Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee


Background of Amlasole

Amlasole is a remote trivial village of Jharkhand border in Banipur II Block of West Medinipur district of West Bengal. The place is 250 km from Kolkata. The nearest Panchayat office is 23 km away at Banspahari and it is as far as 26 km from police station at Belpahari. It is 26 km away from Ghatshila and 60 km away from Purulia.

The people of Amlasole belong mainly two trivial communities like Shabar and Munda. They are always looked down upon as the ‘untouchables’. The main source of their earnings had been cutting wood from the forests or plucking kendu leaves but these jungles have now gone beyond the reach of the Shabars due to the new rules and regulations of the government in which the Adibasis cannot sell kendu leaves to Mahajans (traders/money lenders). They can neither go to the forests to cut wood nor has land for cultivation and whatever land exists cannot be cultivated properly due to lack of water. There are no separate employment opportunities for the Adibasis along with problems related to infrastructure in their place of residence.

A few years back i.e., in the year 2004, this remote village found itself in the news because many Shabar’s of this region died of hunger, starvation and malnutrition. There was a big hue and cry about it. Many organisations had been there during the early phase providing food and clothing to community members in addition to organising health camps who left within an year when Shabar started posing their ‘media credential’. Durbar started to think whether we would also go like the others to give alms to these poor people or whether we would show them a ‘path’ which is a bit different.

Durbar realized that feeding people could not solve the problem of Amlasole. For real development to take place a well planned intervention was essential. In such circumstances Durbar came forward to lend support to the community and remained there and continued to work in support of this community, building their collectives and capacity to lead from the front.
Gradually an organisation of Sabar’s got formed in July 2004 and was named Amlasole Birsha Munda Gram Unnayan Committee. The organisation was formed with the objective that they will cater to their needs and problems themselves under their own leadership and initiative.

Again with the assistance of Durbar the committee started a non formal school with a name “Bera Bhenge” (Breaking fences) where the children from these marginalized groups can get education. Durbar also provided financial support to construct a house (Community centre) in Amlasole village to serve as an office to carry out the development work of the community.



Life of Sabhars in Amlasole

The sabars are afraid to go to the forest as the police in charge of the forest protection harass them as they lost their right to forest though their main source of earning is cutting wood from the forest and plucking kendu leaves. Forests have gone beyond the reach of sabars due to new rules and regulations of the govt that adivasis cannot sell kendu leaves to the mahajans. Whatever land is available cannot be cultivated due to lack of water. Some people work as daily wage labourers. Their children do not attend the regular government school as they are insulted and neglected by other children and teachers as well. Their accessibility to Government officials and policy makers was absent / insignificant.


History of the development of the indigenous people:

Several proposals and schemes were launched by the government authorities but still they are in the same dark as they were before. In 1954 for the socio-economic development of the indigenous group 43 multipurpose developmental programs had been planned and for each programme 27 lakhs was allotted but the project was not being successful within the 5 years time frame because at that time no public transportation system, no phone connection, no electricity and other necessary item was present there. They never got the chance to plan a programme nor could actively participate in the programme. They didn’t even implement the programme as well. It was observed that many a times a programme was planned and prepared without giving importance to their most basic needs. As a result these people face a lot of cultural constraints. It is written in the Indian Constitution that every human being have equal rights but this could only be possible when they become as per to the rest of the society. Thus it is necessary to mainstream these deprived and marginalized communities and establish their rights and dignity and to ensure their active participation.


Brief activities of Durbar:

The activities that were taken up by DMSC at Amlasole as a part of the intervention strategy:

a) Assessment of the village: This was done to find out the number and types of people living in Amlasole, their food habits, income etc. From this assessment a clearer picture of the village emerged. The next step was

b) Preparing a micro-plan: There were many problems in Amlasole. So we sat with some villagers to priorities their problems from the most pressing to the least pressing. The most pressing ones were put on the top of the list while the least pressing ones were kept towards the bottom of the list to reflect which problems needed to be tackled first. The list of priorities that emerged is as follows: Ensuring income Health Education Housing for Shabars

c) Formation of an organization: An organization named Birsha Munda Gram Unnayan Committee has been formed in the village after organizing the Adivasis. The organization has been formed with the objective that the Adivasis will cater to their needs and problems themselves under their own leadership and initiative.

d) Workshop to increase efficiency: After the formation of the organization, the organization members and other Adivasis were given training on organization related matters and issues to increase their responsibility towards the organization. The sex worker activista mainly did this work. The story of empowerment of the downtrodden, backward sex workers was related to the backward Adivasis as an example. Hearing the story, the Adivasis were encouraged and they felt that they could progess like the sex workers. Besides the training on organization related matters, some vocational training was also provided to the tribals so that they could learn to make handicrafts.

e) Networking: Networking was started at various governmental as non-governmental levels to findout who could help and support in what way.

f) Formation of Self Help Gropup: Two self-help groups were formed among adivasi women: - Khengora Mahila Shabar Unnayan Samiti and - Kheriapara Mahila Shabar unnayan Samiti

g) Setting up of a primary health centre in Amlasole: a health centre has been set up for providing treatment to the Adivasis. This centre remains open from 12pm to 2pm every except Thursday. Some emergency medicines are also provided from this centre.

h) Setting up of a non-formal school named ‘Berha Bhenga’: A non formal school has been set up for the tribals so that they can learn about their history and rights.

Due to the efforts of Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee the changes that have been brought about are as follows:

Serial No.

June 2004 Activities

June 2005 Activities

1

There were no provisions for drinking water. People drank water from the dam.

3 tube wells and 1 well for drinking water have been set up.

2

There were no roads.

17kms. of proper road has been build from Odolchua. Buses are playing in this road now.

3

There were no irrigation facility and water reservoirs for farming.

3 reservoirs have been built for irrigation.

4

There were no health care facilities

Durbar has opened a primary health centre. Village doctors are sitting here and government doctors come here from time to time.

5

The Shabars did not have their own livable houses.

25 houses have been built for them.

6

The Shabars lacked the urge to work.

Presently the Shabars themselves are getting involved in developmental work. They are digging wells, getting involved in constructing houses, laying down roads.

7

The villagers lacked day-to-day food security

Now they have food for work

8

They did not have their own organization

An organization named “Birsa Munda Gram Unnayan Committee” has been formed.

9

The adivasis did not have a school of their own.

;’Berha bhenge’ a non formal school has been set up.

10

The Shabars did not have any self help groups.

2 self-help groups have been formed.

11

There was no office to carry out the development work of the community.

With the financial support of Durbar a house is being constructed which will serve as a community hall.


Shabar National Conference:

Just at the time when the human race throughout the world was progressing rapidly due to science and technology, the community of Lodha, Kheria Shabars was slowly dying due to the curse of illiteracy. The light of education had not reached them and they were steeped in the dark prejudices of older times. They led the life of animals and eat the uneatable. They died of malnutrition and starvation.

That was a shame to the civilized educated human race. Therefore Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee put an effort to raise awareness among these backward, illiterate, poor practicing Shabars by organizing a Shabar National Conference.
On 29th- 30th December, 2005 ‘Shabar National Conference’ was held in the lap of mountains in Amlasole. Representatives of the Lodha, Kheria Shabars came from West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa.

In the conference, the representatives, from different states, talked about the life and livelihood of the Shabars in that state.


First Shabar National Conference: Chartered of Demand

  • Patta of khas land has to be distributed among landless Shabars. The trot lands have to be marked. Where there are no lands the government must buy arable lands and distribute them. Fallow land should be transformed into arable land.
  • The Shabars’ rights must be secured where goods have to be collected from forests and sold.
  • Houses must be built for homeless Shabars and they must be rehabilitated.
  • Modern technology must be employed to give loans for cottage industry and the sale of products should be organized.
  • The right to get at least 100 days of work in a year must be secured through the nongovernmental supervision system, ‘social audir’. Shabar representative and representatives other voluntary organizations must be there in that term.
  • Proper drainage system must be made in the Shabar villages. Separate water arrangements should be made for irrigation and drinking water.
  • Residential schools must be established for Shabar children in those block areas where thay are a majority.
  • Development cells for the Shabars should be built up in the district and sub-division levels. The Lodha-Shabar special cell for must restarted.
  • The Lodhas and Kheria Shabars must be treated as a separate ethnic community.
  • Shabars must be made membersin the forest preservation committee.
  • Presence of representatives from Shabar associations should be made compulsory in the Gram Unnayan Samity, gram Panchayats, p[anchayat Samity, Jila Parishads and welfare committees.
  • The presence of Anganwari centre must be made compulsory in every Shabar village. Well ordered Sishu Vikas project should be started.
  • Government projects like B.P.L, Annapurna, national old age pension, national maternity facility, national family support, targeted public distribution system, SampurnaGramin rojgar, Right to information Act 2005, etc. should be made known and the accessibility of these projects ahould be secured.
  • Training and access to job of literate Shabar children should be made available. All kinds of Shabar representatives have made and wholeheartedly accepted this memorandum written at the first Shabar National Conference at Amlasole, (December 30th, 2005).
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