THE KAWARDHA BAIGA TRIBAL TRUST

President Yuvraj Yogeshwar Raj Singh part of Baiga marriage ritual gear
Vice-president (culture) Raja Vishwaraj Singh
Vice-president (health) Rani Shashi Prabha Devi
)  

Introduction

The Baiga Tribals of Madhya Pradesh are the indigenous people who have lived in the forested areas of districts Mandla Balaghat Bilaspur and Rajnandgaon since time immemorial. It is said that the very first Baiga was born from the womb of Mother on the Hill of Elephants and he was named Nanga Baiga. Since then they have always been referred to as 'Sons and Daughters of Mother Earth'.

famous Baiga top knot! As early as the 1920's concern for their tradition of shift cultivation and for their general well-being prompted the British authorities to set up an area of land in Madhya Pradesh (Central Province or Eastern States Agency in those days) called "Baiga Chak " - the land of the Baigas. Sadly portions of Baiga Chak are already in danger of being taken over by others for bauxite milling.

The Baigas of Kawardha Tahsil are a gentle and peaceful tribe who have mostly preferred to retreat to the remoter and sometimes most inhospitable areas of the tahsil (slate constituency) rather than be engulfed in modern ways of life. However the hardships that many of them now face are seriously beginning to force them to abandon a way of life that they really DO NOT want to forsake. Their numbers are decreasing steadily at an alarming rate through avoidable diseases malnutrition and in some cases loss of self esteem and hope. The Baigas urgently need help to overcome poor health low standards of education loss of lands and problems caused by lack of understanding of modern legal and administration systems.
The Kawardha Baiga Tribal Health & Cultural Charitable Trust was set up to mobilise such help.


The objectives of the Trust:
The balanced diet that the Baigas once enjoyed is now not accessible to them because of new legal restrictions on hunting and because the soil they arc forced to farm no longer contains sufficient nutrients. minerals and moisture to produce adequate crops. It is therefore essential to establish alternative sources of nutritious food. so that the Baigas can at least return to a stronger healthier and more productive way of life. Education which imparts knowledge of their environment and its problems is of the utmost importance to create a secure future for them. Education will also open new opportunities for creating additional sources of income while health instruction will prevent many unnecessary illnesses and deaths If we can work with these humorous and gentle sons and daughters of Mother Earth to meet even their basic needs to stand by them for their rights to be who they are and to live with nature as they always have then the Baiga Tribals will survive with their uncluttered way of life and close association with nature. Maybe they will one day help us understand what damage certain aspects of twentieth century progress is doing to our world and show us how to heal the planet. How the Baigas' needs can be met

1. Establishment of a Mobile Health Unit (currently organised from a jeep) to be staffed by health workers and doctors which would travel to the heart of the remoter areas at least once a week. Advance notice would be given of intended visits so that all who may need attention in the vicinity could make their way to the specified village. This would assist the Baigas with health issues that they often ignore through fear and superstition.

2. Health education to be carried out by the unit. This would stress among other things the importance of water purification and safe storage prior to consumption; of clean and dry areas in and around homes to minimise the risks of malaria; and of child and adult education. It would teach basic knowledge of how to cleanse and dress wounds and administer pain killers and when to seek medical assistance.

3. Preservation of Baiga lore. The Baigas need help to preserve and document their knowledge of the jungle trees and shrubs and their healing qualities. Their understanding of the behaviour of the birds animals insects and reptiles in their domain must be passed on to future generations. Documentation is also required to keep alive their ancient ways of nature worship their language attire songs dances and former gentle life-style. We wish to re-develop their skills of farming the products of the jungles without harming the balance of nature such as LAC collection BEE KEEPING and HONEY PRODUCTION SILK WORM farming and SILK weaving CHICKEN and PIG farming (the natural way) and BASKET weaving.

4. Development of traditional arts and crafts. We will seek assistance from institutes such as The Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and DASTKAR to encourage and expand their arts and crafts skills. When quality merchandise is forthcoming we will help them to form societies within their own communities. This will add a new dimension to their earning powers and allow art forms that have been handed down for thousands of years to give pleasure to people in far off lands.

5. Preservation of the jungles and wildlife. We feel that with their close association with the forests of our area of Madhya Pradesh. which they love being a part of the Baiga Tribals could become the natural guardians of the jungles and of the flora and fauna therein. We have spent four years discussing their sadness at watching their shelter from the extremes of weather slowly disappearing sometimes overnight. and the changing energies within their jungles. We have also taken them to places where concerted efforts are being made to ensure tall and green mantles remain in protected areas. They are now willing to start actively protecting our areas from total deforestation. The dwindling of wildlife is also of concern to many of the Baigas. They believe that as long as the jungles and forests are preserved there will be places for wild animals to take refuge against man's destructive nature.

6. Kitchen gardens to grow healthy vegetable and herb crops throughout the area should be established for each Tola (household) adjoined by small copses of fast growing trees to supply fire wood. This would replace the need to search the jungles for wood and set an example for people from the already denuded plains. We are in desperate need of funds for customising a vehicle for a mobile health unit medical supplies educational aids food and water containers warm cloth for making Baiga-style clothing and remuneration for health workers Therefore all donations will be most gratefully accepted. We will acknowledge them by a registered receipt and open our accounts for donors to audit our expenditure. We want to make a small repayment to the Baigas for their contribution towards the clean and unpolluted air we can still breathe and for allowing us to watch and respect diverse species of nature's perfect on roaming their jungles in peace.

Baiga boy and sibling


Mandla. Balaghat and Bilaspur districts have like-minded people to those of the Kawardha Trust who realise the importance of the Baigas' knowledge and who are working closely with them. So when we are fully established in Kawardha Tahsil and are positively affecting the lives of these very special people we will try to join forces with the other districts to spread beneficial ideas and resources throughout Baiga Chak. In our own small way we have already started taking action on points 1-6 listed above with encouraging results.

However modern "progress" moves far too quickly even for the initiated so we are approaching institutions societies corporations and individuals for practical assistance to ensure that there will always be Baigas living in our jungles protected by the assurance that their way of life will be respected and not destroyed. With the help of those with knowledge of medicine agriculture and saleable art forms and of individuals who share our concern for these pure and special people may we strive to succeed in our goal to preserve the natural ways of the Baiga Tribals and to cherish them always as our neighbours in the jungles of Kawardha Tahsil.

 

 click for home page

 click for SiteMap

index