For members of the Narikurava community here, August 9, which is observed as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, holds neither a change from the routine nor a pleasant surprise.
Consigned to a life devoid of dignity, basic rights and safety, the community has urged the government to implement a few measures that would ensure their right to livelihood.
Narikuravas live across five villages in Lawspet, Karuvadikuppam, Karaikal, Villianur and Madagadipet. There are about 750 families, says M. Jaishankar, South India coordinator, Vagiri National Committee.
Originally hunters and gatherers, they had to move away from their occupation because of strict forest protection laws.
The nomadic tribe is finding it increasingly difficult to lead a life of dignity, says activist R. Saravanan. “The inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes list is among the primary demands. This will ensure means to education for children from the community,” he notes.
The school at the Narikuravar colony in Lawspet provides education only up to Standard VIII. When students join classes in other schools, they are ridiculed and insulted, which leads to many of them dropping out. Houses constructed under the Indira Awaas Yojana in 2007 at the Narikuravar colony are in bad shape. “Safety is also a concern. There are no street lights leading up to the colony. The area used to be a dumping ground earlier and the large number of flies and mosquitoes pose a health hazard,” observes Mr. Saravanan.
As many of the Narikurava women sell beads and jewellery, the setting up of a cooperative society supported by the government would be helpful, feels Mr. Jaishankar. The community demands that they be given access to the stalls that are to be set up on Beach Road by the Tourism Department.
“A separate welfare board under the Social Welfare Department would give moral support and a platform for the community to air their needs. This has been implemented in other States and can be done here too,” says Mr. Jaishankar.
Members of the community are planning to meet the Chief Minister to request that a conference be conducted where their needs could be aired, he adds.