Wednesday, November 14, 2012

EDITORIAL: Beyond Ten Degree Channel


Beyond Ten Degree Channel

In the recently held IDA Standing Committee Meeting, the Admn stated that the Nicobarese tribe have been successfully mainstreamed and integrated with non-tribal civilization and are now educationally advanced. Many interventions have been initiated by the Admn to uplift their livelihood prospects. Coconut Mission, Fruits and Vegetable Mission and establishment of Village Tribal Councils, elected by the villagers are a few initiatives of the Admn.
It is a daunting task to gauge the aspirations of a tribal community like Nicobarese. In many spheres, if we have succeeded, there are many aspects where our interventions have been utter failure. With the advancement of the tribe, new vices or the methods of the so-called civilized population has slowly crept into their lives. The Tsunami compensation initially divided the concept of Tuhet, and ingrained in them the concept of nuclear families. The shelters constructed were reluctantly accepted by them, as it did not serve their purpose. The mainstream educational system, which revolves around high scores and seats have not made a mark among the children.
Elite among the tribal society controlled by non-tribals exploits them to the hilt. The role of cooperatives which although harped as grand success stories are totally cartelized. The reports emanating from Nicobar on the role of EHL are not very encouraging. The tribals complain that they are not paid the minimum support price for copra fixed by the Govt. Moreover, it stalls all efforts of the Govt. to provide better cargo transportation facilities to Nicobar group. The case of rejecting MF Samsun by Nicobarese is not due to the discomfort level or the issues of berthing facilities, but to stall vessels with higher capacity which effects the business interests of EHL owned ships. In the bargain, the gullible Nicobarese has to suffer.
The Village Tribal Councils, recently introduced to bring democratic practices to the Islands, are still in its infancy stage. Moreover, there is a wide divide between the old family heads or Tuhet system and the Village Councils. The old system still holds more power and authority over issues concerned with land utilization and developmental activities, whereas the Admn interacts with the Village Captains.
The Coconut Mission, acclaimed as one of the pilot projects which would change the face of Nicobars is another superfluous capital-intensive project, which has no takers in Car Nicobar. The implicit assumption, reflected by officials is that Nicobarese are lazy. On the contrary, they are extremely hard working, but only in the kind of work they are interested in. Making money is not a priority in their culture, and most of them will not make extra efforts if the object is just to make money. If it fits culturally into their way of life, they will do it.
It should also be borne in mind that the 'coconut forest' type of cultivation practiced by the Nicobarese gives far higher yields than the so-called 'scientific' management prescribed by agricultural universities. While yield per tree may be lower, the number of trees per hectare is far higher. The pilot plots that earned the Deputy Commissioner national award are in a total neglect today, as spoon-fed projects disconnected from their culture won't find any takers.
The same sentiments were reflected when the Lieutenant Governor had stated the urgent need to popularize vegetable and fruit dietary habit among the Nicobarese as if they haven't been living a healthy life before our intervention.
Before taking the plunge with new ventures, a new language needs to be developed to understand their mindset and discard the one-way communication system, which has time and again proved ineffective.

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