Bansi Ghewade, as pictured above, has single handedly championed the cause of the Katkari's for over 15 years.
He visits the villages on a regular basis and has extensive knowledge of land laws.
There is an urgent need to initiate comprehensive development work for the Katkari community. While efforts are needed at several fronts, a proper survey of all Katkari families and hamlets is a priority. The survey will assist in identifying problems of individual Katkari families and hamlets.
It may not be possible to do everything at the same time. It also needs to be understood that any development work with the Katkari community would be a fairly long term affair, given their socio-economic status and level of marginalization. Development interventions for Katkari would have to consider the following:
Treatment of Katkaris on par with other citizens of the country; with assured human and other rights.
There are many other related issues that need to be addressed. This is a tall order but a beginning has to be made somewhere. As an organization working with tribal communities in Raigad and Thane Districts, ADS is deeply concerned about the plight of the Katkaris. ADS is collaborating with other NGOs involved in work with Katkaris in Raigad and Thane District.
THIS IS AN APPEAL TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO ASSIST THE COALITION OF NGOS IN RAIGAD AND THANE DISTRICT IN THEIR EFFORTS TO SAVE THE KATKARIS. 2004 MIGHT WELL SEE A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER IN THE LIVES OF KATKARIS.
It is unfortunate that the Government seems to be least bothered about the plight of the Katkari community. Apart from recording the population of Katkaris in the 1981 census, there is little that the Government knows about the present development status of the Katkaris.
The lack of information about the development status, socio-economic indicators, health & nutrition status, etc. amongst individual tribal groups is a serious lacunae in Government policy and could only indicate the Government's resolve to "detribalise" the tribals and to integrate them into the "mainstream" - socially, culturally and religiously. The economic situation of tribals is not as important in the "integration" and "mainstreaming" efforts. The entire tribal community can be converted into a cheap labour force, as has been done in the case of Katkaris.
One of the most authoritative publications on tribal communities in India (an Anthropological Survey of India publication titled "Scheduled Tribes"), gives incomplete and misleading information about the Katkaris. This shows the connivance of Government research institutions in generating "user-friendly" and "convenient" information to suit the needs of the Government.
NGOs based in Raigad and Thane would be able to do generate much more accurate and reliable information about Katkaris through a house-to-house survey in Katkari villages at a fraction of the cost it would have taken the Anthropological Survey of India to generate misleading information. Findings of the survey can form the basis for comprehensive development work with the Katkaris.
A proper survey of Katkaris is thus the immediate, urgent concern.
The Katkari possess incredible skill and knowledge of survival equal to those
of the Australian Aboriginals and Native American Indian tribes. They hold lessons for all of us
on how to tread lightly and live simply.
With the rekindling of undervalued traditional Katkari culture, these skilled people will begin to feel
proud of their rich heritage.
The Katkari traditions of song, dance, hunting/gathering skills, and knowledge of the land is crucial
and an important part of Indian culture. These skills are rapidly being lost due to the conditions
the Katkari have been reduced to. We feel obligated to protect their
rights so they may obtain the environment their tribe originally thrived in. Their culture goes
beyond caste and could show India and her government these people are not their national shame,
but a cultural treasure.
The Katkari would benefit from a unique schooling approach that teaches
them of their own fading tribal culture; traditional song, music, dance and the natural medicines that
surround them. Basic reading and writing are necessary to be able to read contracts and understand
their rights. The current state of illiteracy amoung the Katkari contributes to their exploitation by land agents, government
officials and brick kiln owners.
Through education and cultural empowerment the cycle of poverty and exploitation can be stopped.