True freedom and economic development is possible only with education. It is with this belief that we started our Ashram for Kathkari children in 1995. The Ashram, a school with residential facility gave these children an opportunity and the right environment to learn and a platform to express themselves.
Apart from formal education, we lay a lot of emphasis on character building by inculcating social values in them. Through this, we intend to develop community leaders who will have the potential to act as agents of change in their own communities.
Our first Kathkari student passed his SSLC in second class in 1999-2000. Over the years, some of our students have even completed their M.A. Girl students have become ANM nurses. The students,
especially the girls are now looked at as role models in their communities. These achievements are quite revolutionary for a community steeped in poverty, illiteracy and superstitions.
These students are also given training in agri-based livelihood options. Our Ashram in located in Pen, Raigad district and hosts 50 students (girls and boys).
Legal Literacy Campaign:
The Kathkaris being tribals do not possess title deeds of land they have lived on for generations. This makes it easy for the landlords, builders, industries and other infrastructure projects to take over their land. Ankur Trust facilitates legal education and provides support to the community to access and use the available legal provision made for them. Ankur offers legal aid and advice through workshops with an aim to spread legal literacy among the resource poor by explaining the various provisions of law to them.
Another important area where legal aid and advice is required and rendered by Ankur Trust is in the cases of atrocities. A lot of atrocities are committed on these people by the landlord, brick-kiln owner, the dominant community and even the police. We take up such issues as violation of human rights, give it some publicity in the local papers and follow it up with legal action and public protests.
Raigad: 45 villages from Pen, Uran and Panvel talukas are in the process of being acquired for the setting up of a SEZ. Ankur Trust is one of the organizations helping the small and marginal farmers in Pen taluka to understand the SEZ ACT, its implications and repercussions.
Sindhudurg: In the ecologically sensitive district of Sindhudurg, the government has planned 19 power plants and has sanctioned 56 mining leases. A research by National Geographic declared this region one of biodiversity hotspots of the world. The Western Ghats Ecological Expert Panel Report (WGEEPR) by Dr. Madhav Gadgil also states that this region is home to many indigenous flora and fauna.
Not only will mining affect the environmentally sensitive Ghats, the river systems and wildlife, it will also affect the livelihood of the small and marginal farmers who are dependent on horticulture namely, mango, cashew, coconut, banana and areca nut plantations.
Ankur Trust is actively involved in the district to create awareness of the ecological impact and erosion of livelihood due to mining in the region. We also provide legal and technical support for communities affected by projects in environmental Public Hearing.
Women’s Homestead Land Rights Movement:
A recent notification under the Bombay Agricultural Land And Tenancy Act of 1948, deems that the agricultural labourers, the local artisans (cobbler, iron-smith, weaver etc.), tenants and those carrying out allied agricultural business are the rightful owners of homestead lands (Gharthan). Due to lack of awareness and publicity, the provisions of this notification have not been implemented at all. Ankur Trust facilitates the process of acquiring land titles for which all documentary evidences are collected including Ration Card, house tax receipts, election ID, and caste certificate etc.
Ankur and Adivasi Hakka Sangarsh Samithi (Tribal Rights Committee) focused on this issue and the first 100 claims that were filed in the court of the Executive Magistrate have successfully gone in favour of the adivasi women, in whose name the claims were filed. This historic and path breaking judgment was given on 8th March 2005. This has resulted in a mass movement where approximately 86 lakhs agricultural women labourers in Maharashtra are now likely to benefit by this judgment.
Ankur Trust has produced a 30 minutes documentary on homestead land rights.
Rotating Capital for Livelihood:
Due to abject poverty and marginalization, most families of the Kathkari tribe are perpetually indebted. They depend on their land lords, local money lenders or brick-kiln owners for small loans who usually give the money on assurance of cheap manual labour. As a resulted, most men live a life of bonded labour working to pay off those small loans. The money lenders use this situation to sexually exploit the women also.
In order to free the Kathkaris from such exploitative systems, Ankur Trust facilitates the creation and functioning of SHGs (Self help Groups) of women who can have an alternate source of finance especially in times of crisis.
Women of these villages are motivated to save a small amount every month which is them given as loan to any particular person in need. The person hence does not have to approach a money lender and get into a bonded labour situation. Till now 40 such SHGs have been formed. A federation of SHGs called the Vaghaii has been formed and is led by seven tribal women who plan, motivate, train and monitors the functioning of all these SHGs.
Regular workshops are conducted to train the members of all such SHGs and many of them have now been able to get into alternate income generation programmes.