An ode to the Nature Conservation Leaders

The International World Indigenous day, celebrated on the 9th of August, every year, is a call for action to the community as a whole, to acknowledge the contributions made by the indigenous communities towards conserving nature and maintain the delicate ecological balance.

This year the theme for the International Indigenous Day is ‘Right to education’ by the indigenous communities. These native communities are the marginalised who have been excluded from the mainstream society. The world indigenous day calls for a joint action towards raising the unheard voices of the tribal communities, their struggles and beliefs, within the mainstream plan of action. The theme is also protected by the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, which in Article 14 states that, “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning (UN).” The right of the indigenous peoples to education is also protected by a number of other international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development targets at ‘ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.

“A critical education gap exists between indigenous peoples and the general population. In- terms of Educational access and retention & achievement”- UN.

Education is the critical medium which not only reflects the historical abuses, discrimination and marginalisation suffered by the tribal or the native communities, but also talks about their revolts and struggles for equality and respects for their ‘rights as people and as individuals’. It is an age old saying that the pen is mightier than the sword. Education is one of the most powerful tools of empowerment and by excluding certain communities from accessing the educational system, is a serious blow to their human rights. The aboriginals have time and again been ostracised into the peripheries of poverty and vulnerability owing to their unique practices and beliefs such as, nature worship (animism), food habits, rather fluid cultural practices and minimal occupational specialisation, etc. In India, certain tribal communities were categorised as criminal communities by the Britisher. It is only recent that the communities were declared as de- criminalised, and have been assigned under the state list of Scheduled castes- Article 366 (25) of the Constitution of India which refers to scheduled Tribes as those communities who are scheduled in accordance with Article 342 of the Constitution.

In India, the indigenous people are referred to as the Scheduled Tribes or Adhivasis. It has been repeatedly argued that, ‘Adhivasis are among those who have gained least and lost the most from the six decades of democracy in India.’ Ban Ki Moon, the UN Chief stated on the eve of the international World Indigenous Day, 2016, “In some countries, less than 40 percent of the indigenous children attend school full time. In many others, few indigenous children complete a full high school education.” the UN chief further added, “This is unacceptable. We will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) if we fail to address the educational needs of the indigenous people. I call on the Government everywhere to draw on the guidance of this international framework (the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) to improve access to education for indigenous peoples and to reflect their experiences and culture in places of learning.”

Thus it becomes imperative to recognise the efforts of the indigenous communities towards mitigating the consequences of climate change, sustainable methods of farming, growing and conserving the natural resources through non exploitative methods of living. In this context, Irina Bokova, Director- General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), stated, “Nurturing and harnessing this potential calls for inclusive and equitable quality education for all,” she also emphasised, “Too many indigenous peoples are still denied the full right to quality education.”

India is home to the largest concentration of tribal communities within its geographical boundary, almost 8 percent of India’s population is comprised by the tribals. Even though the constitution of India, which came into existence on 26th January 1950, prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, caste, sex or place of birth (Article 15) and it provides the right to equality (Article 14), to freedom of religion (Article 25- 28) and to culture and education (Articles 29- 30)- Scheduled Tribes are supposedly addressed by as many as 209 articles and 2 special schedules of the Constitution- they bear the brunt of developmental crisis. The tribal groups are still subject to exploitation, oppression and illiteracy which has pushed them onto the brink of chronic poverty and dispossession. The Denotified tribal communities in India are harassed and abused on the grounds of their native identity and lifestyle. Most of the Denotified Tribes in India are nomadic in nature and work in extremely exploitative and inhumane work conditions such as in brick kilns, etc. The children of these tribes are excluded from being a part of the full schooling process due to their nomadic nature of work and lifestyle (seasonal work conditions/ opportunities make these tribes migrate to different places). The children, more often than not, become victims of the flesh trade, are trafficked, work as domestic labourers, work as labourers in the unorganised sectors, are school dropouts and some have never seen a text book in their entire lives.

On the International Indigenous day, Fiinovation would want to throw light on the vast ocean of possibilities that would integrate these children in the mainstream educational process through incorporating innovative Teaching Learning Methods (TLMs) at the school level through CSR-CSO alliances. The CSOs can be termed as the agents of change which have been able to reach the most marginalised and vulnerable. CSR is aimed at bringing about sustainable development by adhering to the Triple Bottom Line philosophy in all its core business activities. The tribal population in India should be encouraged to enroll in the education system and the schooling process should incorporate teaching methods and promote retention of these children, throughout the process. By extending the education to these communities, their issues and struggles can be raised to national and international platforms for consideration and plausible solutions.

Affirmative Action as practiced by corporations in India, would not only delegate the tribal communities as stakeholders in the developmental agenda but, would also give them a chance to combat marginalisation, denounce human rights violations and promote their rights and cultures.

Fiinovation complains that today’s world is changing at a very fast pace and so is the outlook towards development and growth however, these marginalised groups are still ignored and their access to basic rights is still being denied. Therefore, an immediate need to adopt a developmental path which aims at the holistic growth of the economy and is founded upon the foundations of ecological, social and economic progress. The nature conservation leaders i.e. the indigenous people are to be made an equal stakeholder in the process of wellbeing and be excluded and confined to stereotyped margins of ignominy.

By – Media Team



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