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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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Illegal Loggers Threaten ‘Uncontacted Indigenous Tribes’ In The Amazon

The environmental protection agency Ibama responded by sending in patrols in May, which temporarily halted the logging.

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Members of an uncontacted Amazon Basin tribe and their dwellings are seen during a flight over the Brazilian state of Acre along the border with Peru. VOA

Illegal loggers and militias cleared an area three times the size of Gibraltar in Brazil’s Amazon this year, threatening an “uncontacted” indigenous tribe, activists said on Tuesday.

Satellite imagery collected by Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), a Brazilian advocacy group, detected about 4,600 acres (1,863 hectares) of deforestation this year in the Ituna Itata indigenous land in northern Para state.

“This situation is very worrying,” Juan Doblas, senior geo-processing analyst at ISA, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“There is a series of risks, not only to indigenous territories of uncontacted tribes, but also to other indigenous territories in the area.”

Amazon
Ecuadorian Amazon rain forest. Wikimedia Commons

The indigenous affairs agency Funai and the federal police were not immediately available to comment. The environmental protection agency Ibama said in a statement that official data on Amazon deforestation will be released in November.

Brazil’s uncontacted tribes, some of the last on earth, depend on large areas of unspoiled forest land to hunt animals and gather the food they need to survive.

They are particularly vulnerable when their land rights are threatened because they lack the natural immunity to diseases that are carried by outsiders, rights groups say.

Forest loss in Ituna Itata — from which outsiders were banned in 2011 to protect the uncontacted tribe — spiked to about 2,000 acres in August from 7 acres in May, said ISA, which has monitored the area through satellites since January.

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This Sept. 15, 2009 file photo shows a deforested area near Novo Progresso in Brazil’s northern state of Para.. VOA

South America’s largest country is grappling with scores of deadly land conflicts, illustrating the tensions between preserving indigenous culture and economic development.

ISA filed a complaint in April to federal and state authorities about forest destruction and illegal logging in the area during the rainy season, which is unusual, said Doblas.

“It was a sign that something very serious was going to happen,” he said. “It was a preparation for the invasion.”

Also Read: Spix’s Macaw Parrot from Brazil Is Now Extinct

The environmental protection agency Ibama responded by sending in patrols in May, which temporarily halted the logging, he said, adding that ISA plans to file another complaint this week, using updated data and satellite images. (VOA)