Adivasi Chetna Sangathan

Dhenkanal is one of the centrally positioned districts of Odisha and is surrounded by Keonjhar, Jajpur, Cuttack and Angul districts. Surrounded by mountains and dense forests, these regions are abundant in natural resources. The economy of the districts is predominantly agrarian. A larger section of the rural population (mostly adivasis) holds very little or no agricultural land. They work as agricultural labourers and depend on daily wages.



Till 1996 there were no schools in the area. ACS took up this issue, encouraging villagers to start their own schools and asked educated tribal youths to come forward to teach. Each student contributed in cash or kind towards the teacher’s remuneration. Till date, ACS has been able to pressurize the government to start as many as 60 schools under District Primary Education Programme and Education Guarantee Scheme resulting in the education of more than 1200 tribal children.

Preserving Tribal Culture

ACS has been organizing a tribal festival at Kendumunda every year where about 1000 tribal men, women and children along with 1500 non-tribals participate. Events like long jump, high jump, arrow shooting, stick pulling, rope pulling, leaf plate stitching are organised along with a tribal music competition where tribal musical instruments are played and songs are sung both individually and in groups. The festival is attended by several administrative officers of the Block and the district.

A theatre festival is also held by ACS where more than 12 tribal theatre teams from areas where ACS works and other villages perform short plays in Santhali language which is highly appreciated by the largely Santhali speaking audience. All the plays are educational and raise contemporary issues faced by the tribal society. The need for revival and the importance of tribal culture and language is stressed by both these annual features. The entire festival is managed by people’s contribution and helps ACS organically expand its reach.

Opposing Stone Mafia Groups

The people of Mohanpasi and Kendumunda together protect a small mountain that is situated in the middle of both the villages. The hillock, covered by dense forests, has been named ‘Chetana Mundia’ by the sangathan. In November 1999, stone mafia groups managed to obtain a lease order to have stone quarry at Mohanpasi and began blasting stone in the mountain with a compressor machine. When the people of Mohanpasi and Kendumunda protested it, the mafia threatened to file a case for loss of government revenue. This did not deter the people who seized the compressor machine and stopped work. The next day ACS conducted an agitation at Parjang Tahsil office and demanded the Tahsildar to cancel the lease based on the monumental damage it caused to the environment. On 20th November the Tahasildar and Revenue Inspector visited the spot and found the stone quarry lease has been given for another spot and not for that particular mountain. The mountain blasting procedure then stopped and the lease order for the entire Mohanpasi area was cancelled. The ACS members (local villagers) took it upon themselves to protect as well as regenerate the forests saved from the mafia. The sangathan is also protesting against other illegal stone quarries in nearby areas.