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Interview

Interview

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Published by Rishabh Kumar

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Published by: Rishabh Kumar on Jun 17, 2012
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06/17/2012

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Interview with V. Gandhi Babu
By: Rishabh Kumar
(AID representative/Intern)
V. Gandhi Babu is an activist and the founder of Agricultural and Social Development Society(ASDS). This interview was done on 24
th
November shortly after his meeting with theparticipants of the CSR initiative of HPCL project Swavlamban (translation: self dependence).The participants of this initiative, which has been briught to ASDS through AID, are beingprovided vocational training in sewing and stitching over a period of 6 months to make them self sufficient and employable. The primary membership of the initiative consists of the women of 
Natwan Sangham
, a self-help organization of tribal women created and supported by ASDS.The women belong to a number of tribes both native to Andhra Pradesh and those that have beendisplaced from Chhattisgarh in the wake of the continuing violence there (along with severalother reasons). This awakening among the tribal communities of the area has been the result of the untiring efforts of Mr. V. Gandhi Babu over the last 25 years. A highly regarded man in theKhammam district of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. V. Gandhi Babu talks about ASDS, the
InternallyDisplaced People (IDP)
from Chhattisgarh, native tribes and his passion for activism.
RK:
What is your educational background and what were the reasons that you chose to work in the field of Social Development?
GB:
I wasn’t made for traditional means of education. I have learnt more from practical
experiences than formal education. My formal education has been up to class 6 afterwhich I dropped out at will. In my youth I did most of my work in Tulasipaka villagewith an organization called Integrated Tribal Development Agency.
 
RK:
What was your work profile there?
GB:
I was involved with a number of activities of the organization. I functioned as theapprentice and assistant for a local activist by the name of Mr. Chandrashekhar. It washim who urged me to work in Reddigumpadu, a Kondareddi village (Kondareddi isnative tribe of Andhra Pradesh). I lived with them for the most part. There were dayswhen I lived off Bamboo Rice alone. I experienced their hardships personally. This left adeep impression on me.
RK:
So what pushed you to add further dynamics into a pre-existing model of social servicewith the tribal community, already established by Mr. Chandrashekhar?
GB:
He was more of an inspiration for me in adding further dynamics in this field. I realizedthat tribal rights need to be addressed far more widely than they were being addressed. Itwas his charisma that eventually inspired me start an organization of my own. On oneoccasion 27 members of Reddigumpadu were killed in a truck accident while transportingbamboo for a company. We filed a petition for compensation. Soom after this Mr.Chandrashekhar received a threat from an influential political leader in the area. He was
told that if he doesn’t stop his legs will be hacked. Mr. Chandrashekhar responded by
threatening him back saying it wo
uldn’t slow him down even if the cut his hands. I was
so inspired by his courage that I decided to increase my participation in the issue of tribalrights more and more. Therefore with his initial help ASDS was started by me. TodayASDS has helping the tribal communities in the area by not only procuring more rightsand claim on land but also by mobilizing them.
 
RK:
After 2005 when Chhattisgarh government declared a war against the Maoists the localtribes of Chhattisgarh such as Dorla and Muria were internally displaced from theirindigenous homes. When they arrived in Khammam how did things change for ASDS?
GB:
We were used to working with the local Gondi tribes like Koya and Kondareddi tribes.When new Gondi tribes like Dorla and Muria arrived one of the biggest challenges thatwe faced was that of identification of these tribes. It took us 10 years before we couldmake sense of anything with these new communities. They were regularly coming toAndhra prior to 2005 for job opportunities since the 1990s but the introduction of SalwaJudum in Chhattisgarh led to a mass exodus of these tribes into Andhra Pradesh. Theycame pouring in as there were better, well paying jobs here in comparison to othergeographically close states to Dantewada like Maharashtra and Odhisa. It also became areal problem to manage these new people as almost all of them were accustomed to a lifein the forest where they survived by practicing
‘Slash and B
urn
’ agricultural. This was
hazardous to the reserve forests of Andhra. We had already worked with the native tribalcommunities and they were well aware of the disadvantages of deforestation but it was
difficult to explain to new people. Although ASDS’s various aids have helped in curbing
rampant deforestation by tribals in the region, this problem continues to exist.
RK:
What were the strategies used by ASDS to manage the IDP tribes in Andhra Pradesh?
GB:
Well obviously our first objective was to recognize and understand the customs of thesenew tribes. Then we concentrated, and this is an ongoing project, in the areas of basicamenities such as providing them food, safe drinking water and shelter. Most of thesetribes have left all their private properties such as cattle, utensils back in Chhatissgarh.

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