A lawyer by profession, Pradeep Dash began his grassroots experience in the extremist-hit district of Rayagada near the Odisha-Andhra border in 1984. His primary work has been facilitating the empowerment of Lanjia Sora and Kondh adivasis who live in remote and often inaccessible forest areas. Under the leadership of Dash, Lok Chetna Sangathan, has been taking up issues of land & forest rights, education, health, legal aid, migrant workers’ rights and child labour since 1987. He became a SRUTI Fellow in 2002.
The sangathan has made several strides in realising the rights of adivasi groups over forests, generating recognition of this age-old symbiotic relationship. By harnessing the power of self-governance through Panchayati Raj Institutions, they have enabled the community to create pressure for proper governance, implementation of various schemes and against local corruption. Rayagada is witness to much migration of adivasi youth to cities, where they often end up facing physical and mental exploitation. Lok Chetna Sangathan has been instrumental in rescuing migrant and child labourers from conditions of bondage and abuse. Under Dash’s guidance the sangathan organises training programs every year on legal advocacy, women’s rights, Panchayati Raj and youth leadership. Pradeep has been instrumental in building leadership of vulnerable communities in the area and continues to regularly take on pro bono legal work. Lok Chetna sangathan is part of the national forest rights platform Campaign for Survival and Dignity.