Project progress 

Report from SiddarthVillage

Odisha is one of the last bastions of the tribal communities amongst the schedule V areas who are wholly or predominately dependent upon the forests.  Unable to cope with modernity added to negligence of the state, they are on the brink of extinction facing threats of basic survival.

Of the 62 tribal groups, there are 13 PVTGs namely Birhor, Mankidia, Bonda, Paraja, Didayi, Dongaria Kandha, Juang, Kharia, Kutia Kandha, Lanjia soura, Lodha, Paudi Bhuyan, saora and Chuktia Bhunjia. These Primitive Vulnerable tribal groups are characterized by pre agricultural technology like shifting cultivation, low level of llliteracy and stagnant or diminishing population. Their subsistence economy is based mainly on collecting, hunting and fishing or a combination of hunting and collecting with shifting cultivation. In Mayurbhanj District KHADIA and MANKIDIA are two major PVTGs living in foothills of Similipala, Bio-sphere/century/reserve forest and Tiger reserve area.

The complete dependency upon the forest based collection by the certain tribal groups such as Mankidia and Khadias far from their livelihood makes them even more vulnerable as the forest Acts does not allow them entry into the forests to collect the same. Their isolation leads to lack of access to welfare services and safety net programmes of Government.

Before the socail development of the area took place, these PVTGs occupied 10 to 20 Acres of land. The present situation is very different, they are the beggars and struggling for survival of their lives and livelihood. Government departments have no concern on PTGs and harassed due to innocent and low level of awareness.

After independence the emergence of ‘Welfare State’ virtually created a pattern of dependency of the people on the State. People’s initiatives were taken over by the State as the biggest welfare institution. In the name of welfare and development the State entered into all walks of life of people.

After 68 years of Independence, PTGs of Bisoi Block are living in darkness struggling for their lives and livelihood. Earlier they were the landholders and enjoyed their lives but at present they are exploited by the different sections along with government officials. Similipal forest and biosphere along with village forests are the outskirts of the villages. The PVTG habitants, forest dwellers are depending upon the forests for the maintenance of their livelihood. The community collects forest produces like Sal seeds, Kendu leaf, Mahua flower, Mahua seeds, Honey, Lac and fire wood and Tamarind from forest. The primary collectors of Forest produces have not been supported with minimum support price. The social developmental programmes like education and health programme of government are in either defunct stages or very far from them.

The housing for the primitive tribes is in deplorable state covered by sarees or leaves. They are prone to sickness as there is no sustainable roof above them. The below given photos can give glimpse of these houses.

Siddharthvillage team decided to create a model of eco village housing for at least fifty houses and lobby the state govt. to provide such houses for them through their welfare fund. It is also planned that the resources of Govt. are directly given to the primitive tribes to construct their own housing.  In order to equip them with the skill, siddharthvillage planned to provide training for 2 to 250 youth both male and female on block bricks making the  major components of which are locally available mud and sand and 2 percent of cement. They will be also equipped with masonry skill so that they construct their own houses. Siddharthvillage planned to give moral support to construct at least 50 ecologically friendly houses suitable for them with the support of the trained PVTGs and organize mason co-operatives to take up the contract from govt. directly for construction when funds can be allotted and influence on such house construction trickle down to the officials.

This humble project emerged out of compassion for the primitive tribes for which Universe provided resources for conducting masonry training through EGF, Australia at an appropriate time, though Siddharthvillage was compelled  to drop many other tribal applicants so as to give space for primitive tribes. Abundance gratitude for EGF, Australia and Ms.Renita who is always getting attracted to these challenging projects.

All attendees to the project have undergone immense attitudinal changes during the training as we lived as a community for a month together. We notice particularly that they had more confidence in themselves, self respect, understanding the world view , as well as a number of permaculture techniques and organic cultivation skills as a result of this initiative.

No time to express further, as closing of events are nearing and we are in a hurry to teach them as much as possible……

G John Susa.