Reaching out to tribals, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday lauded their contribution to Indian culture through the ages and said Lord Ram drew inspiration from them during his exile as he slammed the Congress for "neglecting" adivasis during its previous rules. Tribals were now partners in the country's development and benefitting from various welfare schemes launched by the BJP-led government, he said.
The PM also announced that henceforth Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas, the birth anniversary of revered tribal icon Birsa Munda, will be celebrated like Gandhi Jayanti, Sardar Patel Jayanti and Ambedkar Jayanti. “When we talk about tribesmen's contribution some people get worried. They don't believe in the immense contribution of tribals to Indian culture. Their contribution had not been explained to the countrymen. People were kept in the dark,” Modi said, addressing a mega tribal meet organised on Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas.
Those who ran governments in the past did not give priority to them. The country's 10 percent (tribal) population was neglected, he said, attacking the Congress without naming the party. “Tribals were not given their dues by the earlier governments and were deprived of basic facilities,” he said.
Drawing on history and referring to the Ramayana period, the PM said Lord Ram drew inspiration from life of tribals when he was in exile and stayed inside forests. “The time spent with tribals made a huge impact and turned a prince into the most perfect man. Lord Ram drew inspiration from every aspect of forest dwellers' life,” Modi said.
Development is now taking place in 100 aspirational districts which remained backward during the earlier (Congress) regimes, Modi said.
Modi said India is celebrating the first Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas after Independence, adding the tribals' art and culture, and their contribution to the freedom struggle and nation-building is being remembered with pride. The country cannot forget the bravery of Gond queen Durgawati or the sacrifice of Rani Kamlapati, he said.
The previous regimes have committed a crime by ignoring the tribal icons and their contribution. The contribution of the tribal society was either not told to the country and even if told, very limited information was given, Modi said.
The PM said he was moved when the recipients of Padma Shri working for tribals came barefoot to the award ceremony in New Delhi. “The indigenous community never lacked talents, but unfortunately the previous governments did not give them opportunity," he said.
Modi said now the tribals, along with the rest of India, were reaping the benefits of different welfare schemes. They are partners in the country's development and their welfare is a top priority for the government, he said.
The Prime Minister praised the tribals for their large-scale participation in the vaccination drive against COVID-19 and asked others to learn for them. Modi lauded Birsa Munda, Rani Kamalapati and other tribal heroes.
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The Prime Minister recalled how people of the Bhil tribe helped Rajput king Maharana Pratap. The struggle of Veer Maharana Pratap cannot be imagined without the brave Bhil tribe who fought shoulder to shoulder and made sacrifices, Modi said.
“We owe a lot to the tribal people," he added. He said without the participation of adivasis, India's development was not possible and maintained forest laws have been tweaked to benefit tribals.
The PM said products made by people were being marketed online to make them economically strong."These products were being sold in the international market now," he said and listed the schemes being run for the tribal uplift.
On the occasion, Modi launched multiple initiatives for the welfare of the janjatiya community, including the Ration Aapke Gram' scheme in Madhya Pradesh. The scheme is aimed at delivering the monthly quota of PDS ration to beneficiaries from janjatiya community in their own villages every month, so that they don't have to travel to the Fair Price Shop to collect their ration.
Modi also handed over genetic counselling cards to beneficiaries, marking the launch of the Madhya Pradesh Sickle Cell (Hemoglobinopathy) Mission. The Mission has been developed to screen and manage patients suffering from sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia and other hemoglobinopathies and to increase public awareness about these diseases, whose impact is seen to be more profound on the janjatiya community of Madhya Pradesh.
The PM also laid the foundation stone of 50 Eklavya Model Residential Schools across various states and UTs, including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tripura and Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu. At the event, Modi paid rich tributes to noted historian and Padma Vibhushan awardee Balwant Moreshwar Purandare, popularly known as Babasaheb Purandare, who died at a Pune hospital on Monday after a brief illness.
“Historians of the country will remember Babasaheb Purandare for long. He has left us...Babasaheb's contribution of delivering the history of Chhatrapati Shivraji to commoners was priceless. The Madhya Pradesh government had given him the Kalidas Samman," Modi said.
First Published: IST