Issues plaguing the tribal communities came to the fore during the Birsa Munda Jayanti celebrations being observed as the Janjatiya Gaurva Divas, here on Tuesday.
The University of Mysore’s School of Law and Karnataka State Tribal Research Institute organized a two-day workshop on the role of NGOs in tribal development to mark the occasion.
P. Eshwar Bhat, former Vice Chancellor of Karnataka State Law University, said the success of NGOs depends on the sincere commitment of its leaders.. Unless they are inspired by the cause, and unless the organisation is supported by the community, it will not succeed.
He pointed out that a number of laws exists for the protection of tribal rights but are seldom implemented and entails NGO intervention. The legal expert cited the Narmada Bachao Andolan as a case in point and said that if not for the resistance by the network of NGOs and volunteers the tribal resettlement and rehabilitation would have been ignored.
Similarly he cited the case of the works by NGOs at BR Hills and how the traditional knowledge system of the tribal communities were being harnessed to improve their welfare. The intervention of the NGOs ensured that the tribal hamlets were not displaced and they were allowed to stay there despite the BR Hills being declared as a tiger reserve, said Mr.Bhat.
Though human-animal conflict is high in regions where there is co-existence, it cannot be a ground for eviction or displacement of people, he added.
Meanwhile, Development through Education, an NGO working for tribal rights in Hunsur, has welcomed the governments decision to celebrate Birsa Munda Jayanti as Janajatiya Gaurva Divas. In a release, .Sreekanth of DEED recalled the contributions of Birsa Munda and how at a young age was able to capture the imagination of his community in the tribal region of Jharkhand and galvanise them into action against exploitation.
Mr.Sreekanth said the struggle for tribal rights has not ended with the death of Birsa Munda more than 120 years ago. The government in the present times should pay heed to the words of Birsa Munda who had sought tribal self-rule and conservation of forests.
However, Mr.Sreekanth expressed concern that the Forest Department in the present times does not inspire confidence among the tribals, securing the benefits of forest rights.