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It’s still the Dark Ages for Odisha’s Bonda tribe

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Bhubaneswar: Despite crores of rupees being claimed to have been spent by the Odisha government over the last few decades for the socio-economic uplift of the endangered Bonda tribe, one of India’s most primitive tribal groups, tangible development still eludes them.

Known for their unique culture and traditions, the tribals, divided into two groups -Lower Bonda and Upper Bonda – are till today found semi-nude and perched upon hilly terrain in remote pockets of southern Odisha’s Malkangiri district bordering Andhra Pradesh.

Even though the 2011 census has put their population at about 12,000 from 2,565 in the 1941 census, they still reside in 30 villages in the hilly areas spread over 130 sq km of forests and nearly 4,000 ft above the sea level in Khairput Block of Malkangiri. They numbered 9,378 in the 2001 census.

They have their own ‘Remo’ language – sans a script – which belongs to the Mundari group of languages, while researchers believe them to be members of the Austro-Asiatic language family.

While modern civilization has not changed the Bondas very much, they have comparatively preserved themselves unaffected by the march of civilization and still maintain their primitive social customs and traditions.

With superstitions reigning supreme, unique practices of middle-aged women marrying teenagers, half their age, are still prevalent among the communities, said an official.

However, despite several attempts by the Bonda Development Agency (BDA) – set up by the Odisha government for their development in 1977 – they are yet to be part of the mainstream even as some have accepted the changing systems in society and taking access to education.

“The plans and schemes being implemented by the government should be people-friendly and cater to the exact needs of the local people. The administration should take the tribes into confidence instead of drawing up plans in the (state) capital,” Dambaru Sisa, the first legislator from the Bonda tribe, told IANS.

He said the officials at the helm of uplifting the socio-economic condition of the tribe should concentrate on sustainable livelihood and better connectivity in the area.

The state government however claimed that it is taking adequate steps to bring them into mainstream while preserving their very own tradition and culture.

“They would gradually change and be part of society. They have their own tradition and culture and we have to look their comfort. It would take time,” SC/ST development secretary Surendra Kumar told IANS.

He said the government has recently decided to spend nearly Rs 800 crore to secure improved livelihood, food and nutrition security for the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG).

The programme, to be implemented in the next five years in all 17 micro-project areas located in 12 tribal-dominated districts of the state, would enable improved livelihood, food and nutrition security for 32,091 PVTG households, 13,965 STs, 5,486 SCs and 10,814 other category people living in 542 villages.

The Bonda tribes are getting assistance under Special Central Assistance (SCA) to Tribal Sub Plan (TSP).

They have received Rs 162.58 lakh in 2010-11 under the plan, Rs 146.16 lakh in 2011-12 and Rs 281.65 lakh in 2012-13, said a report of the SC/ST development department.

Similarly, they received Rs 171.04 lakh in 2013-14 and Rs 195.43 lakh in 2014-15. In the current financial year, the tribes received Rs 177.94 lakh, the report added.

According to government sources, 13 PVTGs out of 75 such identified in India live in Odisha. They mostly live in 542 habitations spread across 20 blocks of 12 districts. These tribes are Boihor, Mankidia, Hill Khadia, Juanga, Lodha, Paudibhuyan, Soura, Kutia Kondha, Dongaria Kondha, Lanjia Soura, Bonda, Diyadi and Chuktia Bhunjia.

(Chinmaya Dehuri, IANS)

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Woman IAS officer Gauri Parashar Joshi saved Panchkula when Local Police Ran Away

When violence escalated, Gauri Parashar Joshi went to her office, issued an order to hand over the situation to the Army that helped to reduce the chaos of the situation.  

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Panchkula Voilence
Panchkula Voilence. VOA
  • Gauri Parasher Joshi tackled the ruckus caused by Dera followers
  • She didn’t flee from there even when her clothes got torn and had injuries
  • Had the Army not come in, the residential area would have seen the unprecedented devastation

Panchkula, Haryana, August 28, 2017: Haryana Police ran away from the spot, leaving innocent people in danger when violence caused by Dera followers increased. This happened after the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on 25 August 2017.

It was then Gauri Parasher Joshi, Panchkula Deputy Commissioner, IAS officer took matters in her hand to tackle the ruckus caused by Dera followers. When she was trying to calm down the agitators, police guards fled the spot as soon as they saw an angry mob of Dera followers who were coming to attack with stones, sticks.

Also Read: RapistRamRahim: Kamlesh Kumar from Rajasthan Lost his Wife at Dera 2 Years Back

Soon violence increased, but she didn’t flee from there even when her clothes got torn and had injuries. She took a wise decision, went to her office along with a PSO and issued an order by which the situation was handed over to the Army. This was a clever move as it helped to avoid further damage in the situation.

A local expressed his disappointment over the cowardly act of the local police.  According to Economic Times report, Satinder Nangia, a local from Panchkula said “Had the Army not come in, the residential area would have seen the unprecedented devastation. We have been serving the local police with tea and biscuits for last few days, but the moment the Dera followers went on a rampage the local police was the first to run.”  It was the Army which prevented further deterioration of the area.

Also Read: Dera Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Being Treated As Ordinary Prisoner, Clarifies Haryana DGP (Jails)

Gauri Parasher Joshi reached home at wee hours, around 3 am but she went home after going around, checking every place with possible danger in the city and thus making sure that the situation was under control and rioters were not causing any more trouble.

She has served in Kalahandi, the Naxal-affected district in Odisha in the past and may be that helped her in tackling the situation with such competence.Betty Nangia praised the efforts of Joshi, “It’s time the patriarchal state, with abysmally low sex ratio, looks up to such woman and take a lesson or two.” She was disturbed as she witnessed the Army men shooting two Dera followers who were at close proximity from her house, as the locals tried to enter their homes in panic.  We need more woman IAS officers like Gauri Parasher Joshi.


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Maharangajodi Village: The ‘Village of Widows’ in Odisha

The men of Maharangajodi Village are dying of deadly lung diseases, pushing women to battle the misery and survive

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Village of Widows
50 men working in mining company of Odisha lost their lives to a fatal lung disease. Wikimedia
  • The Maharangajodi Village in Odisha is increasingly becoming known as the ‘Village of Widows’
  • The men have lost their lives to deadly lung diseases while the women are expected to carry the burden of survival
  • No compensation has been provided to the widows by the government or the mining company

July 22, 2017: In Keonjhar District of Odisha, the Maharangajodi Village has witnessed the deaths of men because of lung disease. Their women are left with no option but to seek ways of survival in this ‘Village of Widows’.

Also Read: Odisha Felicitates Indian Athletes with Cash Awards at 22nd Asian Athletics Championships

In 1982 a mining company called Pyrophilites was inaugurated in the village. It was responsible for the production of lime and sand stone.

The 50 men in the village, who worked at this mining site and earned living for their families, saw their health being degraded. Gradually, these men became weak and also faced trouble in breathing. It was discovered that the exposure to silica had an adverse impact on the health of these men.

The men lost their lives to deadly lung diseases they had developed over the course of employment. Silica affected the men with a fatal disease known as Silicosis.

The village was branded as ‘Village of Widows’ as none of the workers survived the disease.

The village was branded as 'Village of Widows' as none of the workers survived the disease. Click To Tweet

Pyrophilites was shut down eight years ago. However, no compensation has been given to the women or the families of the men who succumbed to the fatal exposure.

Sarojini Khuntia told Odisha TV, “The company paid very less wages to the men. Even after exploiting them, the company did not do anything to mitigate the problems of the workers diagnosed with respiratory disease. Neither have we been compensated after their deaths”

Furthermore, the government has remained insensitive to the issue. The party in power had failed to provide any compensation or even assistance for these widows to take care of their families.

– Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394

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Odisha launches special action plan to reduce Migration problem in the state and create Livelihood Opportunities

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Workers in India (representational Image), VOA

Bhubaneswar, April 29, 2017: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday announced a special action plan to reduce migration problem in the state and create livelihood opportunities.

Initially, the action plan would be implemented in Bolangir and Nuapada districts. It would be scaled up and replicated in other migration-prone areas in a phased manner, he said.

The special action plan has been prepared for intense action in 30 gram panchayats of the two districts to curb migration and facilitate creation of livelihood opportunities for migrant workers within the state.

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“I am sure the plan would help in providing alternate livelihoods to address migration in Bolangir and Nuapada districts by improving the household income of poor families and reduce their vulnerability,” said the Chief Minister.

He said it would eventually serve as a blueprint for scaling up to other migration prone districts of the state.

It is expected that Rs 134 crore would be spent in the areas.

The Odisha government on Saturday also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Tata Trusts to reduce migration in Bolangir and Nuapada districts.

The Odisha government will bring in the expertise of Tata Trusts in developing appropriate information, education and communication (IEC) materials and disseminate it for behavioural change, introduce people friendly and easy to use technologies for registration of migrant workmen and support development of database for welfare of migrant workers.

To strengthen policy initiative, the National Institute of Rural Development (NIRDPR), Hyderabad was requested to conduct a short-term study in the districts of Bolangir, Bargarh, Kalahandi and Nuapada for suggesting alternative avocation/livelihood opportunities for migrant workers.

The NIRDPR report suggested short term, medium term and long-term measures which can be implemented within the existing development initiatives, said a release.

The suggestions of NIRDPR have been incorporated in the agreed activities under the MoU with Tata Trusts to initiate interventions initially in 30 gram panchayats of Bolangir and Nuapada districts, the release added. (IANS)