Church people take lead in marking international tribal day

CBCI marked the day with a meeting of political leaders, activist and like- minded people to deliberate on the issues tribal people facing in the country.

 
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General, CBCI addressing a gathering on the occasion of International Day of Indigenous peoples on August 9 at CBCI center, New Delhi.
By Bijay Kumar Minj
New Delhi: 

Church leaders, activists and political leaders have joined tribal people for programs across India to observe the International Day of Indigenous peoples Aug.9, urging actions for tribal peoples’ development and to safe guard their identity and culture.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) marked the day with a meeting of political leaders, activists and like-minded people to deliberate on the issues tribal people are facing in the country.

“The Church in India wants to work with the government, international agencies and local organizations in protecting and preserving the identity of tribal people and to ensure their integrated development,” said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the conference.

Father Nicholas Barla, secretary of bishops’ conference’s tribal affairs office, who organized the meeting, said the tribal communities “by and large remain excluded from the mainstream society. The government has several plans and schemes for tribal development but they are not “adequately implemented,” he said.

“Leave no one from the development agenda of the country” said, Father Barla, an Oraon tribal, while addressing the gathering on the theme: The Sustainable Development Goals and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ in the Indian context.

Highlighting the plight of tribal people, he said almost 75 percent of India’s 104 million tribal people live below poverty line, meaning they don’t have enough resources for a wholesome meal a day. Only some 20 percent has access to clean drinking water, while 77 percent do not have sanitary facilities.

School drop-out rates is high too with 70 percent students joining schools do not go to grade and Infant mortality rate is high as 62 babies die in out of every 1,000 births among tribal people while the national average is only 41.

In another program organized by Jesuit-managed Indian Social Institute to mark the day specially focused on young people, some 100 young people took part in half-day celebrations.

Father Ranjit Tigga, who heads Department of Tribal Studies at Indian Social Institute, said they were focusing on youth because they are “the future of our nation and if they are educated half of the problem will be solved.”

Gladson Dungdung, a tribal activist who was part of another program in Jharkhand state said that “at least people are aware that there is program called Adivasi Diwas (tribal day) so gradually people will be aware about the program and henceforth about their rights”.

He said in almost all major cities and towns, tribal stronghold states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar has meetings, seminar and workshops to mark the day with the collaboration of Church people and tribal activists.

“It is a very positive sign that more and more people are involved and becoming aware about what is happening in the society which is the sign that fundamentalist and communal forces are defeated in their agenda,” the Kharia tribal leader said.

Ajmera Sitaram Naik, a parliamentarian from Telangana state advocated the need for Parliament and states to implement tribal laws. Naik, speaking at the program conducted by Indian bishops, blamed the parliamentarians for not taking the issue “seriously”.

The deliberation recommended that it will make efforts to ensure effective implementation of protective legislation Forest Rights Act and other provisions of law and the Constitution and stipulations contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 and Sustainable Development Goal.

END

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