Beyond Money
Bringing Nomadic Communities into the Mainstream
VSSM gives identity, life-skills, rights, education, health facilities, housing and livelihood options to absorb nomads into the mainstream
 
The emergence of a modern and industrial society has rendered traditional occupations of nomadic tribes either obsolete or their survival is threatened. As a result, many tribals are finding it difficult to earn a decent income and adjust to the new reality. “The traditional way of life of these nomadic tribes is either dying, or is dead, already. How will they restart their lives in modern Gujarat?” asks Deepa Krishnan of Mumbai Magic.
 
Mittal Patel found the answer to this question in her own way, by attempting to bring the old Gujarat and modern Gujarat together. She has been working at the grassroots with the tribal communities since 2006. In 2010, Ms Patel started the Vicharta Samuday Samarthan Manch (VSSM), which means a support forum for nomadic communities with the aim of bringing them into the mainstream of society.
 
Ms Patel’s problems were manifold. Gaining basic recognition and empathy was also difficult in the beginning. “As far as the government is concerned, these tribals don’t exist,” says 
 
Ms Krishnan, a donor to VSSM. They are, often, not even on the electoral rolls. Their problems go back to the way they were treated under the colonial masters. They were branded ‘habitually criminal’ by the British under the Criminals Tribes Act of 1871; this is defined as ‘addicted to the systematic commission of offences’, such as thefts. Restrictions on their movements were imposed. Even today, not all tribal women have been rehabilitated from prostitution.
 
But Ms Patel, a gold medallist from Gujarat University’s department of journalism, is not pessimistic; she has no time to shed tears of sympathy. From helping the nomadic communities claim their land rights, to getting voter ID cards, to setting up a school for their children and fighting with bureaucrats to extend welfare benefits to them, she has a million tasks to accomplish that leave little room for pessimism.
 
With the help of the state government and some NGOs, Ms Patel organised a mass wedding in Banaskantha district (Gujarat) for women from the Saraniya community (a nomadic tribe). There have been several weddings in the affected districts—each time, to take the women out of prostitution. Recognising these marriages as a mass movement at grassroots level, Madhav Ramanuj—a renowned Gujarati poet and president of VSSM—said: “I feel these weddings are taking place in my own family.”
 
VSSM intervenes at multiple levels to create vocational options for these communities. It equips craftsmen to enhance their skills as well as introduces them to new vocations. A series of training workshops have been conducted for Nathwadee, Saraniya, Gadaliya, Bawa, Kangasiya, Salat and Meer communities. Those who complete their training have increased their earning power through the new skills they mastered.
 
VSSM is now forming district level forums for performing artiste to increase their bargaining power and provide equal platforms to all the performing artiste groups of Gujarat. It also helps them to buy new and modern musical instruments, make-up kits, costumes, etc.
 
Ms Krishnan summarises Ms Patel’s efforts thus: “Mittal has started tent-schools for nomadic children, conducted group marriages to help reduce the burden of wedding expenses on nomadic families, rescued nomadic girls from prostitution and taken on many other social issues.” In some cases, she has even added some families to the electoral rolls with government help. Imagine a man who was a ‘habitual criminal’ as a British subject being able to vote in the Republic of India! Donations to VSSM are tax-exempt under Section 80-G of the Income-tax Act.
 
Vicharta Samuday Samarthan Manch
Vicharta Samuday Samarthan Manch,
‘Harikutir’, Sadvichar Parivar Campus,
Satellite Road, Ramdevnagar,
Ahmedabad - 380 015 Gujarat.
Phone: (079) 2686 0378/79
Mobile: 09099936019
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://www.vssmindia.org/
Blog: www.nomadictribes.blogspot.com

 

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France warplanes pound IS stronghold in Syria
French military jets on Sunday bombarded a stronghold of the Islamic State terrorist group in Raqqa, Syria, French Defence ministry said.
 
The first objective destroyed included a command post, recruitment centre and arsenal of arms and ammunition, the ministry said in a statement, Xinhua reported.
 
The second objective was a training camp, the ministry added.
 
According to the ministry, about 20 bombs were dropped.
 
The bombardment came 48 hours after attacks claimed by IS killed 129 people in suicide bombings and shootings in Paris.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Myanmar's opposition wins 77.3 percent seats in elections
Myanmar's opposition party National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, has won 880 parliamentary seats (77.3 percent) out of a total of 1,139 in the elections, Union Election Commission said on Monday.
 
The NLD has secured 389 seats as absolute majority in the House of Representatives (Lower House) and the House of Nationalities (Upper House), strong enough to form a new independent government, Xinhua reported.
 
The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party gained 115 seats, accounting for 10 percent of the total.
 
The remaining parliamentary seats go to ethnic parties and five independent runners.
 
The election commission has so far announced a total of 1,139 elected representatives. 
 
The representatives elected represent 75 percent of those at each level of parliament and, under the constitution, the remaining 25 percent were not elected and instead reserved for those who will be nominated directly by the military.
 
The first session of the new parliament will take place in January 2016, the presidential run in the parliament in February and the formation of the new government in March.
 
The term of the current government will expire at the end of March 2016.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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