The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Vet grooming for outcast tribals

A notified criminal tribe since pre-Independence days, the Midnapur Lodha Sabar Kalyan Samity was given a welcome window to the mainstream by a city NGO on Wednesday. Left Front chairman Biman Bose flagged off an initiative by People For Animals (PFA), Calcutta, to impart a three-month, in-house course on elementary animal and nature care to five youngsters from the outcast Midnapore tribe and one from South 24-Parganas.

The course, launched at Ashari (the animal shelter-cum hospital and research institute at Mukundapur, off the EM Bypass), comes in the wake of an appeal to PFA by Lodha Sabar Kalyan Samity working president Pradip Kumar Roy, an advocate in the high court. The Sabar tribe, whose cause has been championed by Mahasveta Devi, was denied basic civic rights till 1952. Bose, urging the tribal youths to work towards dispelling superstitions, also promised all state help to make the project a success.

“As part of our efforts to create a more compassionate and ethically-aware society, we will train them so that they can become self-employed as para-veterinarians, and also contribute towards improving the conditions of their own villages as green guards,” explained Debasis Chakrabarti, the NGO's managing trustee.

The poorer sections of society, economically dependent upon their livestock, are also exposed to various zoonotic diseases, of which diseased animals are carriers. A minor ailment, if neglected, often turns into a fatal or incurable problem. “Keeping animals healthy is the first step towards preventive healthcare for people, and improved work (and milk) output brings multiple benefits to them,” Chakrabarti said.

The six young men, educated up to Class VIII or IX, will stay at Ashari. They will be given extensive field training so that at the end of the course, they can deal with routine healthcare/vaccination schedules for livestock of all kinds, attend to minor injuries and diagnose common ailments.

They will also be taught advantageous use of cowdung, rainwater harvesting, preservation of forest cover and protected species. At the end of the training programme, each will be given a certificate, a kit, and literature in vernacular.

A similar course was undertaken by PFA, Calcutta, in 2001, for 20 boys from other backward classes, sponsored by the West Bengal Backward Classes Development and Finance Corporation. This is the first time that the Sabar tribe is receiving any help designed to bring in multiple benefits. “We hope to absorb two or three of them in our activities, as soon as they are ready,” declared PFA trustee Purnima L. Toolsidass.

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