NEWSLETTER

No.12

Oct-Dec 2006


 

New Leaders of AMS

 

In the year 2006, lots of exciting activities happened in our adivasi villages. One of the most important events was the Election of new Executive Committee and office bearers for AMS. For the last few months, leaders were elected for all the village sangams affiliated to AMS. As a next step, the Area Committees were formed for all the eight Areas and the central committee was formally elected on 29th October 2006 in Gudalur.

 

As is the practice with all our activities, the executive committee was also elected unanimously. There are representatives from all the eight Areas in the Executive Committee and a couple of senior people who had served as Office Bearers earlier have also been inducted in to the committee.

 

Newly elected Executive Committee Members of

Adivasi Munnetra Sangam

 

The current Office Bearers of the AMS are :

The new leaders of AMS have vowed to provide leadership to the sangam's activities and to encourage the adivasi youth to get involved in the community's issues.

 

 

Youth Camps of AMS

 

For the last two years, AMS has been concentrating on mobilising the adivasi youth in a more systematic way. Regular camps and meetings are being organised by the AMS activists to motivate the youth to become active in the sangam activities. The initial mobilisation by AMS during the first decade has been on the land rights of the adivasis and to protect their human rights. Having accomplished that goal to a significant level, the next decade was spent on development programmes and setting up institutions for sustaining this intervention. AMS is keen to mobilise the next generation of adivasi youth in the changed circumstances and address the current concerns of the community. What else is better than to have the youth themselves at the forefront of this quest !

 

Adivasi youth visited the Madhuvana Plantations

in Devala and learnt about this common property of AMS

Adivasi youth participating in a Work Camp in Gudalur -

Preparing for the Adivasi Day Celebrations

 

During the last six months, sustained efforts have been put in interacting with the adivasi youth in a systematic fashion. They were exposed to the development programmes of AMS and the institutions providing essential services to the villages. In November, more than 40 youth from Gudalur and Srimadurai Areas visited the Gudalur Adivasi Hospital, Vidyodaya School and the Madhuvana Estate to get a first hand experience of these adivasi institutions. Moreover, work camps were also organised through which the youth could contribute their manual labour. A good example was the effort put by the youth in Gudalur Area while organising the Adivasi Day celebrations.

 

The enthusiasm shown by the young boys and girls in knowing more about the problems faced by the adivasi community and offering to become volunteers for reaching essential services to the villages has been very motivating.

 

 

1000 Kg of Tea and 1500 more soaps for UK

 

Year 2006 saw significant progress in trading links of the adivasi community with UK through the Just Change network. In May, we had organised an export of 1500 Kg of tea and 1500 hand made soaps to Amnesty International, UK. They are being sold through the catalogue of Amnesty International. Our tea and the soaps have been received quite well there and hence Amnesty International placed an order for another 1500 soaps. Of these, 500 soaps were made by the Kotharavayal village team using natural materials like Lentil Powder and coconut oil.

       

 

Another important development has been the relationship established with another community group in Marsh Farm, Luton, UK. While volunteers in London, Manchester and Norwich have been promoting the concept of trade justice using our tea, we were actively looking for the involvement of community groups in UK. Initial contact with the Marsh Farm community was established in March this year when a group of adivasis visited UK. Stan frequently met the leaders of this community group and the Trustees of Just Change in UK also played an active role in providing the thrust. Now, the Marsh Farm community will be taking over the storage and distribution of our tea in the southern UK. 1000 kg of tea has been sent in November to Marsh Farm and it has safely reached the warehouse in Luton.

 

This is an important development, auguring well for our future plans to establish global links. Exciting times are ahead and we will keep you all updated on the progress through our newsletters.

 

 

AIDS Awareness Programme

 

One of the new initiatives taken by our health team is the AIDS awareness programme. The adivasi communities in the Gudalur valley have not been infected by the HIV virus till recently. However, increased contact with the outside society and the migration of adivasi youth seeking employment to nearby States pose a real danger of this virus getting into the adivasi society as well. ASHWINI agreed to take up a special project with the financial assistance of the Government of Tamilnadu to spread awareness about the AIDS disease and HIV infection possibilities. Through this project launched in October, our health team is endeavouring to create awareness about AIDS in various adivasi villages. Powerpoint presentations and other communication materials have been developed for this purpose. Ranan, who coordinates this programme, visits different villages along with the health animators and conducts sessions, particularly with the youth of the village.

 

 

During the last two months, the health team has been invited by various schools in this region, social service organisations and other groups to conduct similar training sessions for the students and other vulnerable groups. These health education sessions focus primarily on AIDS and Tuberculosis, the possible causes of infection, common misconceptions, ways of prevention and protection and the need of counseling for the infected patients. This special project is expected to end by December, but our health education sessions in the adivasi villages will continue in the new year as well.

 

 

Campaign for the Tribal Forest Rights Bill

 

The campaign demanding the implementation of the Tribal Bill by the Parliament gathered momentum during the last couple of months. Throughout the country, various tribal groups demanded the immediate tabling of this bill in the Parliament and wanted the MPs to pass the legislation. Adivasi Munnetra Sangam also took an active role in this campaign. In August and September, we had launched a signature campaign through which awareness about this legislation was created among the sangam members. Then, in November, demonstrations were held in all the district headquarters in Tamilnadu by various adivasi organisations. In Nilgiris, a big rally and demonstration was held in front of the District Collector's office. Adivasi leaders and youth belonging to AMS also participated in this demonstration.

 

Rally in Ooty

Campaign in Delhi

 

Subsequently, a major campaign was launched in the National Capital, Delhi, by various people's movements. More than 10000 people participated in this massive demonstration at Delhi on November 27th and marched to the Parliament. Four adivasi representatives, Bomman, Kumaran, Subramanian and Jeyachandran attended this rally on behalf of AMS and the federation of Adivasi organisations in Tamilnadu called TAAK.

 

So, it was with great satisfaction we received the news that the Parliament in its winter session passed the Scheduled Tribes and Forest Dwellers (Rights) Bill, 2006. This bill confers substantial powers to the forest dwellers, primarily the adivasis, and legitimises their claim on land and forest product. The cut-off year of 2005 has also been a victory for the sustained campaign by various people's organisations in the country.

 

 

Adivasi Day celebrated

 

The Adivasi Munnetra Sangam celebrated the Adivasi Day on December 5th in all the Areas. The first massive demonstration by the adivasis as part of the Land Rights Campaign was held on December 5th, 1988. That was a water shed event in the struggle of the adivasis in the Gudalur valley and was the foundation on which many of the political struggles of the AMS were built subsequently. This year too this important date was suitably commemorated. 

 

 

In Gudalur, the AMS flag was hoisted by the Area Leader and the area team members participated in the function. After speeches by the leaders, the Gudalur team organised a sports competition for the adivasi youth. The first Volleyball tournament sponsored by AMS was inaugurated this year and there was great interest among the youth. Totally eight village teams participated in this and the Ezhumuram team was the winner !

 

 

Future Plans for our Health Intervention.

 

The health team takes stock of the health intervention at the end of every year. The highlights of the year 2006 have been the role of the Health Volunteers and our intervention in the field of Mental Health. The Sickle Cell Disease prevention programme has also been streamlined this year and regular screening of patients is being carried out. The Medical Student Electives programme has been a big success and an important strategy of our fund raising. We thank Charities Advisory Trust, UK for the support provided by them for this programme, apart from their support for the Good Gifts and Heart Fund programme. You can read more about these issues in the Annual Newsletter of ASHWINI.

 

ASHWINI has also been planning to construct a new building for the Gudalur Adivasi Hospital. The hospital is currently being run from the ACCORD office building and is found to be inadequate to the growing health needs of the adivasi community. So, it is planned to construct a well-equipped properly-designed hospital building in 2007. We plan to contact our friends and support organisations for financial support. The PDF version of the Appeal requesting financial assistance for the proposed new building is available here.

 

We are hopeful that with the support and good wishes of our friends, we will be able to achieve this task as well.

 

Regular updates about our education activities are available in the Vidyodaya Newsletters.


  


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