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Woman bureaucrat brings social miracle, hailed as ”Mother Goddess”

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By Nityanand Shukla

Ranchi: In a primitive Jharkhand tribe, a woman bureaucrat has effected a social miracle. In this village, women had crafted artifacts but there was no market for them. Because of her efforts, this woman bureaucrat is worshipped as ”Mother Goddess” in more than 25 villages of the area.

Suchitra Sinha, currently Jharkhand’s tourism director, is worshipped as “Devi Maa” with her photograph occupying a prominent place among the other gods and goddesses in the prayer room of tribal homes.

“She is our mother. Our Devi mother. We have not seen God but for us this mother has always stood by us whenever we have needed her,” Manju, a Sabar tribe woman who resides in Samanpur village of Nimdih block, some 135 km from Jharkhand capital Ranchi, told a visiting agency correspondent through a translator. It’s not just the 250 families of Samanpur village but also those of Makula, Bhangad, Bindubeda, Biridudih, Chirubeda, Bereda and other villages where Sinha is venerated.
The reason for this lay in a huge hall behind the village school where large numbers of men and women were hard at work making artefacts and other items of daily use from forest produce.

“It is maa (Mother) who has made sure that food is prepared in our homes, our children are fed and the male members were put on the right track of life,” Manju explained.

Sinha had cleared the Bihar Public Service Commission examination (Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar) in 1988 and was familiar with the underdeveloped area that was a hotbed of Maoist rebels as well from the time she as posted as Jamshedpur’s deputy collector in 1990. However, her visit to Samanpur village in 1996 for attending an event was the turning point.

She took up the matter with the Deputy Development Commissioner (DDC), who, instead of hearing her out, suggested she concentrate on her official duties. Jeeringly, he said it was naive to believe that the villagers could be pulled out of the state of intoxication they lived in for most of the time.

Even Sinha’s family members laughed at her intentions.

However, this did not deter Sinha and she made repeat visits to Samanpur village, speaking to the men to turn a new leaf, making the women realise their exceptional talent and soon earned their trust.

Gradually, people started listening to her; even the youths started to associate with Her. She suffered a setback when she was transferred to New Delhi but she was committed to ensuring that her efforts see the light of the day.

Sinha took the items made by the villagers to the Development Commissioner for Handicrafts and informed him about the talent of the villagers. The commissioner encouraged her and also suggested that the villagers be trained in modern techniques.

By now, word of Sinha’s mission had spread and the residents of other villagers too began to enthusiastically join in.

She later formed a self-help group named Amabalika and in groups of 10, the villagers were brought to New Delhi, where they were trained at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). These villagers, in turn, trained others in their own villages and the rest, as they say, is history.

Her efforts translated into reality and soon the handicrafts started getting markets for themselves.

In all this, Sinha is extremely self-effacing. “Please do not highlight me. Highlight the problems of the primitive tribes who need immediate help. I will be happy if corporate houses adopt the villages and develop basic infrastructure in the area. The area lacks electricity, roads and basic facilities. We are planning to develop the area and develop the craft village,” Sinha said.

“I do not want to be worshipped as a goddess; neither do I want to be in the limelight. I have just made sure that the members of the Sabar tribe, who are on the verge of extinction, get economic benefits through their skills,” she said.

Asked whether family responsibilities have come in her way, Sinha said she has beautifully managed to strike a balance between her roles as a wife, daughter-in-law and mother and is fully supported by her family members in her efforts.

Her husband, an Indian Revenue Service officer, is posted in New Delhi and her children are settled. She lives alone in Ranchi and wants to continue her work for the betterment of the Sabar tribals. (IANS) (Nityanand Shukla can be contacted at nityanand.s@ians.in)

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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

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Indian Kenyans Acquire Recognition as 44th Tribe in the Country

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Indian Kenyans
Kenya has officially recognised Indian Kenyans as 44th tribe of the country. Wikimedia
  • Indian Kenyans are now officially recognized as the 44th tribe in the country
  • The community has gone through major hurdles in the many years of its presence
  • In the political and social spheres, the Indian Kenyans were never considered an important part of the country to uplift

New Delhi, July 26, 2017: Indian Kenyans community has been recognized as the 44th tribe in the country. But the people have had to wait and fight a long battle to earn it.

Signs of Indian Diaspora in Kenya can be traced back to 17th century. The migration of labor from India to Kenya during the British Empire’s conquests was in considerable numbers. After the emergence of nationalism, Indians were part of the freedom struggle for Kenya.

Also Read: Gay Men Dating in Cartoons Banned in Kenya: Is India Standing on the same Pedestal?

Sana Aiyar, a historian, estimates that 2% of the total population was Indian diaspora at the time of Independence of Kenya. They were employed in sectors like wholesale and manufacture. More Indians were concentrated in the capital, Nairobi, estimated at 30% of the total.

Indians poured into Kenya in various professions. Punjabis served as labor for construction of railways in the country. Gujaratis established businesses and became prominent in the markets. Many Indians also came to East Africa to serve the British Army.

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Soon, the presence of Indians and Europeans led to the formation of a social heirarchy wherein the Europeans acquired the top of the pyramid, Indians/ Asians at the middle while the native people were left at the bottom.

But Indians were not given political representation. For a long period of time, having been faithful and passionate for Kenya, Indians were not acknowledged. While Indians of Kenyan descent considered their individual identity more closely associated with Kenyan culture, they remained invisible to the governments. In the political as well as social life, Indian Kenyans were never recognized as an integral part of society at large.

Quoted in the New York Times report, Kenyan Parliament’s First Asian descent member said that despite enjoying the economic life in Kenya, Indian Kenyans are excluded from the political and social life.

[bctt tweet=”Signs of Indian Diaspora in Kenya can be traced back to 17th century.” username=”NewsGramdotcom”]

Now officially recognized as the 44th tribe of the country, Indian Kenyans can now have a confident sense of identity and get accultured with the Kenyans more comfortably. With the recognition, Indian diaspora’s effort in independence and nation-building has been accepted.

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

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Exclusive: Journalist Sanjay Mehta’s Report On Plight of The Tribes in Jharkhand

Journalist Sanjay Mehta, who went and stayed in Saranda village in Jharkhand, witnessed the plight and the worsened living conditions of the tribes people in the area

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Sanjay Mehta
Sanjay Mehta, a journalist from Jharkhand, with children from Saranda region. Sanjay Mehta
  • Sanjay Mehta is a journalist and a student of law hailing from Hazaribagh, Jharkhand
  • The journalist went and stayed with the tribes people of Saranda, thereby witnessing their living conditions
  • Sanjay Mehta’s report reveals the plight of tribes have been completely neglected by the system and the government leading to their shambolic living conditions

July 06, 2017:

Sanjay Mehta, a student of law at Vinoba Bhave University, is also a journalist hailing from Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. On 21st June, Mehta decided to visit Saranda forest region to get a closer glimpse of the various tribes that inhabit the place. This was Sanjay Mehta’s own initiative as he considers himself personally bonded with the clan.

Having visited many villages in the region and living among these tribes, Mehta developed a deeper understanding of the poor living conditions of these people who are ignored by both, the system as well as the government.

Sanjay Mehta
A tribe woman with her child. Sanjay Mehta

The Saranda forest, which lies in the West Singhbhum district, is approximately 200Kms away from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand. Mehta reports that the living condition of the people is inhumane. The tribal clan is desperate for a better life. He continues that the offsprings of these people are victims of malnutrition and their present condition is fretting.

The pregnant women have frightful conditions to encounter every day throughout their pregnancy. Additionally, there are problems with the drinking water due to its high iron ore content. Mehta has discovered these problems since his visit to the region where the entire atmosphere is tragical and disappointing. Ignored by the authorities, it is as if these people are left to work things out on their own. Such situations suffered by the entire ethnic group is ridiculously disturbing.

Also Read: Exclusive: Why Gorkhaland for Gorkhas?

Villages like Meghahatuburu, Kotgarh, Gua, Tatiba, Lokasi, among many others, are struggling for basic necessities of life. The doctors in the hospitals are under-staffed, schools lack students who suffer from malnutrition while the entire community have only the nature for survival (which isn’t enough in today’s world). Having failed completely, the questions should be aimed towards the Govt.

Sanjay Mehta
The children of families in Saranda, Jharkhand suffer from malnutrition and malaria. Sanjay Mehta

Sanjay Mehta also alleges that the Feb 2017 report prepared by UNICEF and the Central Govt has falsely estimated that only 20% of the kids in the Saranda region suffer from malnutrition. Having lived there for 15 days now, the journalist estimates a much higher statistic than 20%. He reports that almost every kid is under-nutrition and often even minor diseases are life threatening. These deaths go unnoticed and often ignored.

The Govt. facilities are non-existent. The water problem combined with extreme unemployment implies just how badly the Govt has been performing. Even basic electricity is a rare thing in some villages. In some areas, the roads are constructed badly, and in others, you can only see crooked paths.

The region is a mining paradise making it complicated for development policies to be implemented here. Most of the land is leased out to SAIL, a public sector company, and thus the amount of money received from the centre for development is often sent back. SAIL has its own CSR initiative and therefore, do not provide an approval certificate. Although the officers have been urged time and again to look into the matter, there still has been no progress.

In his report, Sanjay Mehta has also documented the experiences of the villagers. Many people also told that the poor quality of water has infected their feet and nails. The women of Noamundi grieved that they fry insects as their meal. It is, in fact, an essential nutrition in their diet at this time of the season.

Sanjay Mehta
The drinking water has a high content of Iron ores making it a health issue. Sanjay Mehta

One villager has expressed his frustration aimed at the government. He said that the kids of the village are dying of malnutrition and malaria. The government is paying no attention to it.

Another man from a village called Kiriburu has declared the government’s policies as a complete failure. The people of the village have not reaped any benefits that the government had promised.

Juda Bodra, hailing from the Gua village, stated “I am unemployed and have no benefits from the state. This is very difficult for us”

Sanjay Mehta
Badapasia women selling insects which are an essential part of the daily meal of this tribe. Sanjay Mehta

Badapasia village resident Ghanshyam Bobonge said that the conditions for tribe’s people are miserable. “We are living the lives’ of the lowest class. No officials come and address our griefs”

When the journalist highlighted this issue in a Facebook post, it was reported and henceforth removed. The Journalist also concludes that gradually the villagers are getting more and more angry towards the establishment, which is unhealthy for any political system. Sanjay Mehta can be followed on Twitter @JournalistMehta

By Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394