Languages of indigenous people face neglect: Odisha tribal leaders

Reported by Santosh Jagdev
Bhubaneswar, Aug 9:

“Language is an important part of everyone’s identity and culture. Mother tongue is the foundation of all languages and the identity of all human beings, ” said Lal Bihari Himirika, Odisha’s SC and ST Development Minister while addressing a convention here today on the occasion of ‘International Day of the World’s Indigenous People’.

Lal Bihari Himirka addressing the convention ( Pic-Biswaranjan Mishra)
Lal Bihari Himirka addressing the convention
( Pic-Biswaranjan Mishra)

Organised by Odisha Adivasi Manch (OAM) and the Campaign on Mother Tongue based Early Childhood Education with the support from the Netherlands based organization Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF),  people’s representatives and tribal leaders exchanged views on  tribal culture, tradition, issues and the need for proper implementation of the mother tongue based multi-lingual early childhood education for 1.4 million tribal children in the state.

Himirika said the state government had come up with various schemes in several sectors for the indigenous people to help bring them into the mainstream by improving their living standard and working condition, to empower them to exercise control over their own institutions and to maintain their identity, language, culture and religion.

Lamenting on the absence of tribal language in competitive examinations and technical education, tribal MLAs from various constituenncies including G Udaygiri, Rairangpur and Mayurbhanj pointed out that the tribal youths suffer while competing with others for jobs in the top jobs in bureaucracy and the private sector and underlined the need for inclusion of these indigenous languages in competitive examinations.

World Indigenous People's Day

The lawmakers also raised several other issues pertaining to the poor infrastrcture and amenities in the tribal-dominated districts in important areas such as water and irrigation, education, transport and communication.

Minister for Sports and Youth affairs Sudam Marandi and Transport Minister Ramesh Chandra Majhi acknowledged  that while some schemes meant for the tribal have been successful, several other schemes had failed. Both the ministers called for concerted efforts by the Odisha Adivasi Manch, NGOs and other voluntary organizations for effective implementation of the schemes.

Majhi focused on the role of the state in protecting the rights of the indigenous communities, and making a comprehensive approach to reach the unreached while expressing his dissatisfaction over the non –implementation of Central PESA 1996.

Marandi inspired the house with the stories of the heroic struggles of tribals against the British imperialism and the following  uprisings in independent India. He emphasized on the establishment of tribal self governance in the PESA and Scheduled areas as enshrined in the Indian constitution.

Dr A. B Ota narrated at length the steps taken by the government like the process of giving ST status to the non tribal communities like Konda Dora, Jhodia etc.

The OAM’s demand for mother tongue based Anganwadi centres and Arunima, tribal language in tribal areas have been approved by the state government, said the outfit’s state convenor Ido Mandal.

Mandal demanded that the Anganwadi workers and helpers be appointed from the same tribal community, who speak the local dialects/ languages and also conversion of mini ICDS centres in tribal areas to main ICDS centres.

The event was attended by around 200 tribal leaders from 15 districts of Odisha.

Mr Phillips presided over the meeting and vote of thanks was given by Ms Pushpika.

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