Staff Reporter

‘Resource-hungry societies targeting tribal habitats’

Need to study fund utilisation highlighted

Kozhikode: A three-day national seminar on ‘Vanishing Tradition and Livelihood Systems in Tribal Areas’ by the Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development Studies of Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes (KIRTADS) got under way on the KIRTADS campus on Wednesday.

Nandu Ram, Dean of the School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, inaugurated the seminar. Prof. Ram said that tradition was a cultural way of life reflected through religious rituals, art forms, food, dress and beliefs of people.

“Tradition is seen as being stagnant in direct contrast to modernity which is ever changing,” Prof. Ram said in his keynote address.

Funds siphoned

Presiding over the inaugural session, P.R.G. Mathur, former Director of KIRTADS, remembered the role played by the institute in highlighting the ‘Attapadi Kumbakonam’ where tribal development funds never reached the intended recipients and were siphoned away. “Five of the 75 Primitive Tribal Groups identified by the Union government are from Kerala and I am told Rs.5 crore out of a total allocation of Rs.21 crore has already been spent for their development. KIRTADS would do well to study if this money was well-spent or squandered away,” Dr. Mathur said.

Freedom to speak out

Dr. Mathur commented that researchers need to be granted the freedom to evaluate and criticise government schemes if academic research is to help bring in social change.

“Sociologists, anthropologists and researchers in societal studies are keen on academic positions like vice-chancellorship of universities. Since they need benefits from the government, they are unable to incisively point out flaws in the system,” he said.

‘Theme relevant’

E. Ayyappan, Director of KIRTADS, said the theme of the seminar was very relevant since development as practiced in the modern world was hurting the tribal with resource-hungry societies targeting tribal habitats which for centuries had been left untouched.

Seminar sessions

Session I on December 17 will deal with the theme of ‘Tribal Tradition and Modernity’ while in Session II papers on ‘Traditional Knowledge and Sustainable Livelihood Systems’ will be presented.

Session III is on ‘Indigenous Knowledge, Bio Diversity and Intellectual Property Rights’.

One December 18, the concluding day of the seminar, the themes for each session are ‘Community Knowledge and Developmental Paradigm,’ ‘Tribal Identity and Movements’ and ‘Tribal Development Issues and Concerns.’