– Jagdev Ram Oraon
Shri Jagdev Ram Oraon, is national president of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. He was recently in Delhi to participate in the concluding ceremony of Kalyan Ashram'sgolden jubilee. Organiser, representative Pramod Kumar spoke to him on various issues concerning Vanvasis. Excerpts:
How do you evaluate 50 years of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram?
The Kalyan Ashram work that began with a hostel in 1952, has tried to touch all fields of Vanvasi life in the last 50 years. We are serving them with over 11,530 projects. Today I feel there is much more awareness among the Vanvasis. If the speed of the work continues, it will not take long to achieve the targets. The beginning is impressive.
What has been the experience of golden jubilee year?
The experience has been very inspiring. During this year we met so many new people who were keen to preserve their culture, faith, education, development, etc. During this year we established contacts with 13 lakh Vanvasis. Out of a total of 460 Vanvasi communities, we have reached 350 communities. We have covered about 75 per cent of the Vanvasi communities and areas. There is still much to do.
What is the difficulty in going to all villages and communities?
The backbone of our work is our worker. The process of preparing a worker takes time. When a new worker is recruited it takes about five to 10 years to develop the leadership quality. Today we have a team of about 1,300 workers. The extension of work depends upon the strength of workers.
What has been the role of different Hindu saints in creating awareness among Vanvasis?
The visit of senior saints has had a very beneficial effect on Vanvasis. We try to arrange several tours of saints. Recently, a Ramkatha was organised in Nagaland that inspired people very much. Swami Satyamitranand who is going to inaugurate our function in Delhi, has been actively working for Vanvasis since decades. The visits of Mahant Avaidyanath, Sadhvi Ritambhara and other saints in north-east and other Vanvasi areas have inspired the people.
What is the attitude of political parties towards the interests of Vanvasis?
Though we do not indulge in party politics, we educate people on political issues. We also encourage honest and educated people from the Vanvasi communities to join politics. Our job is to create awareness. We usually take up the issues concerning people'sinterests like forest law, land reforms, etc. with the government. Our suggestion given to the Central Government in 1992 on the issue of indigenous people was accepted.
The issues of rehabilitation of migrants, land reforms and forest laws have been agitating Vanvasis for a long time. But still there is no satisfactory solution. What do you think?
Non-implementation of government policies is the main problem. Even after the Supreme Court'sdirectives to make an action plan for rehabilitation of migrants, nothing has happened. The government appears to have no commitment to welfare and development of Vanvasis. There are debates in Parliament and State Assemblies on various issues, but nobody talks about Vanvasis. The President of India and the state Governors have special rights to take up welfare schemes for Vanvasis. But no President or state Governor has so far exercised this right.