Bhawanipatna (Kalahandi): Having concluded its first edition for this year on a high note in Coorg, Karnataka, the regional edition of all-India tribal conclave Samvaad 2019 rolled inits second location Bhawanipatna, at the Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT).
It was attended by 84 participants representing 18 tribes from Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Most of them are established and emerging change-makers in their communities.
One representative from each of the 18 tribes took to the stage, along with Dr Pawan Agarwal, Vice-Chancellor of OUAT, Dr. Santanu Kumar Mohanty, the Dean of OUAT, Mr. Jiren Topno, Head, Tribal Cultural Society, CSR, Tata Steel and Mr. Ambika Prasad Nanda, Head, CSR, Odisha to water the plants for the inaugural session.
The opening session was dedicated to a group discussion on issues related to identity, livelihood, healthcare, conservation and sustainability. It concluded with an address by the legendary Kamala Pujari, who has been conferred the Padma Shri, the nation’s fourth-highest civilian award in March 2019, for enabling the preservation of over a hundred endangered seed varieties. She belongs to the Desia tribe.
This was followed by a conversational address by Keshamati Pradhan, a trailblazer in the Kui community, who has created structured campaigns for sustainable agriculture, forestry and cultural preservation. She is also a renowned activist against alcoholism, witchcraft and superstitious practises. When speaking with regards to Samvaad, she said: “I want more people to know about our culture and the youth to take it forward. I want to bring everything Adivasi to the platform. I want more people to know about this.”
The conclave also showcased voices of tribal youth working in sensitive areas of ethnic harmony and human rights. The division of the participants into groups encouraged focussed exploration of issues and ways to tackle the same within the community. Among the pool of suggestions emerged views on language, the safety of women, livelihood and streamlining problem-solving approaches.
While those from the older generations acknowledged progress in terms of preserving and passing on their culture, traditions and healthcare methods, the youth was more disposed towards action-oriented resolutions, including incorporating tribal language in the education system, bestowing further authority to Mahila Samitis and allowing them to hold self-defence workshops for women in rural areas. Allocation of duties for public hearings was also suggested where the senior members of the community would pass on knowledge and issues to the youth, who in turn, would be expected to plan and implement solutions in the village.
Mr. Sourav Roy, Chief of CSR, Tata Steel, said: “We are on the road, travelling across the country because we feel a genuine need to connect to the grassroots voices of tribal India, not just locations that are easily accessible, but also in its unexplored pockets. Each year we leave having encountered new perspectives. These voices continue to enlighten and empower Samvaad.”
Samvaad is structured to reach out far and wide through its regional editions; it culminates with an all-India conclave mid-November. In its sixth year in 2019, this signature programme of Tata Steel’s CSR has emerged as a bold, one-of-a-kind platform for cross-pollination of ideas and assertion of tribalism as a sustainable development principle.
Dr. Agarwal reinforced this during his session: “The essence of tribal culture lies in the absolute belief tribal people have in tribalism. Modernism has bankrupted our value systems, not theirs. Tribal communities, on the other hand, are able to balance modernity with traditions.”
Samvaad introduced its regional editions as one-and-a-half-day conclaves in 2016. Since then, engaging sessions have been hosted across Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Nagaland, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh in partnership with reputed institutes. This year, it is touching Coorg (Karnataka), Kalahandi (Odisha), Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), Jhabua (Madhya Pradesh), Gadchiroli (Maharashtra) and Gumla (Jharkhand).