Hyderabad: When the government picked Ms Divya Devarajan to rush to Adilabad where Adivasis had started a protest against Lambadas, they chose an officer who could empathise with them.
What remains as a sharp memory in Ms Devarajan’s mind is watching her grandfather lose several acres of agricultural land to loan sharks. Agriculture is like the Russian roulette, she says. “I have seen suffering from my childhood. In fact I have stood in line for two pots of water along with my mother when there was a severe water shortage in Chennai and when I travelled by bus for my classes, I’d be groped in the local buses.”
Coming from this background, her goal has always been to find solutions for those who need it the most. Her first posting was as a sub-collector at Bhongir. Yadadri, which is close by, has a large number of Eruku-las, migratory tribals. “They complained to me that though they were STs, they were not being given caste certificates,” she says.
She asked the tahsilder who said it was an integrated certificate with caste, community and nativity. Without information about al the parameters they could not get the certificate. “The Eruku-las are nomadic, with no roots anywhere. How could they show nativity,” she wondered.
“That is the bureaucracy for you,” she says. “The spirit of any Act is to ensure that the right people should get the benefits, and it is not about eliminating or alienating the deserving people.”
She got the certificates signed after an effort. The Erukulas, to show their gratitude, gifted her with two cooked birds which they had shot that morning. “Their simplicity made me realise that this is what I was in the service for,” says Ms Devarajan.
“I also realised that the government is not so draconian as it seems from outside,” she says adding that it all depends which part of the government one gets to deal with at various levels.” She quickly adds, “Unfortuna-tely the system is not sensitive. My endeavour is to make the system more sensitive, so that they listen to the people and do justice to them.” She could have gone places with her BITS Pilani degree but chose the tribal area to work in. She asked for a posting at Bhadrachalam and went as project officer at the Integrated Tribal Develo-pment Agency. To be able to communicate with the ethnic tribes and to know their culture and traditions, Ms Devarajan has been learning Gondi language. “My strength is my communication skills. I can speak with people and try to convince them,” she says. “I am also interested in understanding the rich culture and traditions of Gonds,” she says. She spends around 30 minutes a day learning the language from Durwa Bhumanna, a senior announcer of All India Radio station, Adilabad.
“The tribal has always asked for jal, jangal, jameen. We add jobs to the list but what kind of job is the question. Most private entities that come in displace the tribals from their habitat. They are disconnected from the forest and have many other issues. Until the 2013 Land Act, they were never given their due justice, some not even being given the compensation due to them,” she says.
Adilabad is an agro-based district and also has minor minerals but the truncated Adilabad is only agro-based and she wonders why not promote agro-based industries.
She says it is necessary to make agriculture more productive and give the farmers safety nets. Adilabad is a cotton growing district but there are no ginners or spinners anywhere near the district. She has plans of getting the tribals to market local products like mahua laddus. “There is a good market for it in the cities who want to eat such things,” she says. It will take three more years to get an organic certificate.
She is called Jangubai by the tribals for they perceive her as the goddess who gives everything....