BHOPAL: Even as the two major players in the state’s political arena are straining every nerve to win the ongoing assembly by-polls, Ekta Parishad, an NGO, is working hard to ensure that the elections do not adversely impact the de-addiction campaign underway among Saharia tribals in Kolaras – one of the constituencies going to the polls.
About 170 villages in the constituency have a predominantly Saharia population. The NGO has launched a campaign in these villages under which it is administering an oath to the residents that they would not sell their votes in return for liquor or cash. They are also being asked to swear that they would not allow themselves to be lured by any political party or canvass for it and would only raise issues that have direct connect with their life and livelihood.
Camps are being organised in these villages in which the tribals are being urged to kick the bottle. Ransingh Parmar, who is working among the Saharias for long, says that the oath has been administered in almost every village. “We want to ensure that the tribals do not exercise their mandate under any kind of inducement or force and focus solely on the issues affecting their life”, he said.
Parmar said that in every village, one person has been mandated with the responsibility of informing Ekta Parishad and the police if any one comes to the village for distributing liquor. He said that the anti-addiction campaign has evoked a good response and Ekta Parishad is apprehensive that in their endeavour to win the polls by hook or by crook, the political parties may ruin the good work done so far.
There are 39,000 Saharia voters in the constituencies and they are in a position to make or the mar the fortunes of the candidates. Ekta Parishad and other NGOs have been working among them for many years now. The Saharias were spending a major part of their income on liquor and that was one reason why they remained poor and malnutrition was rampant among their children.
The tribals, reports say, are enthusiastically waiting for the polling day. Normally, by this time of the year, they migrate to other places in search of work. But this time, most of them have decided to stay back.
Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had recently announced that the government will pay Rs 1000 per month to every Saharia family to help them overcome malnourishment. The NGO says it is working to ensure that the aid is not misused.