How CEVA, a local NGO is helping tribal people of Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh is a mountainous state in the western Himalayas. Due to its topography and climatic conditions people of the state have been living challenging lives since time immemorial. We find mentions of Himalayan tribes in the great epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. These epics and scriptures tell the stories of valor, daily challenges and sacrifices of people of Himalayan country.
In olden times people were self sufficient and content with their lives. In today’s world population explosion and other related factors have put tremendous pressure on daily lives of people and natural resources.
In present days government is struggling with many problems. New challenges in the 21st century led to the rise of different kinds of underprivileged and downtrodden sections of community i.e. slum dwellers, poor farmers, underprivileged women, unemployment etc. Although state and central governments are running various programmes to tackle these problems but the government hierarchy, red tapism and corruption have failed many programmes at implementation level.
Like olden times lives of people at tribal areas is still challenging. Unemployment, inadequate medical facilities, tough climatic conditions cause different kinds of challenges than the problems of urban areas. Indigenous approach to deal with local issues was required to deal with such problems. A local youth Haresh Sharma with his team of like minded people from rugged tribal valley of Pangi in Chamba district has started CEVA (Collective Efforts for Voluntary Action), a Non-Government Organization dealing specifically with the tribal problems viz. women empowerment, unemployment, poor health, unproductive farming etc. for the tribal areas of districts of Chamba, Lahaul & Spiti and Kinnaur.
This organisation has come up with multi pronged strategy to deal with various problems of the tribal people. One of its initiative Pangi hills is a platform for providing market linkage to the organic and tribal produce. The journey of transition from forest dwellers to entrepreneurs has been made possible with the formation of SHG’s in the remote tribal area. The organisation has given them a platform by breaking the barriers of society and made them self dependent.
The pattern of life that existed for centuries in the tribal remote areas of Chamba, Lahaul & Spiti, Kinnaur has now been transformed by the development efforts of CEVA which have largely contributed to the upliftment of social and economic life of these tribal people especially women. This organization is providing employment opportunities and social security, improving the status of women including advocating late age marriage and access to health care, family planning, domestic issues etc. Various steps have been taken by CEVA to empower tribal women. Till now CEVA has formed 75 SHG’s and Mahila Mandals in which around 800 tribal women have been associated in which proper training has been provided to tribal women to nurture and polish their skills..
On the other hand CEVA is spreading awareness for personal health and hygiene which is the main alarming issue among these tribal communities. Women are made aware of various health issues on which they are hesitant to speak to anybody. For girl education its volunteers keep enrolling the girl child in the schools. As most of the tribal women are illiterate so this organization is making them aware about their rights and duties on their rights so that they can help in ending corruption. Women development also reduces poverty and helps women to become self dependent.
Financial Literacy programs by CEVA in remote areas for tribal people have resulted in opening of around 6000 bank accounts under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna which is a big feat for a tribal region.
Himachal Pradesh is an agrarian state and agriculture is the major livelihood source for the Tribal communities. Making agriculture greener, more efficient and fairer is the goal of CEVA and it is achieving that by encouraging and sensitizing community people on organic farming. Some farmers have been involved into non organic farming practices so this organization have taken initiative to eliminate those practices. 55 Farmer Clubs have been made in Mehla , Pangi, Bharmour, Lahaul & Spiti and Kinnaur. Farmers of these areas mostly practice traditional methods and use local varieties of seed and manure to improve the productivity of the soil .
With the formation of Farmer Producer Organization (FPO) there is enhancement in the farmer’s competitiveness and increase in their advantage in emerging market opportunities. CEVA has established two FPO’s in Pangi and Bharmour Block of Chamba District in which around 500 farmers are associated with it.
Health is also another component in which Collective Efforts for Voluntary Action (CEVA) is providing best healthcare facilities at the doorstep of the tribal people. It is the dominant health care provider in the tribal area of Chamba. Due to its particular topography, tribal areas remain snow bound for most of the year and the health care services are almost nil . Organization has taken initiative and conducted various health camps to give tribal people accessible and quality healthcare service. Besides that It has reached across the Eastern borders of Pangi into J&K in Gandhari valley and conducted health camp there.
Most of the tribal youth are educated till secondary level. To provide them remunerative employment opportunity CEVA is collaborating with Tourism department to boost Tribal tourism in the areas. As tribal tourism is dependent on natural environment, considering the wide biological diversity and the beautiful scenery, the scope of tribal tourism in Pangi valley, Lahaul Spiti and Kinnaur is quite high. Main emphasis is on to maintain a fine balance between the requirements of tourism and ecology on the one hand and needs of the local tribal community for job, new skills, income generating employment.
As most of the community people from remote tribal area are illiterate and ignorant about their rights. CEVA is helping spread awareness about various laws and rights which have given to these people by the govt. and help in flawless implementation of schemes such as Public distribution system (PDS) and fight issues related to the Forest Rights Act (FRA).
Although the road towards tribals’ empowerment and overall development is a long and difficult one but we can be hopeful that with such organizations coming up in the front the tribal people will soon be able to stand for their rights and will be capable to walk alone without anyone’s support.