On November 20th 2013 a workshop on Biocultural Community Protocols was held in Bhatuda village, Odisha, India. The workshop was organized by Jeevan Vikash in collaboration with HBS-Natural Justice. George Pyara Jojo from Jeevan Vikash and Kishore Kumar Patnaik from HBS-Natural Justice took part in the workshop. Around 85 villagers belonging to: the Paudi Bhuinya Community (PBC), other Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes of Bhatuda Panchayat, participated in the workshop. The villagers shared and discussed their cultural activities and livelihoods. These traditions have been practiced by PBC for generations, many consisting of unwritten ceremonies and other beliefs of their ancestral system.
The Government of India recognizes 13 Tribal communities in Odisha as Primitive Tribal Groups of which PBC is included. The entire Sundargarh district falls under the 5th Schedule area of the Indian Constitution. The Paudi Bhuinya Community celebrates four festivals each year: Asandi (August), Gohana (August), Thakurani (December) and Korma (November). During these festivals all the PBC people get together in the village and have feasts and celebrate by making merry with wine. The PBC depend for their livelihood on cultivation in the hill areas, forest products and daily labour in adjacent mining areas. They produce millets, pulses and paddy. The harvest takes place only in the rainy season. The community faces a number of diseases, malnutrition and drinking water problems due to mining leakage of pollutants into the air and streams. They don’t have any other water facilities in the area. The villages are surrounded by hills and are located inside the forest. The industry’s mining work has been ongoing nearby in the Bhutuda Grama Panchayat hills. People from other communities like Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes (other than PBC tribes) and others also live in those hilly areas.
According to Ms Alati Patra, Secretary and Mr Sitaram Deuri, President of the Forest Rights Committee, 94 persons from Bhatuda village submitted their individual forest right claims under “The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 and Rules” before the Forest Rights Committee (FRC) a year back but till today not one family has received forest rights recognition. The FRC says all the claim forms were submitted a year ago before the District Forest Officials, Sundargarh but they accepted only 52 claims and the remaining claims were rejected by the DFO for reasons unknown.
The Government of India introduced a central project for the development of PBC but a lot of work remains pending to implement the schemes. The PBC live in two blocks of Sundargarh district. They do not have any land records and are located far away from most government schemes. But they still live happily and make merry with their traditional values.