10 expectations from President Droupadi Murmu voiced by tribals

Tribals hoped that President Droupadi Murmu would be able to influence Government policies in favour of tribal communities. We shortlist 10 major expectations from her

DW Photo
DW Photo

NH Web Desk

Tribals across the country rejoiced on Monday as Droupadi Murmu was sworn in as the 15th President of the Republic. Although acutely aware of the symbolism of the moment and limitations of the President’s office, many of them took to social media to express how proud they are.

A few were disappointed that President Murmu did not take her oath in Santhali, her mother tongue and the language she taught in school before plunging into politics. While she took her oath in Hindi, Santhali is indeed one of the 22 official languages listed in the 8th schedule of the Indian Constitution.

While there are over 600 distinct tribes in the country and they speak different languages and dialects and follow different customs, Santhals are among the 20 major tribes in the country. Santhali language is spoken by Santhals spread across Odisha, Jharkhand, Bengal and parts of Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh as well.

So, what are their expectations from President Murmu, the first tribal to become the President? The 10 major expectations, besides the demand to revive the SC/ST Sub Plan in the Union Budget, from President Murmu are the following:

1. ‘Do not uproot what you cannot create’ is a basic philosophy followed by tribes. The President therefore could urge the Government not to dilute the Forest Rights Act and the Forest (Conservation) Rules and that the decisions pertaining to forests and mining should be taken only in consultation with tribes and forest dwellers living in the area.

2. Some recalled what scholar Nirmal Minz wrote, “Treat our relatives with respect and deal with them justly, be they other human beings, trees, animals or insects, water, air or sunshine.” The President would do well to make the nation aware of the tribal way of life.

3. Thousands of innocent Adivasis, pointed out activists, are languishing in prison, falsely accused of being in league with Maoists. They pointed out the recent case of 121 Adivasis acquitted in Chhattisgarh after spending five years in jail. The President could order an urgent review of all these cases, as well as the cases against the minorities, and ensure speedy justice.

4. One-third of the Adivasis and half the Adivasi women are still illiterate. It is a national shame and a mission ought to be launched to ensure quality education in tribal regions.

5. Health experts have pointed out that the Adivasis’ risk of contracting fatal but avoidable diseases like Tuberculosis is three times higher than that of the average population. The incidence of Adivasi children dying before their fifth birthday is twice as much as the national average.

6. All Governors be instructed to ensure that provisions of the Fifth Schedule in the Constitution dealing with tribal areas be implemented and state governments regularly consult the Tribes Advisory Committees provided.

7. As the head of the Judiciary, the President could urge the Government and the Chief Justice of India to appoint judges with knowledge of tribal customary rights, culture and practices. Adivasis often suffer injustice because of the ignorance of the judges.

8. With one tribal language or dialect becoming extinct every month or so, the President could take the initiative to ensure that Adivasis get the opportunity to learn and preserve their mother tongue. President Murmu could also nudge the Government into promoting the use of tribal languages on TV and Radio.

9. Ensure that traditional knowledge systems in tribal societies about food, medicine and justice be preserved.

10. Tribal subaltern history gets adequate attention while drawing up syllabi for schools and colleges, at least in tribal areas.

(Compiled with inputs from Mahadev Toppo, @AdivasiLivesMatter, Kumar Rana and social media)

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