May-Jul 2006


Adivasi Land encroached by Estate


Big company estates trying to usurp adivasi land is not a new thing and the entire adivasi movement was founded to stand up against this atrocity. It happened, once again, last month.


In the adivasi hamlets of Pudur and Kottaimedu near Devarshola, land in possession of the adivasis for many decades was encroached upon by the staff of the Devarshola estate; the plants grown by them were uprooted and destroyed; and the villagers abused. The sangam members of these two villages immediately put an end to this encroachment collectively; took up the matter with the revenue and police officials and lodged formal complaints against the erring staff of the company. The estate management was summoned by the Government officials and a meeting of the sangam representatives was organised.


The adivasis highlighted the recurring problem of the estate staff violating their human rights by cutting down the plants grown by adivasis. The estate management tried to justify their action, saying that the adivasis had encroached into their land. They have tried to link this atrocity with the tea planting programme of the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam. But, it was a pre-meditated design of the company estate, because there wasn't any new tea planting in Pudur village this year at all by the sangam members and the company staff had destroyed pepper and coffee plants of adivasis, besides some trees.


The Government officials hurriedly tried to work out a compromise formula; but it was not acceptable to the adivasi sangam, as it did not recognise the traditional rights of the adivasis. This issue is being discussed in other areas as well and a suitable legal response will be made by the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam. Meanwhile, the land in dispute is still in the possession of the adivasis and they intend to keep it, come what may.



Screening of Adivasis for Sickle Cell Disease


During the last two years, we have taken some concerted efforts to address the problem of Sickle Cell Anaemia disease among the adivasis. We highlighted this issue to the Government of Tamilnadu and started screening the adivasi population for the prevalence of this genetic disorder. With the financial assistance of the Government, we tested over 500 adivasis for this disease and provided suitable counseling for them.





Hari Prabhakar with Jeyanthi and Prathibha

in the screening camp

Geetha and Shantha assisting Jeyanthi

in the Screening Camp


Hari Prabhakar, an undergrad student in John's Hopkins University, USA had taken it up as his mission in life to work on this disease and to provide support to organisations like ours addressing this issue. He started Tribal India Health Foundation specifically for this purpose and has been mobilising funds to tackle SCA. The lab in Gudalur Adivasi Hospital will be equipped with the required infrastructure and support will be provided to people confirmed to have this disease.


In July, Jeyanthi and Prathibha went to Mangode village near Erumadu and screened all the adivasis in the nearby villages for SCA. We are drawing up plans to expand the scope of our intervention with respect to this disease in future.



Amnesty Catalogue Production


In March this year, a group of adivasis visited UK (See last newsletter for more details) and got an order from Amnesty International to supply about 1500 Kg of tea powder and 1500 handmade soaps. We had designed special packaging materials for the tea and soaps. The tea was packed in three different materials - one was in a gift box made of bamboo and a caddy; the other was a bag made of grass and the third one was a simple newspaper pack. The soaps were wrapped in dried wild leaves and packed in small bags made of old newspapers.




The four products sold through the Catalogue

Adivasi women making Grass bags for packing tea

Hand made Soap Making in progress


In May and June, there were hectic preparations for this consignment and our office looked more like a factory and warehouse. Since the Amnesty Catalogue selling these products was to go online by July 1st, we had very little time to complete the order. But, a whole group of people - particularly Bomman, the designer of these packs, worked overtime and completed the production in time. Out of the 1500 soaps, the women groups of Saward, Kerala supplied 1000 soaps and the adivasi women here made another 500 soaps.


These items can be purchased online from the catalogues of Amnesty International and New Internationalist. Bomman is designing new products that can be made using bamboo and other locally available materials. If you have any suggestions or ideas in this regard, please write to us.


Chickens are laying eggs now


The Chicken Bank programme supported by the Charities Advisory Trust in UK from funds raised by the Good Gifts Catalogue has been progressing well. The chickens supplied by the sangam during the last six months have started laying eggs. (As far as we are concerned, there is no doubt which one came first - surely the chickens came first !) During the first two months, the families were consuming the eggs and feeding their children. But, now there are more eggs than they could consume. So, now is the time to start the Egg Operations and to appoint the CEO (the Chicken and Egg Officer - thanks to Michael Norton who coined this phrase).


We have been discussing the possibility of establishing an egg collection mechanism and are setting up systems for the same. The focus is on promoting savings in the form of eggs. Passbooks and registers to record collection and sale of eggs are being printed and distributed to the villages. Egg trays have been purchased and communication materials like posters have been published and displayed in all the Area Centres. The animators are concentrating on creating awareness about this programme and to link it strongly with our health insurance programme.



The Logo of Chicken Bank

A poster explaining the concept of Chicken Bank


The committees of women formed to plan and review this programme are meeting regularly in the Area Centres. We hope to establish a robust system of savings among the adivasi community through this programme. The foundation for starting an Adivasi Bank has already been laid during the last few months and the villages are collecting the share capital for launching the Adivasi Bank by December 5th. Till now, over 1200 families have been given chickens and we will resume supply of chickens to other villages in September once the monsoon is over.



Tea Planting Programme


The Adivasi Munnetra Sangam undertook tea planting programme this year and over 150000 tea plants were distributed to the adivasi sangam members free of cost. During the monsoon months of June and July, these tea plants were moved to all the chosen hamlets and the activists of the Sangam ensured that all the tea plants have been planted in time.



Tea Plants ready for planting near an adivasi hamlet

Tea Plants being unloaded from the truck by volunteers


This tea planting programme is supported by the Charities Advisory Trust in UK from funds raised by the Good Gifts Catalogue. The entire logistics and execution of this programmes was carried out by the activists of the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam.


Adivasi farmers have come a long way, from the days of slavery to being Tea Growers. As more families have become tea cultivators, the sangam is proposing to expand the operations of the Adivasi Tea Leaf Marketing Society to new villages as well in 2007. Besides providing additional income to the adivasi families, tea cultivation has resulted in them building strong partnerships with consumers in different parts of the country and abroad.



ASHWINI's insurance review report


In March, a team of experts led by Dr.Devadasan had conducted a review of the adivasi health insurance programme. This review was sponsored by Sir Ratan Tata Trust (SRTT). The team submitted its review report in May to the Trust. The team had taken an overall view of the entire health intervention being carried out among the adivasis in Gudalur valley and put the insurance programme in proper perspective. In conclusion, they have recommended that,


ASHWINI is meeting the needs of a very deprived population. Hence we recommend that SRTT continue funding this programme in the years to come. More important, it should not limit itself to funding just the health insurance programme, but also the community health programme. This measure will ensure that ASHWINI has a stable source of funding and will allow its managers to concentrate on providing health care for the adivasis.


It was a very good learning experience for all of us to interact with the review team and to analyse the financial aspects of our insurance programme. The team had put forth some important suggestions to take the insurance programme forward and to make it sustainable. We will be experimenting these suggestions in the coming months. We thank Sir Ratan Tata Trust for organising this review and Dr.Devadasan, Dr.Indrani Gupta and Mr.Mayur Trivedi for sharing their insights with us.



Donors from USA can contribute through PAYPAL now !


Many friends from different countries have been supporting our work over the years. Sending contributions from abroad had always been a time consuming and tedious exercise. Now, we have set up an online donation system for donors in USA. Hari Prabhakar (see the section on Sickle Cell Disease above) has agreed to route the online donations from USA through the Tribal India Health Foundation. We have created a Paypal account and have made it easy for the donor to contribute.


You can visit the Donations page in Ashwini's website and just click the "Make a Donation" button there. The donors need not have a paypal account. Donors from the United States are eligible for 501(c) tax exemption

Sample Greeting Card

when they donate to Tribal India Health Foundation and all donors will be sent receipts for exemption purposes. You can write to us or to Hari, if there are any queries.



Shortly, we will offer this facility to friends and donors from other countries as well. We are also designing systems to start an Online Shop to sell some of the products made by the adivasis and greeting cards made with the drawings of adivasi children like shown here.



Trading Links with Germany


Adivasi Tee Projekt, our support group in Germany has been marketing our tea for the last seven years. The members of ATP and different student groups in Germany have been buying our tea, as a show of solidarity with the adivasis in Gudalur and to support our efforts. Till now, we were selling only loose tea in 100 gms cloth bags.


But, during the last six months, we explored the possibility of selling tea bags in Germany. After many discussions, we decided to launch our tea in tea bags under the Just Change brand name, and will co-brand it with Equali-Tee, the name already used by ATP. A new design for the tea box was made as shown here. In the first consignment, 100 Kg of tea has been exported to Germany.


Ethical retailers like El Puente have also expressed interest in marketing the adivasi coffee in Germany and we have been discussing with ATP and working out the modalities for the same. K.T.Subramanian will be going to Germany in September for a month to explore all the possibilities of adivasis in Gudalur forging trading links with the friends in Germany.



Gudalur.NET launched


A couple of months ago, we have launched a web hosting unit called 'Gudalur.NET'. Though initially conceived as an idea to host all our websites in one server, this unit has the potential to grow into a full-fledged web hosting company in future, so that adivasis can also get a share of the software pie in the world !


As of now, we are hosting 10 websites in our server and we are adding at least one website every month. 8 of these sites are our own or of our friends / support groups. But, we are offering the services to others as well. This unit is currently providing Domain Name Registration and Web Hosting Services. We can offer tailor-made packages, depending on the amount of web space and number of email addresses required by the customers.


This is the logo of Gudalur.NET. We hope to make this unit financially self-sustainable in the second year itself. You can also support us by recommending Gudalur.NET to your friends and others, interested to register new domains or to host websites.



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