Sunday, March 29, 2009

Vedanta and Lanjgarh children's education: the story of Kile Majhi

A few home truths by our esteemed friend Xavier Dias expose the web of lies and propaganda spun by the corporate public relations. At issue is a press report (no doubt greased by corporate PR office) of Vedanta's fulfilling its Corporate Social responsibility (I do love the elegant acronym CSR) which was put on Jharkhand listserv. 

The post by Ashok Paikray, which apparently is taken from some news report is revealing in so many ways. A four year old Dongaria Kondh kid learning english rhymes sponsored by a corporation which seeks to destroy the home of his gods. I am sure anthropologists could write reams about this strange intersection between corporations, cultures, languages, donagrias and sacred landscapes. 


The first post by Ashok Paikray:

Kile Majhi, (4) is on learning mode. 

He is reciting English rhymes and identifying the numbers. 

Six months earlier, he was not so lucky enough to think about education and school. 

But now the boy of the vanishing tribe of Dongria Kondh goes to the newly opened Child Care Centre (CCC) set up and run by the Sterlite Foundation, a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources in his village. 

And he is very happy now because, unlike children in neighboring villages he does not have to go to the jungles. 

However, after opening of the CCC, the residents of this tribal village could feel the difference, after sixty two years of Independence. 

“We are illiterate and same were also our forefathers. 

We are very thankful to Vedanta Company for responding to our cause. 

Now our children can receive education in this school.” Says Chanchala Naik, Naib-Sarapanch, Trilochanpur GP. 

For them the CCC is a school, as they receive basic education and training. 

35 children, mostly from Dongria Kondh community are studying in this centre. 

In order to encourage the children for education and also to minimize the burden on their parents, the CCC provides dress, books and teaching and learning materials free of cost. 

Besides, the children were also taught about sports, games, singing and dancing. 

Nutritional food such as egg, rice, dal and vegetables are given to the children. 

The students of the peripheral villages of Lanjigarh are immensely being benefited out of these child care centers of Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) in the area. 

Dr. Mukesh Kumar, CEO, VAL has all along harped on the peripheral development of the areas in and around the project. 

“Health of our children has also improved, after joining the school. Being a tribal village, Phuldumer was completely ignored by the Government,” says Ratu Majhi another tribal leader. 

“The response by children and villagers is excellent. The children come to the Centre neat and clean,” adds Gita Pattnaik, a teacher of the centre. 

Earlier there was not an education facility available in the village. 

The nearest school is at Trilochanpur, five kilometer away from the village. 

“As forest comes in the way, it is risky to send our child to the school,” said Shringa Majhi. 

So, all of the children preferred to go to forest, rather than to schools. 

All the parents vow that they will send their children to primary schools, after completion of their education in Centre, said he.

Response by Xavier Dias

Dear Members of the Jharkhand list,

I think that such news items (below) should be circulated with a rider.

  1. Under the Constitution of India primary and secondary education are mandatory and have to be provided by the State. When Corporations try to replace the job of the State we will have a situation which is presently causing the economic collaspe rooted in the USA free enterprise ideology. If States are not fulfilling their consitiutional responsibilities in Adivasi or Dalit areas it is not because they are corrupt or inefficient. It is because the Indian State its politicians and buerocracy are essentially racist. Secondly the education system itself is anti-ethnic minority and alienates the Adivasi from their culture.
  2. Sterlite or Vedanta or any other Corporation is not undertaking such programmes for the love of the people whose livelihood they have destroyed and left with no livelihood options.
  3. An Adivasi or tribe (sic) group does not vanish on their own. The use of the word vanish is not only incorrect but highly objectionable. Things vanish either due to their inert properties or influence by the athmosphere or for antroprogenic reasons. Why does a community that lived for centuries suddenly have to 'vanish'?
  4. Last but not least after expropriating all they  possess, destroying and evicting them form their livelihoods, throwing them into a proleteriate class, this formal education is supposed to prepare them to fill in the 'job market' which thanks to corporations like Vedanta has actually vanished.

please do not let Corporations like Vedanta or Tata or any other fool us people especially us who use the internet!

Xavier Dias

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