A first for the Siddi community

Shantaram Budna Siddi was waiting at the post office in his village of Hitlalli, sending a memorandum to the State government requesting for grant of land for a hostel for tribal students, when his phone rang.

The call from the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru was to tell him that he had been made a MLC. “I did not understand it fully. I thought someone may be playing a prank. I went home for lunch. It was then that my wife and I started getting calls continuously, congratulating me for the nomination,’’ he told The Hindu .

Mr. Siddi, who lives in his modest home on the outskirts of the forest in Hitlalli village of Yallapur in Uttara Kannada district, has become the first person from the Siddhi tribal community to be nominated to the Karnataka Legislative Council. He is among the five persons nominated by the State government to the Council on Wednesday.

The soft-spoken community organiser had this to say about his nomination: “Till now, I could do whatever little I could to help the people and drop the rest if I could not. No one would question me. But now, people across the State will be watching me closely. If I am given a list of 10 tasks, I will have to complete all of them, my responsibilities have increased”.

He further said: “I am no politician. I have spent all my life in social service. But today’s nomination has made me step into the field of politics. I don’t know how it will be ”.

He has also been working as a volunteer and state unit secretary of the Vanavasi Kalyan Prakalpa, a tribal welfare initiative of the RSS. He was introduced to the VKP when Prakash Kamat, a vibhag pracharak of the RSS and VKP in-charge, met him at a friend’s house. Mr Siddi was working as a farm labourer, despite being a graduate.

Mr. Kamat asked him to work as a full-time worker of the VKP for a honorarium. He accepted the offer and began a career in social service. “I could have got a government job based on my degree. But once I began working here, I liked it,” he said.

Over the last 32 years, Mr. Siddi has been touring the State, organising tribal communities, helping them get government facilities, get access to higher education and jobs. He says his focus would be the all-round development of tribal communities, especially forest-dwelling groups like Siddis.

Mr. Siddi was the first graduate from his community to pass out of Karnataka University in 1988. He served as a member of the Western Ghats task force of the State government in 2008-2009. He has also been involved in the Vruksha-Laksha NGO working for afforestation and environment awareness.

His wife Susheela runs a petty shop. Their elder daughter has completed her degree and his son is still in high school.

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Printable version | May 22, 2022 9:59:02 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/a-first-for-the-siddi-community/article32166134.ece