Friday, January 16, 2009

Mittal Patel is awarded with Champaben Gondhia Award recognizing her work with Nomadic and De-notified Tribes.

Mittal Patel, for past three years is working with Nomadic tribes of Gujarat, which has now been emerged as forum named Vicharata Samudaay Samarthan Manch (VSSM). VSSM is an initiative promoted and hosted by JANPATH; a state level network of voluntary organizations in Gujarat. VSSM currently works in 10 districts of the state focusing on livelihood housing and education.
Nomadic and de-notified tribes, shortly called as NT-DNTs are still to become a part of village Gramsabha. They reside outside the village boundary. Government planning for welfare and development are in the context of village. Thus the basic services like road, shelter, electricity, water supply, school, hospital has still to reach to the settlements of the NT-DNTS residing 3-5 km away from the village.
With no permanent address, and membership in the Gramsabha, the community can’t obtain ration cards, voter’s registration, which again leaves them more vulnerable as they are unable to get benefit of welfare schemes.
Commencing a work with nomadic tribes was a big challenge, because neither government nor voluntary sector had any data, info about its status and issues.
Mittal Patel, a gold medalist in master of Journalism (Gujarati University) put aside her bright carrier in mainstream media and taken up this challenge. For Past three years she has been successful getting nomadic tribe’s issues to the attention government, and to some extent civil society. Organization like Gujarat Sarvoday Mandal have now actively involved with these issues. Community leaders are also now taking up responsibility of field survey, and local co-ordination with government officials.

VSSM’s efforts are showing results. In Banaskantha district, with consistent efforts of VSSM 84 needy families were allotted Antyodaya Cards and benefit of housing scheme. Matching grant of Rs.10,000/- was raised from civil society so that each family gets Rs.50,000/- for construction of the house. VSSM has started bridge schools in five settlements for non-school going children. The financial support for starting these schools was entirely raised from civil society.

VSSM conducted detailed survey in some of the settlements in rural Ahmedabad, Sabarkantha, Banaskantha, Surendranagar districts and submitted to state election officer’s (CEO) office with demand for Voters registration. More than 8000 people for the first time in the history got Voter’s Registration and I-card.
On the occasion of award ceremony held at Ahmedabad, on 10th January 2009, Mittal expressed, “It has been a great opportunity for me to work with nomadic tribes. With strong but low profile support from JANPATH along with complete freedom of working VSSM has attained an independent identity. However I am deeply concern about the fact that, working with nomadic tribes is huge task and need support from other organizations and networks. Absence of long-term financial support for this work is always creating feeling of un-certainty and it also hampers the field work. On this occasion I appeal to organizations of Gujarat to please take up the issues of nomadic and de-notified tribes in their work areas.

The population of NT-DNTs is considerably high and issues are complicated. Thus it requires large amount of Human as well as Financial resources. I am grateful to Young Men’s Gandhian Association for giving me this honour. Janpath and VSSM thank the trust also for amount of the award. Rs.21,000/-which will be useful as matching grant for two houses in addition to Rs.40,000/- sanctioned by the state government. “