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4 Times Indian Tribes Kicked Corporate Ass To Protect Their Rights, And The Environment

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By Parth Sharma:

Indian tribes stand strong and proud against corporates
Indian tribes stand strong and proud against corporates

Tribals or adivasis to most of us are ‘primitive’ ‘Neanderthal savages’ living in a forest, devoid of any civilization, progress or development. Some find them exotic, some fascinating, some disgusting. Rarely do we care to see them on the news but we all have an opinion like we always do.

However, with 104 million in number, they form about 8.6% of India’s population. With over 500 endogamous tribes (better known as “Scheduled Tribes”), they all have their unique cultures, traditions, and rituals; among which, some like matriarchy, unity among clans and brotherhood seem to be way too profane for the ‘modern’ world. But there is one cause that unites them all—their continuous economic and social marginalization even after 70 years of independence.

Although the constitution has a plethora of measures to help them gain, sustain and protect the dignity and honor of a lifestyle, they’ve still been patronized, exploited, and ignored by all and sundry since the 1800s.

Social indicators reveal the dismal conditions of the tribals which are even worse than Dalits. A literacy rate of just 23.8% and with 49.5% of the population living under the official poverty line. Most of them are also oblivious to the workings of the Indian democracy but unknown to the methods and procedures of the courts they still show absolute clarity in their understanding of right and wrong. They can not only distinguish between the devil and the angel but can also show a strict resolve to fight the devil with all their might. Some recent unfolding of events show us how:

When Five Villages Of Chhattisgarh Royally Kicked SECL

Southeastern Coal Fields Limited or SECL, a subsidiary of India’s public sector coal mining giant, Coal India Limited (CIL), wanted to mine the forests of Chhattisgarh. But under the Forest Rights Act (2006) were obligated to obtain the consent of the indigenous communities before mining their land; which is what halted their winning streak.
The people of five villages—Pelma, Jarridih, Sakta, Urba and Maduadumar, gathered in each of their Gram Sabhas on March 16 and royally booed and shooed the company officials. Much as they also did in October 2014, February 2015 and June 2015.

When Kamanda Gram Sabha Of Odisha Denied IDCO The Chance To Screw Them

Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation of Odisha (IDCO) was denied by the people of Kamanda Gram Sabha on March 23rd when around 400 people unanimously decided against the acquisition of their private land for Rungta Mines. The people disowned the resolution of Feb 13th, 2009 as the district administration and Rungta Company had allegedly turned the situation to their favour by bringing in 100 people from outside to get a two-third majority over the 30 people present of the village.

When HPPCL Had To Ask For Clearance From The Lippu Gram Sabha of Himachal Pradesh

It all happened when the Himachal Pradesh govt. turning a blind eye to the Forest Rights Act (2006), gave the Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd (HPPCL), a state-owned body, the rights to build the Kashang Integrated Hydro Electric Project in the Kinnaur district. The people of Lippu Gram Sabha, a consortium of 200 odd families, then stood up and fought this project – a harbinger of ecological disaster and an annihilator of livelihood. Standing firm since 2009 to fight against the govt. it was on May 4th, 2016 that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) recognized that these people should have a say in the matter because it’s their property.

When Odisha Govt. Got Kicked Left, Right, And Center By The Kondh Community

The badass Dongarias, a sub-section of the Kondh community, inhabiting hills of Odisha had already denied the mighty UK-based Vedanta from touching the bauxite-rich Niyamgiri Hills (a sacred hill to the Kondhs) in July-August 2013. All the 12 Gram Sabhas of the area had out-rightly rejected the project proposal and forced the Ministry of Environment to withdraw the permission for mining. Don’t mistake the power of the Govt. of Odisha and the influence of Vedanta which went to the extent of incarceration and killing of tribals by armed forces to get their consent—but couldn’t taste anything but dust.

And as they say, old habits die hard. The govt. which claims to be the ‘champion of tribals’ went to the Supreme Court through the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) to reconvene the Gram Sabhas for a vote. Their petition was sadly not entertained.

To totally sideline the political disenfranchisement, land grabbing, and destruction of their natural habitat by the all-powerful capitalists with the kind cooperation of the state would be a mistake as of now. But the over-the-top functioning of democracy in areas with the progressive use of FRA, 2006 and constitutional guarantees of Panchayats (Extension to Schedule Areas), PESA, should be surely recognized. David winning against Goliath in real life must be lauded, with the courage of ‘primitive’ tribals and their love for their habitat honored.

And, for now, we can definitely say…“The times, they are a changing!”

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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