Bhaskar Simha L N visited Katiki, Andhra Pradesh to work with SAMATA in pursuance of the field work component of the Master of Public Policy programme. He reflects on his experiences and what he carried back with him.
Home to tribal communities for many years now, Eastern ghats are rich in mineral resources. One such place which houses the tribal community is a village called ‘Katiki’. Situated on top of a valley at a distance of seven kilometers from Borra caves, Katiki is accessible only through jeep, bike or a long walk. The village comes under the jurisdiction of Borra Panchayat, Anantgri Manda in Vizag District. With a population of around 180 people and without any basic amenities such as roads, toilets, and drinking water, Katiki in itself is a case study. Not just Katiki, the villages around that are a reflection of Katiki.
Summary of 21 days trip to Vizag and Katiki
The journey began with a lot of expectations about learning new things which at the end of it, came out to be true. Since I went with zero presumptions about the place and the issues that people face, I was able to work well and understand the sensitive issues related to tribal people. The first three days of the trip were spent in Samata head office in Dabbanda village, Vizag. Mr. Ravi Rebbapragada and the admin team gave us crucial insights about the villages and the kind of work they have been doing. This made me better appreciate what it takes to build a strong NGO so deeply rooted in an area for three decades. Mr. Satis Kumar, the co-ordinator, helped me with providing documents and other reading materials relating to Katiki and Katiki Waterfalls. Upon reaching the village, these readings proved to be of great help as they gave me a better understanding about the situation in Katiki and I was able to prepare myself better for the work. Post the session with Mr. Ravi Rebbapragada, I attended a meeting with the Sub-collector of Vizag to talk about pending title deeds for the tribes in Chintapalli village.his meeting was an evidence as to how a NGO goes about its day to day work by patiently lobbying with the state to ensure justice is served to the concerned stakeholders.
The next fifteen days of my experience in Katiki was an awakening of sorts for a policy student like me and would be worthy of lifetime experience to an individual. The villagers were so kind and generous while hosting me and treated me like family. The tribes have a deep sense of community unlike the new urban culture. While they work for self, they live for the community. It was an altogether different world in terms of culture and human relations.
I had three general meetings with the villagers during my stay. First meeting was a general introduction and an ice breaking session. Second meeting was regarding the village and its maintenance (cleanliness, plastic disposal, education for kids, overcoming dropouts, etc.). The third meeting was on the last night I stayed in the village when I spoke to them about my observations and immediately implementable suggestions. A training session for the members who work in KWDC (Katiki Waterfall Development Committee) was also conducted.
I visited around eight villages, Katiki Waterfall, and Borra Caves, along with 2 weekly markets (Santhe), a Ration Centre, Borra Panchayat, dilapidated buildings called as schools and Anganwadis. On 20th October 2017, I along with eight villagers met Mr. D Balaji, IAS, Sub-collector, Paderu, on grievance cell at Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), and submitted a written complaint about the plight of Katiki village and also made a request for initiating road construction as soon as possible. Sub-collector was quite responsive and gave assurance of giving personal attention to the issue.
In these fifteen days, I was introduced to tribal culture, food, dance (Dhimsa), and lifestyle, and I made friends and brother for life. After fifteen days of stay in Katiki, I came back to Samata head office. Here, I sat with the team and discussed with them my findings and observations and took note of their opinions. Additionally, we discussed the potential developmental activities that could be carried out in Katiki Waterfalls.
On completion of twenty-one days of my trip, I came back to Bengaluru with a huge amount of learning- to organise my learnings and turn it into a presentable knowledge to motivate my fellow policy students to take up more of such trips.
“We are living in these mountains since ages. Yes, it is a tough life. But we were happy. But one day few foreign dressed people, who call themselves the government, came and told us that these land and we belong to the nation and asked us to ally with them to live better, and we did. Soon few others namely, Forest department, Revenue Department, Railway Department and now the Tourism Department came to us and said they all have share of these mountains. We understood all of them want to eat from our plate but for some strange reasons they don’t like us and are not allowing us to eat. What do we do!!??” said an old man in his eighties when I met him at his home. At first he was agitated on seeing me as he mistook me for a government official. Upon clarifying that I was an intern with Samata, he was happy, and spoke with enthusiasm.
Fifth Schedule of Constitution of India
The Fifth Schedule covers Tribal areas in nine states of India namely Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Rajasthan. Essentially the Fifth Schedule is a historic guarantee to the indigenous people on the right over the land they live in.
But over these seventy years, has the spirit of Indian Constitution been forgotten or ignored!? Who is responsible for the prevailing ignorant constitutionalism? These are the questions one would ask after experiencing the ground realities in Katiki and the surrounding villages. Despite all the Constitutional provisions, laws, policies and programs, these tribes are to this day, struggling for basic amenities.This takes one by surprise about the type of governance and implementation we have adopted in these areas.
(Bhaskar is a 2017-19 participant of the Master Public Policy programme at National Law School of India University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)