that the Hunan Development Indices (HDIs) of
the Schedule Tribes population continue to be lower than the non
tribal population in terms of all parameters such as, education,
income, health & hygiene status etc. The tribal people are
generally living close to nature and they are influenced more by
traditional socio-cultural and environmental dimensions in their
health practices. Moreover, the socio-cultural attributes differ
from one tribe to another, which result in difference in the healthhygiene and demographic behaviours of different tribal groups.
The Deoris are one of the plain schedule tribes of Assam,
who are likely to exhibit certain socio-cultural and demographic
characteristics which are different from those of other tribes and
non tribal population of Assam. Ethnically they are affiliated to
the Indo- Mongoloid group and their 'Deori language' also
belongs to the Tibeto-Burman of the great family of Sino-Tibetan
languages. The Deoris have four main divisions (Khel), namelythe Dibongiya, the Tengaponiya, the Borgoya and the Patorgoya.
But the Patorgoya group has almost become extinct today.
The present paper is an attempt to highlight some aspects of
health and hygiene behaviour of the Deoris of Assam. The paper
is mainly based on field study data collected through personal
interview with the respondent sample households through an
interview schedule in the year 2013.
Index Terms- Deori, Health Hygiene, Fertility, Mortality.
Lalung (5.2%), Dimasa (3.2%), Deori (1.2%) of total ST
population of the state. The rest of the scheduled tribes are very
small in their population size (2001 Census).
The Deoris are one of the plains Schedule Tribes of Assam,
who have been able to maintain their old tradition, culture and
practices intact, in spite of various socio-political trials and
tribulations through the ages. They were traditionally engaged in
priestly activities in the royal temples of the Chutiya (a
numerically dominant mongoloid population of upper Assam) at
Sadiya. Ethnically they are affiliated to the Indo- Mongoloid
group and their 'Deori language' also belongs to the TibetoBurman of the great family of Sino-Tibetan languages. The tribe
comprises of four main divisions (Khel), namely- the Dibongiya,
the Tengaponiya, the Borgoya and the Patorgoya. Each of the
divisions is termed as ‘goyan’ or ‘khel’ and said to be originated
from a particular river’s name. The Deori people who were living
on the bank of rivers Dibang, Tengapani, Borgong and Patsadia
or Patarsal were respectively known as Dibongiya, Tengapaniya,
Borgoyan and Patorgoyan. The Patorgoyan group is not traceable
at present. It is presumed that the members of this group might
have been amalgamated with the other existing groups of Deoris
or with other communities. Only the people of Dibongiya khel
can speak their own language. But they too use Assamese
Language and script for intercommunity communication
As per 2001 census, the total Deori population in Assam
was 41161, comprising of 20809 male and 20352 female
population. They are mainly concentrated in the districts of
Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Sonitpur, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar&
ssam is the homeland of various tribal communities, each
having its own cultural heritage. The state has 9 scheduled
tribes in the plains districts and 14 in the hills districts i.e. in
Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills (Sengupta, 2002). The
total populations of Assam in 2001 census was 266, 55528. Of
them 3308570 persons were scheduled tribes (STs) constituting
12.42% of the total population of the state. The tribal population
of the state was 5.5 lakh in 1901, which increased to 8.05 lakh in
1951 registering 46.36 percent increase during these 50 years.
But in the next four decades, the tribal population in Assam
jumped to 28.74 lakh in 1991 indicating 257 percent increase
while the total population of the state increased by 180 percent
during the same time period. The percentage of tribal population
to total population of Assam increased from 10.03 in 1951 to
12.42 in 2001. Among STs Bodo represents nearly half of the
total ST population of the state (40.9%), Miri (17.8%), Mikir
(10.7%), Rabha (8.4%), Kachari (i.e. Sonowal Kachari) (7.1%),
The primary objective of the paper is to study health status
and health behaviour of the Deoris of Assam. The specific
objectives are To highlight socio- cultural & economic status of the Deoris
of Assam.
 To measure the fertility and mortality pattern of the Deoris
of Assam by investing various standard measures of fertility
and mortality.
 To study health and hygiene behaviours of the Deoris of
 To study the knowledge of, attitude to and practice of family
planning among the Deoris.
International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Volume 5, Issue 1, January 2015
ISSN 2250-3153
Three districts of Assam having very high to moderate
concentration of Deori population have been purposively
selected as sample districts. These are Lakhimpur Sunitpur and
Tinsukia. From these three districts 21 Deori villages have been
randomly selected as the sample villages. A village is said to be
Deori village if the percentage of Deori households in the village
is 50 or above. A total of 1077 households from the 21 sample
Deori villages have been randomly selected for intensive study.
Thus the study will be confined into 1077 sample (Deori)
households. The study is primarily based on field-work data to be
collected from sample households with the help of a series of
questionnaires prepared for the purpose. Apart from the field
survey data, information from several secondary sources like
population census, statistical handbooks, journals, books etc. are
also used.
The Deoris are predominantly a rural community, because
most of them are living in the rural areas. As per 2001 census,
93.9% Deori population of Assam live in rural areas. They are
mainly agriculturalists. They are still depending upon the
traditional method of cultivation. About 77.15% surveyed
husbands are found purely cultivator and most of the wives
(98.12%) are just housewife. It is found in the survey that the
dominant form of family structure among the Deoris is nuclear
(i.e. 61.8%).
The highest proportions (around 69.1%) of the sample
households are having 5 to 9 family members. The big sized
families having members 15 & above is about 3.6%. The average
family size is found to be 7.16.
The sex ratio is found to be 966 females per thousand male,
which is lower than that of total tribal population of Assam (972)
and India (978), but higher than the overall sex ratio of the total
population of Assam (932) and of India (933) in 2001.
The literacy rate of the surveyed Deori husbands and wives
are not so poor as compare to the state's male and female literacy
rate. The male literacy rate is about 85.46% against the state's
rate of 71.3o% as per 2001 census and female literacy rate is
about 67 .3o% against the state's female literacy rate of 54.6o%
as per the census. The general literacy rate of the surveyed
husbands and wives is about 76.36% which is also higher than
the state's general literacy rate (i.e. 63.3%) in 2001 census.
Most of the Deori houses are constructed by wood, bamboo,
cane and thatches. The houses are four to six feet high from the
ground which is called ‘Chang Ghar’. The study confirms about
82% of the sample households are living in Chang Ghar. All the
houses are of same pattern, generally facing towards east
direction .The houses vary in length according to the size of the
Housing condition of the surveyed population is far from
satisfactory as most of the households do not enjoy the basic
amenities of life such as pucca house, pucca latrine and pure
drinking water. It is found that only 8.2% of the sample
households have pucca house, 23.6% have semi pucca and
remaining 68.2% have cutcha house. Only economically sound
households (about 11%) have both the bathroom and toilet
facilities in their houses. As there was no public larine facility in
the villages, a large portion of the Deori households (16%) have
to go in open fields or nearby jungle for latrine which is very
It is found in the survey that only 14.7% households have
electricity facility which is significantly low as compared to the
state average. In Assam as a whole 26.4% households have
electricity in urban areas and 21.1% in rural areas (census report,
2001, India, Assam, part-III). Regarding Fuel consumption
pattern, it is found that 84% of the total surveyed Deori
households used wood, 3.3% used Kerosene Stoves and 11.4%
households were found using LPG.
The staple cereal food of the Deori people is rice. For their
meat supply they rear fowls, pigs, ducks and goats. Suze (rice
bear) is prepared in every household and it is the most favourite
drink which can be severed to all, irrespective of age and sex.
Early marriage is quite common among the women of the
Deori tribe. As many as 36.20% percent of the sample women
got married bellow the minimum legal age of marriage of female
in India i.e. 18 years. The mean age at marriage among the Deori
females is found to be 19.17 years. Cases of divorce among
them are very rare (0.24 % is found in the survey).
Crude Birth Rate (CBR) is most commonly used measure of
fertility, which shows the number of live births at per thousand
populations in a year. The crude birth rate in the present study is
found to be 27.23 per thousand population which is higher than
the crude birth rate of Assam (i.e.24.3) and India (i.e, 23.1) in
2007 (SRS). Poor practice of family planning methods, Lack of
awareness about family planning, poor level of income etc. may
be the reasons for high crude birth rate among the Deoris.
In case of the Age Specific Fertility Rate (ASFR), relatively
high fertility has been observed in the age group of 20-29 years,
therefore, women in that age group should be encouraged to
adopt contraceptive devices to limit the family size.
The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) shows the total number of
children born to a cohort of women and the gross reproduction
rate used to show the number of daughters born to a cohort of
women. The total fertility rate is found to be 2.8 children per
Deori women of the reproductive age group, which is higher than
the replacement level of fertility. The 3rd round of National
Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) found the total fertility rate for
Assam as 2.4 and for India it is 2.7. Thus, the total fertility rate of
the Deori is higher than that of Assam's and India's rate.
The Child- Women Ratio (CWR) is another important
measure of fertility. A high child- women ratio reflects high level
of fertility which is considered as bad for reproductive health of
the women. The child- women ratio is found to be 362 children
per thousand Deori women of the reproductive age group. In
contrast to this a high child-woman ratio was found among the
Saharias- a tribe of Madhya Pradesh (i.e, 667.78) (Biswas &
Kapoor, 2003).
Out of total live births, 54.3 percent took place to the
mothers who got married before the age of 18. About 56 percent
of the pregnant women visited doctors for antenatal check-up
during their last pregnancy. Hence a large chunk of the
population is out of purview of the necessary minimum medical
International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Volume 5, Issue 1, January 2015
ISSN 2250-3153
check-up during pregnancy. About 70% babies of the last
conceptions were examined by the doctor after their birth. The
main reasons found in the survey for not coming to the health
centre are transport problem, paucity of money at hand etc.
It is found in the study that though most of the surveyed
females have heard about AIDS, only 9% of them have
knowledge of transmitting factors and precautions for avoidance
of the disease. It reveals poor awareness on such disease among
1.2 Mortality behaviours:
Mortality analysis is one of the important components of
demographic study. Different standard measures of mortality
have been worked out to study the mortality pattern of the
sample population.
The Crude Death Rate (CDR) is found 10.54 per thousand.
The rate is comparatively high than the all India rate and the
State's rate. NFHS-2 has estimated CDR for Assam as 9.5 per
thousand populations which is slightly lower than the all India
rate 9.7 in 1998-99.
It is found in the survey that the average annual number of
death of mother due to child birth related problems is 1. The total
number of live birth being 148 in the year, so the Maternal
Mortality Rate (MMR) is found to be 676 per 1,00,000 live births
which is higher than the national average of 540 as estimated by
Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) among the sample Deori
population is found to be 79.36 per thousand live births. This rate
is also higher than the infant mortality rate of Assam and India as
a whole. As per 2001 census, infant mortality rate of Assam is 74
while the national average is 66 per thousand live births. Several
factors like- mother's educational level, age at birth of the
mothers, place of delivery, vaccination, post-natal medical care,
number of existing children, and type of family have significant
influenced the infant mortality among the Deoris of Assam.
To measure personal hygiene pattern among the Deoris,
some indicators such as daily bath, daily brush, washing hands
before meals, cutting of nails and cleaning of mattress etc. have
been included in the interview schedule. It is found in door to
door survey that out of total surveyed population, 59.9% takes
bath regularly (daily), 64.6% population have brush teeth daily. It
is worth to mention here that brush means cleaning teeth by any
means. About 70.8% Deori people washes their hands before any
meal, while remaining 29% takes food by dirty hands which are
absolutely unhygienic. Nearly 32% surveyed people cut their
nails weekly. Only 15% of the population washes their mattress
and cloth regularly. During field study of the sample villages, it
is also found that most of the families were little conscious of
personal hygiene. Use of common towels, and drinking
cups/glass, carelessness about handkerchief, imperfectly washed
dishes and hand soiled with nasal secretion were prevalent
practices. Diffusion of some infectious diseases could possibly
be related to such unhygienic habits.
The findings of the study show that health and hygiene
status of the Deoris are lower than those of some other
population groups of the state and national average in many
aspects. The major determinants of the nutrition and health status
of the Deori population are education, income and awareness.
Education, health and medical facilities should be increased and
special campaigns should be organized to create awareness about
hygiene behaviour among the Deori people. The problems faced
by the Deoris have to be examined carefully and need based
development programme should be implemented with proper
monitoring specially in the field of education, economy and
health in priority basis.
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First Author – Surjya Chutia, Asst. Prof., Economics dept.,
Tinsukia College, Tinsukia, Assam-786125, Phone: 9954456991
M-mail:[email protected]