Chapter - 2
To study the impact of the programme supported by Oxfam against the stated objectives.
- To review the financial management aspect of the programme over the past five years against the agreed allocations of resources.
- To ascertain the strategic-fit in view of the changes in Oxfam.
- Mutual learning.
The organisation : Search for Action and Knowledge of Tribal Initiative (SAKTI)
SCO (1.1) SAKTI, a local voluntary organisation now based in Hyderabad , has been working for tribal empowerment in East Godavari, West Godavari and Khamam Districts. It has been supported by Oxfam for the last 17 years, of which, for the last 8 years, Oxfam and BFW have jointly supported the organisation. However the funds have been managed by the respective organizations separately. The main objectives towards achieving the goal of tribal empowerment have been:
- Restoring the constitutional land rights of tribals
- Restoring the forest rights of tribals
- Introduction of community forest management while initiating steps towards protecting forest from illegal felling by private business interests
- Capacity building amongst the tribals so that they understand the land issues and acquire necessary skill to deal with government machinery for their land rights
- Gender mainstreaming
- Implementation of minimum wages in forest, roads and minor irrigation.
- To provide legal aids in other relevant areas
Apart from this, SAKTI also got involved in disaster preparedness and relief work of Oxfam soon after the Cyclone in 1996. A major cyclone hit the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh in 1996. Oxfam GB responded with relief and rehabilitation with the help of SAKTI. Oxfam followed it with long - term disaster preparedness program in partnership with SAKTI and other NGOs with the following objectives:
- Build community assets and capacity towards reducing vulnerability of natural assets from natural hazards.
- Documentation and dissemination of programme learning and best practices in disaster preparedness for advocacy.
3. The Area:
The project covers the scheduled areas of East Godavari, West Godavari and Khammam districts. These areas are predominantly occupied by the tribal, surrounded by hills, and are remotely perched in the green part of AP. Resources are rich and land soil is quite fertile, thereby, increasing the value of land. As a consequence, high value tribal land has been prone to encroachment by non-tribals, notwithstanding legal safeguards. This has led to massive afforestation in the area by vested interests. The resultant conflict between tribals and non-tribals has led to the rise of Naxalite movement. Some of the areas have over the years become highly sensitive due to real politik of non-tribals, on the one hand, and Naxalites on the other.
4. Field Visits:
4.1: Tribal empowerment programme
During the field visit to Chinnimpalem village of East Godavari , Panduvarigudem of West Godavari and Bhimudugudem of Khammam, the following changes were visible:
i. Chinnapalem Village, East Godavari: population: 900
- Tribal families have benefited by getting legal pattas of lands belonging to them
- Most of the land-pattas had the photographs of women, as they were the main patta holders, though men held the second title. All the women brought their pattas to show us with a lot of pride and confidence.
- Although, it were women who came forward for meeting and discussion instead of men, the approach of SAKTI in East Godavari seemed more of a 'casework' kind than a collective process. According to the SAKTI team, being a first intervention area, this was a learning ground for them. The process was, therefore, initially case-based in East Godavari , which gradually became collective in other areas. Another reason for being case oriented was high rates of migration. It was observed during the visit that nearly 70 per cent of the men folk had migrated due to drought in Chinnapalem village.
- However, people came forward collectively for the restoration of the forest resources and embarked on a community-based struggle against a timber wood company. The collective effort fructified and the timber company forcing govt to withdraw wood supply from forests.
- All children were attending schools.
- Soapnuts, bamboo, neem and jackfruit were planted under community forest management as against monoculture and cash oriented plantation done by the forest departments.
- Women expressed their anger against the government move towards constructing a reservoir in the Suram Palem area, which will eventually lead to displacement of tribals from their lands. They were determined for a long-drawn struggle to protect their land or get compensated in terms of suitable alternatives. The Centre for Economic & Social Studies (CESS) commissioned by govt recommended for 242 houses, govt agreed to provide 167 houses only. SAKTI enabled the tribals to get rest of the houses by presenting the lapse before appropriate authorities
- ii. Panduvarigudem Village , West Godavari (including hamlets such as Tatiramannagudem, Rachannagudem, Srivarigudem, Cheenalavarigudem etc.): Population 3000.
A meeting of men and women representing 5 hamlets took place in the Cheenalavarigudem. Our overall observations from the visit and at this meeting are summed up below:
- The tribal houses were of better quality than what has been generally seen in the tribal areas of other parts of India . This was due to the awareness and access to government housing schemes.
- We observed a strong collective empowerment of women in the area when interacting with about 50 women representing five hamlets. These women were not only aware of their land rights but also had struggled to get land even at the cost of police repression. It was interesting to observe a woman leader, aged 50, enthusiastically narrating her struggle of land and police encounter in the form of a folk song with all other women joining in. The song ran this ' Rela-Rela re rela Ayo rela---Mnna ki bela Patwille police chi jallakoti Chandamama'. (in their native language)
- The village appeared empowered in terms of understanding the revenue maps and the status of their land. Some youth, including women, demonstrated as to how to read the map and identify their lands through maps. They informed the review team that they could deal with the MROs (Mandal Revenue Officers) and collectors due to their thorough understanding about the status of lands. Women were in the forefront here too. When enquired as to why so many women were in the forefront, we were informed by women that their men folk indulged in drinking and wasting away their time, besides being irresponsible enough to sell their land. Women therefore demanded to be the owners of the land. They also informed that they had collectively built enough clout to take on men who indulged in wife beating.
- In this meeting too, women showed their D'pattas ( the land title for cultivating the land and not for selling) of land with great pride and dignity. Many women had brought their pattas to show us but we could read only a few. Some of them even expressed confidence to be able to argue their land related cases in the courts.
- However, it was felt that there was a strong need to look into the gender relations and women's empowerment in terms of intra-household dynamics. Similarly there was a need to focus on the political empowerment of women through their membership in Panchayat bodies .
- The local community was seen to be taking very good care of forest resources such as cashew nuts, mangoes, jackfruits, bananas, tamarind etc.
- Children from this village were seen attending schools but the drop out rate after junior secondary levels was high . One reason for drop out was because grown up children were needed to work in fields. Such children, however, are being mobilised by SAKTI for capacity building towards land issues. This is a unique experiment towards imparting knowledge with regard to acquiring maps from the revenue departments, reading them understanding them and identifying the land encroached by the non-tribals both physically and through the maps. This not only empowers the tribal people in the economic sense but also develops their self-esteem. According to one of the youth, they have also helped non-tribals to read the land map.
- When enquired whether they were afraid of repression from police and administration, both men and women expressed that they had become more fearless now.