Mammoth Adivasi Rally in Bhubaneswar Demanding Separate Adivasi Policy in Orissa

  • Jala, Jami, Jangala; Ae Sabu Amara (water, land, forest; all ours).
  • Adivasinku Sosana, Bandh Kara (Stop exploiting Adivasis).
  • Sikhsya o Swasthya seva ra Adhikar amara dabi (we demand right to education & health services)
  • ‘Adivasi Bachao, Jangal Bachao’ (Save Adivasis, Save Forests).

These were some of the slogans during the Adivasi Rally that was organised on 17th November 2004. Around 15000 Adivasis, Social Workers, Activists, Academicians from Orissa and outside were assembled at State Capital, Bhubaneswar on the rally day to demand for a separate Adivasi Policy for the State. The rally started from Railway Station to Saheed Smaraki Swadhinata Sangramee Bhawan where a meeting was held following the rally in which the Chief Minister of Orissa, Mr. Naveen Patnaik and the Minister of State, Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes Development, Mr. Balabhadra Majhi were present.

Amongst others, former speaker of Orissa Mr. Yudhisthir Das; famous Adivasi leader of Jharakhanda and former Vice-Chancellor of Ranchi University, Dr. Ram Dayal Munda; renowned Anthropologist Dr. K.C. Malhotra; Dalit Leader and Parliamentarian Mr. Mohan Jena; Social Activist Mr. Pradeep Prabhu; Vice Chairman of Orissa Development Action Forum (ODAF) Mr. Aditya Patnaik, President of Orissa Adivasi Adhikar Abhijan (OAAA) Mr. Basudev Jani, Vice-President of OAAA Ms. Naranga Pujari, Adivasi leaders such as Mr. Nangai Murmu, Ms. Basanti Kui and Ms. Puspalata Pradhan were also present during the meeting and put forth their point of views as follows:

Even after 57 years of Independence of India, there was no specific provision for the Ministry of Tribal Affairs; and it was a part of the Home Ministry. The negligence is caused due to lack of will power among the politicians and former governments. Though late, but the process has been initiated. Now, the rights of Adivasis are being thought about.

According to the planning commission report, 150 out of 600 districts in the country are Adivasi concentrated and those are lagging behind in terms of health, education, economy etc. Due to the negative impacts of globalisation and the so-called developmental projects of the government like mega dams & mining etc; Adivasis are being deprived and disposed from their cultural and basic livelihoods. Forest resources are getting denuded day by day. Adivasis are protecting the forest since thousands of years. 5 lakhs of Adivasi families in Orissa are going to be evicted from the forest areas under the direction of Supreme Court to evict the illegal encroachers. Adivasis do not demand the luxury but a life with dignity. So, if we wish to protect our forests, we should try to protect the Adivasis first.

Since 1957 to 1947, during 90 years of India’s freedom fight movement, Adivasis had played an important role to fight against the British Empire. The great Adivasi martyrs like Laxman Majhi, Rindo Majhi, Birsa Munda, Tirki Majhi, Hati Singh, Madho Singh, had lost their lives for the cause. But their contributions are least recognised.

The culture, heritage, language of Adivasis are deteriorating day by day. Thus it is the duty and responsibility of the Adivasi communities as well as the government to protect the same. The efforts to form a separate Adivasi policy for the state should be continued. Being the Chief Minister of Orissa, an Adivasi concentrated State; Mr. Patnaik should initiate to form the separate policy.

After the deliberations; Ms. Hemlata Hontal, a women Adivasi leader shared the gist of the Adivasi Policy drafted by OAAA. Mr. Basudev Jani presented the draft State Adivasi Policy Memorandum to the Chief Minister.

Thanking the organisers of the Adivasi Rally and meeting, Mr. Naveen Patnaik said that his government is always interested for the development of the Adivasis. In this regard, various policies like recognising rights of Adivasis over Minor Forest Produce (MFP) has been declared, provision of employment generation for the Adivasis is being made through different schemes. The state government has appointed Advocate Solee Sorabjee, the former Attorney General of India to fight against the forest eviction cases in the Supreme Court. In order to bring the Adivasis into the mainstream, his government is providing education, health, and communication facilities in the Adivasi concentrated areas. Model schools are being proposed to attract the Adivasi students towards education. A nursing training college is being established at Koraput, where 500 Auxiliary Nursing Maids (ANMs) will be oriented. Rs. 50 crores was sanctioned towards SHG loans to strengthen the Adivasi women of the KBK districts. Apart from all these activities, a Task Force as well as an Integrated Policy was formed to deal with the issues related to Adivasis’ land. Adding to this, a Medicine Institute is being established at Jeypore to promote the Traditional Knowledge Systems and develop the use of traditional medicine. Looking into the poor health condition of the Adivasi communities, there is a proposal for setting up a Medical College at Koraput.

He assured that after a thorough review of the Adivasi Policy drafted by OAAA, a full phased Policy will be formulated for Orissa.

Mr. Balabhadra Majhi said that, being an Adivasi himself, he knows and understands about the issues concerning the Adivasis. He emphasised on the Education of the Adivasis. It would help them to raise their voices against all kind of injustices and exploitation. He assured that he will try to do everything that would help to develop the Adivasi communities.

The meeting was concluded with the vote of thanks to all.