What led to the Inception of Antyodaya Chetana Mandal
Aditya Patnaik – our founder, who was then leading the youth fraternity of Gandhian organization on national level, received a book named “The Lodhas of West Bengal“.
The book was gifted to Mr. Patnaik in a conference meeting, by the author himself – Prof. Prabodh Ku. Bhowmick (Department of Anthropology, Calcutta University).
“Coincidence is a myth, everything happens for a reason.”
The Lodhas of West Bengal is purely a socio-economic study on the life of Lodhas, a primitive tribe who formerly inhabited the Paschim Midnapore area of West Bengal and Mayurbhanj – the forest covered border district of Odisha.
Since Mr. Patnaik was experienced as well as passionate in serving the tribals and underprivileged communities, he took a great interest in the book and gave it an attentive read.
From the book, he got to know about the distressing reality of Lodha tribe in Mayurbhanj and how they are being brutalized by the society.
“Lodhas were earlier hunters or forest dwellers. They used to live amidst the forest and mainly depend on forest produces for their livelihood & survival. But with rapid and ruthless deforestation by the British government, Lodhas were thrown out of the forests and pushed into isolation to live a life of Poverty and Hunger. Not limited to this, the Britishers once termed Lodhas as a criminal tribe, and since then the rural populace still thinks of them the same way. They had been barred from living in the community and also denied any kind of job or work within the locality. Also, whenever there is a theft or dacoity in the near-by villages, police would come to harass the Lodhas and arrest them without any proof or evidence. Even the Lodhas were often subjected to brutal killings by local mobs, but neither the police nor the politicians condemned such incidents, despite knowing the truth. Over a period of time, Lodhas were enforced to live a life full of stigma, discrimination, sufferings, and despair, which further compelled them to follow the path of criminality and plunder.”
from the book, The Lodhas of West Bengal
Mr. Patnaik couldn’t believe that in this age of freedom and development, how can our society behave so inhumanly? The harsh reality of Lodhas left a strong imprint on his mind.
Earlier in 1977 during a visit to Barbil (Keonjhar), Mr. Patnaik was motivated by PadmaShree Tulasi Munda to work for this distressed tribal community who were living a life filled with Misery & Societal Hate.
All these thoughts together inspired Mr. Patnaik to return back to his Motherland Odisha and work for the upliftment & transformation of Lodha tribe in Mayurbhanj region.
Sometimes a book can take you places you have been destined to go
1981, Baripada (District headquarter of Mayurbhanj)
On a Sunday morning, Mr. Patnaik arrived at Baripada station, from Delhi to look into the matter of Lodha tribe in detail.
With a big heart full of love & compassion, guided by Gandhian way of serving the Mankind, Mr. Patnaik was strongly determined to bring a positive change in the lives of Lodhas.
He did a survey on the demography of primitive Lodhas who were marked as criminal tribes by the Britishers, and found that they mainly reside in two blocks of Mayurbhanj – Moroda and Suliapada. Hence he chose to work in those two blocks with utmost priority.
Initially, he rented a small house in Baripada town for his stay and from there he started visiting the Lodha inhabited villages on day-to-day basis.
In due course of time, Mr. Patnaik formed a team of dedicated volunteers, who were highly inspired by Gandhi’s ideology to serve the weaker sections of our society. UmaSashi Mahapatra, Gunilata Jena, Pitambar Sahoo, Karnat Kishore Jena, and Hemant Giri, were among the first associate members, who joined Mr. Patnaik in uplifting the lives of Lodhas.
To understand the problems & challenges of Lodhas in-depth, Mr. Patnaik & Team decided to stay among the Lodhas and witness their daily struggles. They all stayed at Barkand High School in Moroda block and started interacting with Lodhas closely. In those days, they used to move from villages to villages mostly by bicycles and walking.
The team’s main objective was to analyse the socio-economic conditions of Lodhas and to provide them with basic necessities like Education, Health, and Livelihood.
Establishment of Antyodaya Chetana Mandal (ACM) to empower the Lodha tribe
In the meeting, the community heads expressed their deepest concerns about the way they are being treated in the society. They talked about the inhumane nature of big landlords towards them and how they are being instigated to pull out theft/robberies.
The youths kept employability as their biggest problem and desperately asked for feasible livelihood opportunities. Women complained about eve-teasing and humiliations. And for Lodha children, there was no school; they were not allowed to study at the primary school in the village because of social stigma, so education was also an important issue.
Considering all these helplessness and overall socio-economic status of the Lodha tribe, Mr. Patnaik then assured to resolve the issues of Lodhas and empower them with every constitutional right, so that they too can lead a peaceful and sustainable life.
And there he declared to establish a not-for-profit Gandhian voluntary organization named Antyodaya Chetana Mandal, for helping the Lodhas to transform their lives & livelihood as well as bring back their lost reputation of being an indigenous tribe in mainstream society.
“The term Antyodaya has been derived from two words, ‘Anta’ means the end i.e. the people living on the lowest borderline of society, the poorest ones. And ‘Udaya’ stands for development.
Antyodaya as a whole is entitled to bring self-sufficiency and sustainability for the poorest among the poor, through consciousness, awareness, and empowerment, which were the hallmark of Gandhian era.”
Antyodaya Chetana Mandal got officially registered under Society Registration Act and since then ACM, under the leadership of Aditya Patnaik, has been continuously working towards the development of tribals, dalits, and other downtrodden communities in various remotest parts of Odisha.
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