Mann ki [email protected]: Inspiring Tribal youth
The nation is celebrating the 100th episode of the popular radio programme, ‘Mann Ki Baat’, hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On this occasion, I congratulate the PM on the roaring success of the programme. Mann Ki Baat has been an important platform where the PM interacts with the people, including from tribal communities, understands their concerns, shares his personal experiences and creates awareness on important issues. It has been a great source of inspiration for tribal youth and motivates them to contribute to the nation’s progress. As India celebrates Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the progress, development, and achievements of our nation speak volumes of our potential and global position.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Mann Ki Baat acted as a channel for educating the public and encouraging vaccination. It is largely responsible for the success of India’s vaccination story. That alone is sufficient testament to its importance and relevance. Tribal health being the prime focus, the government is committed to eradicating Sickle Cell Disease by 2047 through awareness creation, universal screening, and counselling through collaboration between the Centre and states. Improving the quality of life of tribals through interventions in safe housing, access to clean water and sanitary facilities, enhanced education and healthcare, livelihood support, and cultural aspects, our efforts have always focused on implementing schemes that adopt a habitat-level development approach.
Certain tribes in India are identified as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). These are at the lowest level of development as they have been neglected for far too long. Seventy-five PVTGs are scattered across 18 states and the UT of Andaman & Nicobar Island in India. Through the Pradhan Mantri PVTG Mission, with an allocation of Rs 15,000 crore, the government is committed to the conservation and development of these communities.
The PM in a recent episode suggested the documentation of tribal languages to preserve them, such as Karbi of the Karbi Anglong region of Assam which has been revived through documentation and research. Other tribal languages at risk of extinction will also be preserved through similar efforts. Further, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs also actively supports major tribal festivals such as Medaram Jathara and the Hornbill Festival. This exercise helps in preserving and promoting our tribal cultural heritage.
The PM has observed that tribals are the denizens of the forests and the natural environment. He has also discussed how to tackle issues like pollution and climate change, and emphasised the importance of organic farming and millets (shree-anna). I remember how PM Modi mentioned Milletpreneurs of Odisha who have formed Self-Help Groups of about 1,500 women and are associated with the Millet Mission. Under the Van Dhan Vikas Karyakram, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs taps into the traditional knowledge and skill sets of tribal people and converts these into economic activities through procurement and value addition of locally available Minor Forest Produce, targeting livelihood generation — transforming tribals into entrepreneurs.
Furthermore, the PM has suggested that the implementation of schemes be monitored at the grassroots level. Mann Ki Baat has been widely (and rightfully so) referred to as a social revolution and finds a solid base in Jan Bhagidari. The PM also takes note of the issues affecting the public and formulates action-based plans to tackle the problems. One such area is the Padma Awards. Hitherto considered elitist, these awards have now become People’s Padma where the efforts of the individuals who have brought changes at the grassroots and helped in nation-building are being acknowledged. For the first time, so many personalities from the tribal community were conferred with Padma Awards. Another such instance is the recognition of the contribution of unsung tribal heroes in our freedom struggle and the Tribal Freedom Fighters’ Museum. The nation now celebrates it as Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas commemorating Bhagwan Birsa Munda, the martyrs of the Mangarh Hill Massacre of Rajasthan and the unsung heroes of tribal communities throughout the country.
Giving impetus to the provision of quality education for tribal children, our focus is not only limited to structured programmes and syllabi. Eklavya Model Residential Schools provide holistic education with enriching tribal knowledge, languages, history, and experiences. The government is in the process of recruiting 38,800 teachers for its 740 EMRS, who will serve 3.5 lakh tribal students.
The PM receives lakhs of letters each month from all over the country. He frequently speaks to the audience members on the phone while the show is in progress. People’s confidence in democracy and governance is at an all-time high because of this. It is pertinent to note that, since its inception, Mann Ki Baat has worked to raise awareness about significant issues throughout its successful run of 99 episodes over eight years. With the latest episode, we will have marked the completion of 100 episodes, a grand feat!
I am personally grateful to the Prime Minister for guiding the nation through Mann Ki Baat, which has been instrumental in illustrating the national and international accomplishments of the country, encouraging people to be stakeholders in the development of the country, and instilling a sense of pride, belongingness, and nationalism to further the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat.
The writer is Minister of Tribal Affairs, Government of India