Woman officer overcomes odds, remodels life of tribals : The Tribune India

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Woman officer overcomes odds, remodels life of tribals

RANCHI: Appalled at the sight of menfolk of a primitive Jharkhand tribe lolling around in drunken stupor while the women crafted a range of artefacts for which unfortunately there was no market, a woman bureaucrat took matters in hand.



Ranchi, February 14

Appalled at the sight of menfolk of a primitive Jharkhand tribe lolling around in drunken stupor while the women crafted a range of artefacts for which unfortunately there was no market, a woman bureaucrat took matters in hand and effected a social miracle of sorts, for which she is worshipped as “Mother Goddess” in more than 25 villages of the area.

Suchitra Sinha, Jharkhand’s Tourism Director, is worshipped as “Devi Maa” with her photograph occupying a prominent place among gods and goddesses in the prayer room of tribal homes.

“She is our Devi Maa. We have not seen God but this mother of ours has always stood by us whenever we have needed her,” says Manju of the Sabar tribe and a resident of Samanpur village, 135 km from Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi. Talking through a translator, she say, “It’s not just the 250 families of Samanpur village but also those of Makula, Bhangad, Bindubeda, Biridudih, Chirubeda, Bereda and other villages where Sinha is venerated.”

In a huge hall behind the village school men and women are busy making artefacts and items of daily use from forest produce.

“It is Maa who has made sure that food is prepared in our homes, our children are fed and the male members are put on the right track,” Manju explains.

Sinha, who cleared the Bihar Public Service Commission examination (Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar) in 1988, is familiar with the underdeveloped area that has been a hotbed of Maoist activities. She was posted as Jamshedpur Deputy Collector in 1990. It was her visit to Samanpur village in 1996 for an event that was the turning point.

She took up the matter with the Deputy Development Commissioner (DDC). Instead of hearing her out, the latter advised her to concentrate on her official duties. Jeeringly, he said it was naive to believe that the villagers could be pulled out of the state of intoxication they lived in for most of the time. Sinha’s family members too laughed at her intentions.

However, this did not deter Sinha. She made repeat visits to Samanpur village, speaking to the men to turn a new leaf and making the women realise their talent. Soon, she earned their trust.

Gradually, people started listening to her and youths began to associate with her. She was transferred to New Delhi, but committed to ensuring that her efforts bore fruit, she took items made by the villagers to the Development Commissioner for Handicrafts. The commissioner suggested that the villagers be trained in modern techniques.

By now, word of Sinha’s mission had spread and residents of other villagers too began to join in.

She later formed a self-help group named “Amabalika”. In groups of 10, the villagers were brought to New Delhi, where they were trained at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). These villagers, in turn, trained others on their return to their villages. Sinha’s efforts translated into reality and soon there was a market for handicraft items.

“Please highlight the problems of the primitive tribes who need immediate help. I will be happy if corporate houses adopt the villages and develop basic infrastructure in the area. The area lacks electricity, roads and basic facilities,” says Sinha.

Her husband, an Indian Revenue Service officer, is posted in New Delhi. She lives alone in Ranchi and wants to continue her work for the betterment of the Sabar tribe. — IANS

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