In march to Jaipur, tribal groups highlight indigenous practices

The yatra will pass on the best practices of tribals to communities beyond southern Rajasthan and simultaneously learn about the practices of other areas

September 24, 2022 09:30 pm | Updated 09:30 pm IST - JAIPUR

Spreading their word: Participants in a 500-km-long yatra on the rights of tribals speaking to local people. The yatra will  reach Jaipur on Gandhi Jayanti.

Spreading their word: Participants in a 500-km-long yatra on the rights of tribals speaking to local people. The yatra will reach Jaipur on Gandhi Jayanti. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Tribal groups in southern Rajasthan have come together to defend the rights of indigenous and vulnerable communities with Swaraj activists emerging as a focal point for protection of their farming systems, livelihood and habitats. Tribal people have laid emphasis on making collective efforts to save the vital elements of water, forest, land and seed, which are crucial for their survival.

Swaraj Sandesh-Samwad Padyatra (march on foot) began from Kopda village in Banswara district on September 11, the birth anniversary of Acharya Vinoba Bhave, who had led the Bhoodan movement. The 21-day yatra will culminate in Jaipur on Gandhi Jayanti after traversing a distance of 500 km. The aim of the yatris is to also offer indigenous solutions to the issues of tribal livelihood, culture and ethos.

As many as 200 participants in the yatra are generating awareness about the Gandhian concept of Swaraj, which holds the key to resolution of the issues of resource management, food security and agricultural systems for the tribal population. The yatra will cover Pratapgarh, Chittorgarh, Bhilwara and Tonk districts before reaching Jaipur.

Banswara Zila Pramukh Resham Malivya and Mahatma Gandhi Jeevan Darshan Samiti’s district coordinator and former MLA Ramesh Pandya flagged off the yatra from Kopda village. Both the leaders called for a renewed focus on the concepts of tribal sovereignty and ‘seed Swaraj’ as well as return to the indigenous practices such as mixed cropping, preservation of seeds and the use of animals in farming and allied activities.

Swaraj models

At a community discussion during the yatra’s night stay at Sagthali in Ghatol tehsil, agricultural expert P.L. Patel said the tribal farmers had almost lost their traditional practices and become dependent on markets. “This yatra is going to explore the possible models of Swaraj and find out solutions for the crisis faced by vulnerable communities,” Mr. Patel said.

Jayesh Joshi, secretary of Banswara’s voluntary group Vaagdhara, working on tribal livelihood issues, said the yatra would pass on the best practices of tribals to the communities beyond the boundaries of southern Rajasthan’s Vagad region and simultaneously learn about the practices of other areas. He said the tribal communities were the “true custodians” of Swaraj because they had painstakingly preserved their natural resources.

The best practices of the tribal people highlighted during the march included the production of local seeds, water conservation at source, use of animals in agriculture, checking soil erosion through mixed cropping and the use of uncultivated food for nutritional security. These practices have helped the tribal communities reduce their dependence on market and survive during the pandemic.

Gram pradhans and sarpanches of several villages, with whom the yatra participants interacted on the way, pledged to generate awareness about Swaraj and encourage farmers to give up the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Peepalkhunt tehsildar Ankit Samaria gladly accepted a request for connecting the school students with a Swaraj message after their morning prayers.

While passing through Sita Mata wildlife sanctuary in Pratapgarh district, half-a-dozen marchers identified as many as 42 types of plants and herbs and shared their knowledge about the usefulness and health benefits of these herbs with other participants.

The marchers also laid emphasis on the production of seeds of small millets and nutritious crops and adopting them in the farming practices, besides nourishing the tribal children with the recipes cooked using traditional food items. For this, the State government should promote cultivation of traditional crops and ensure supply of nutritious food through public distribution system, they said.

On the yatra’s conclusion, a programme titled  Swaraj Sankalp-Agrah Sammelan will be organised in Jaipur with the focus on bringing collective wisdom together to create solutions for empowerment of indigenous communities, establish linkages with the stakeholders and strengthen the framework of Swaraj in the gram sabhas and panchayat bodies across the State.

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