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Why Indian tribes need more opportunities to ‘Make (a living) in India’

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Indian Tribes facing hard time
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Jamshedpur: Sumanti Bhagat, a petite 30-year-old Oraon tribal woman, famous among her tribe for her paintings, uses some sophisticated techniques that could put many contemporary artists to shame.

Bhagat, who has been living in Jaspurnagar since her birth, hand paints on canvases Oraon symbols and images that unique among her tribe’s day-to-day living.

Bhagat says simplicity is the key to leading a happy life. She is usually seen in a white linen red-bordered saree and feathers stuck in her hair. Bhagat feels she is lucky to have a tool in her hand – her art – by which she can know more about the “non-tribal” society.

“Through this art, I am able to visit other places and know more about the world. That is when I know I have very little opportunity to make it big in life. I’m invited for art exhibitions but sometimes paid a mere Rs.500 a day,” Bhagat told IANS here, where she was exhibiting her artworks at the recently-concluded Samvaad Tribal Conclave.

Bhagat uses only natural substances for her colours, like rice powder for white, sandstone for red, black soil, limestone for a shade of black and even uses dried cow dung and coal to add other shades to her paintings. All her paintings display grooves, an element that gives them a three-dimensional look and elevates them to a whole new level.

As I complimented her on her techniques, she asked gently, yet firmly: “But why aren’t we given any opportunities to make a living? Aren’t we a part of this country too?” To which, I stood still as I had no answer to give her.

She said she manages to make Rs.4,000 a month from her art shows. “I don’t have too much to spend in my Jasarpurnagar town, but who wouldn’t like to earn more to send their kids to better schools,” Bhagat humbly asked, mentioning her two children, who are in classes 2nd and 4th.

Very similar was the story of a Malika Mannow, a 29-year-old, who lives in a neglected corner of the country – few kilometres from Along town of Arunachal Pradesh.

She lives with her family of five – husband, two children and mother-in-law – and makes a living selling green tea, jute products and some local delicacies like fish and pork pickles.

“Where I live, we majorly deal and procure things through the barter system. Those who grow pulses exchange them for some clothes. But we want to send our kids to study and need money,” Mannow, who showcased the Adi tribe’s lifestyle at the conclave, told IANS.

She said she has started sending her home-made pickle, jute products and tea to other cities to sell them there and make some money. “But we aren’t paid as much as a local person in the city would make, selling the same product, even if of lesser quality. It’s getting tougher to get an education for our kids,” Mannow lamented.

She was making all her efforts, by working with other NGO’s and exhibiting her products at exhibitions in other cities, and manages to make just Rs.7,000 a month. Her husband makes some Rs.4,000-Rs.5,000 through wood-cutting.

There were many such stories under just one roof of this tribal conclave. Some displaced by development projects and some who moved to cities looking for a better future but did not always manage to get a job and had to live on the streets for the rest of their lives.

These were men and women not figuring in electoral rolls or possessing an ID card because they live in places where no government official has ever stepped in and because their numbers don’t add up to a vote bank.

As the world worries about the Middle East refugee crisis, here are India’s own economic and social refugees-Indian Tribes – still waiting to be recognized by the state.

Aren’t these the men and women who need more opportunities to ‘Make (a living) in India’ than those given to businesses? While many Indian tribes still fight to keep their homes from being destroyed for development, many remain displaced and homeless because of developmental projects.

The question still remains: Development for whom?

(Bhavana Akella, IANS)

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‘Tribes of India’ : An Online Database to Document the Lives of Indian Tribes

The database would contain rare and exclusive videos and photographs, above thousands, which have been collected from various Tribal Research Institutes around the country

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Indian Tribes, Tribal culture
Tribal culture. Wikimedia
  • The ‘Tribes of India’ will showcase the lifestyle, culinary culture, conditions of living of the tribes
  • It is going to be amazing to form a database collecting all the information regarding the characteristics of the tribes, as those will be accessible in the distance of a click
  • Experts from the ministry has also stated that the database would be frequently updated with new research inputs from sources and scientists

New Delhi, August 10, 2017: The very first attempt at producing a documentation of the lives of the tribal in India, is ongoing. The ‘Tribes of India’ will showcase the lifestyle, culinary culture, conditions of living, and historical and chronological facts regarding the evolution of their traditions and culture. The ‘repertoire’ is focusing on answering questions such as- the difference between the Gond tribe of Uttar Pradesh and the Gonds of Jharkhand, whether the tribes in Jharkhand possess a secret cure for anemia, and the status of living of the Santhals in the remote forest-zones.

ALSO READ: Lalung Tribe of Northeast India: What Makes them Stand Apart!

A database on the tribes of India is to be created by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. The project aims to bring into light the art and culture, history of evolution and anthropological facts, lifestyle and eating practices, the rate of mortality, education system, architecture and the contribution of the tribals in India’s struggle for freedom, Economic Times has reported.

It has been planned that the database would contain rare and exclusive videos and photographs, above thousands, which have been collected from various Tribal Research Institutes around the country. It is true that the research institute has always showcased such collections, but this is the first time it is going to be saved in an exclusive database.

It is going to be amazing to form a database collecting all the information regarding the characteristics of the tribes, as those will be accessible in the distance of a click, from now on. Techniques to introduce a feature that would enable a viewer to take a virtual tour of the architecture of a tribal hut is also going to be implemented, a senior ministry official said to Economic Times.

According to the report, about 10 crore scheduled-tribe people form an 8.6% of the entire population of the country. But it has been observed that there has been no sincere attempt to showcase and explore the unique lifestyle of the tribes. The official further stated that the database would pose as an excellent guide for the research-scholars because it will contain the necessary statistics. Experts from the ministry have also stated that the database would be frequently updated with new research inputs from sources and scientists.

The database is to follow the effort of the government to explore and showcase the lifestyle of the Indian tribes and dedicate some museums as well to the tribes. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi addressed the nation and asked all to explore and research on the contributions made by the Scheduled Tribes in India’s freedom struggle, Economic Times has reported.

The database will also include links to the museums of various states post their construction.

-prepared by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC