Regional Samvaad 2019 commences with the first edition at Coorg, Karnataka
The first regional edition of Samvaad, a signature platform of Tata Steel’s engagement with tribal identity, was held at the College of Forestry, on September 9-10, 2019. It was attended by 78 participants representing 19 tribes across the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana and Karnataka.
The one-and-half day conclave was co-created with the Karnataka State Forest Tribes Student Youths Association, led by former Tribal Leadership Programme leaders. The organisation networks and mobilises forest-tribe students and connects them to higher-education opportunities.
The session was inaugurated by Mr. C.G. Kushalappa, the Dean of the College of Forestry and Mr. Sourav Roy, Chief, Corporate Social Responsibility, Tata Steel.
The first day was dedicated to group discussion on local issues including identity, unemployment and health. The second day presented several thought-provoking sessions, including one by Ms. Ajmeera Bobby, first-ever tribal woman pilot in India. Taking forward the spirit of collaboration between companies in the Tata Group, a special session was conducted by Mr. Jose J Thachil, Head Chef of Taj Madikeri Resort & Spa, who spoke about a curated dining experience that the team has introduced after extensive research on the traditional cuisine of Coorg.
The session also brought to the table impressive stories of tribal persons bringing about positive changes in their societies. Kudiyara A. Muthappa from Kudiya tribe, Karnataka, who in his time could not secure education owing to financial constraints, managed to complete his education from borrowed notes. Presently, his daughter is actively engaged in securing necessary rights for the community including education for young girls and pension for widow and elderly. On similar lines was Gopamma from Kudiya community, who spreads the message of solidarity through street plays and forming connects within other tribal communities.
Samvaad is structured to have a wide reach through its regional editions, culminating at the main conclave in November. In its sixth year, this signature programme continues to emerge not just as a platform for cross-pollination of ideas and thoughts on tribalism in India but also one that actively seeks out bold voices from the grassroots level.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Kushalappa said: “The first question we need to ask is what the tribal person wants? Does he want to leave the forest or does he want to stay? Perhaps a relocation that is close to his home would help him preserve his identity.”
Echoing his thoughts, Mr Roy said: “We are here on invitation of the forest tribes to make new relationships and come across new stories of change. We leave this place richer. We understand that there are newer paradigms of thinking on forests and livelihoods which are emerging in the country today, but tribalism needs to continue to exist and Samvaad intends to provide that space. Regional editions of Samvaad aims to learn and understand the tribal perspective from across the country so that it feeds into the larger purpose of bringing together tribal voices onto a common platform.”
Having felt the increasing need to touch base with several other tribal communities from unexplored pockets across India, Samvaad rolled out its regional editions as one and half day conclaves, beginning 2016. Since then, engaging sessions have been hosted across Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Nagaland, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh in partnership with reputed institutions.
This year, a total of six regional editions are lined up across Coorg, Kalahandi (Odisha), Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), Jhabua (Madhya Pradesh), Gadchiroli (Maharashtra) and Gumla (Jharkhand).