The Kawardha Baiga Tribal Trust

KBTT NEWSLETTER 2000 ! (Sadly the low-res inkjet pix don't work well - Apologies)

Sep 2000

Dearest Friends & Supporters,

This newsletters to all of you who share our concerns for the future of Baiga Tribals looks like it is becoming a vehicle for me to voice the joys, hopes and gratitude we have felt during the last 12 months for all the assistance you have given us to help our Baiga friends when they are either ill or injured; in trouble with unscrupulous deceivers, and finding solutions to their very basic of needs. Our sincere gratitude seems inadequate in view of the many children and adults who have survived to walk away from the Palace to roam the jungles again. Along with these positive feelings frustration, disgust and deep sorrow have also been experienced when circumstances were not so favourable for a few of our Baiga friends. It is, however, important that you get an accurate picture of what we are endeavouring to achieve, and do succeed in accomplishing, most of the time.

Looking back through my diary our successes, with the compassionate help & care of Dr. A.K. Shrivastava, far outweighed our losses last year, with regard to life saving. However, Malaria and now Cerebral Malaria, along with their associated debilitating effects, are still our worst enemies in the area. Dr. Shrivastava must despair when I appear with Baigas on the verge of death, but to date he has put all his skills to the test and tries not to let our friends down, though we do pray a lot these days. Tragically lost 15 Baigas, in their jungle villages, to Malaria in November & December, 1999, and, after five jeep trips carrying stricken Baigas here, Yogi had t order a govt. medical team to go to Chilpi to control the epidemic. Medical complacency is a killer in India, sadly.

Thankfully, due to our guests, and their kindness, who stayed with us during the 1999 - 200Q season, and those of you who continue to be so very supportive of our efforts from afar, we have managed to successfully medicate & completely cure over 400 Baigas this year. While some only. required first aid, or a course of antibiotics and a little nutritional food, others were hospitalised for as long as two weeks, when soups or healthy food were prepared here and taken to the Dr. Shrivastava's lovely little hospital. Thank you all so very much.

We are trying to find a large source of Citronella seeds to sew around all the Baiga villages, as apparently this grass acts as a barrier around houses & villages, if planted in adequate amounts. We are also attempting to ban plastic bags from the jungles villages, (which become exaggerated breeding grounds), and ensuring stagnant pools and puddles are immediately filled in with soil & stones. Malaria used to be a seasonal illness, but with deforestation and plastic littering even in the hard to access zones of the jungles, we now have to contend with mosquitoes all year round.

The saddest day of our year was the fateful 17'h May, 2000, when Ashru Baiga was brought to me in the arms of our friend Moti Ram Baiga, son of Bakru Ji, our Guru. When I saw Ashru at our gate I just knew he wasn't going to stay with us very long, but we always try even if the odds are against us. His eyes were bright yellow and he had apparently been floating in and out of consciousness for two days. Moti Ram had gone to visit his sister, Mankuwar Bai, because her father-in-law had died three days earlier of the same ailment, and found his brother-in-law in this dreadful condition, so he rushed down here to me, carrying Ashru all the way. Tragically Dr. Shrivastava was out of Kawardha for just one night, and we rushed him to the Govt. hospital for treatment.

This poor young man had suffered from fevers for almost a month, and a wretched quack had charged him Rs. 700, which is a fortune for Baigas, to inject him with bottles of something. No attempt was made to diagnose Ashru' s actual illness, which was Cerebral Malaria, and no medication was given to reduce the fevers. Hori & I stayed at the hospital to verify that the medication we were buying was actually given to Ashru, and only left when the last vial had been injected into his fading body. At 4am on the 18d' he left us for a kinder atmospheric plane, and we wept bitterly over the injustice of life for Baiga Tribals in what was solely their region of the country. Ashru left behind him a young wife and 8 children, who we are going to support in which ever way we can. The "quack" is fully responsible for his death, but he has implored the Baigas not to bring criminal charges against him, assuring them he will look after them properly from now on. I debated this point heavily with the Village Heads, but their forgiving nature won the day, but we are all watching this loathsome man very carefully.

This years injury list included 6 children and 4 not-so-bright adults with fractured limbs, most of whom had fallen out of trees during the miserably short Mango season! We joked with our Baiga Chiriyas, (birds in Hindi), that the tag of being a bird-brain had taken on a whole new meaning, and started twittering to our invalids. Laughter can erupt even in painful moments. Hori Lal Dhurve, (my chief assistant and problem solver in all we do with the Baigas, and our tourism project), and I had to have serious/comical talks in many villages about bird-like activities being pursued, and that it wasn't a good idea to expect thin little branches to tolerate the weight of us heavier humans, and the message got across - but probably only until the next season's mangoes lure them up a tree. Luckily all the fractures were clean breaks, which a couple of uncomfortable months in plaster, (in April & May when our temperatures soared to all time highs! !), repaired strongly. Tragically one little girl of 2 years, ??, was not so fortunate. She had followed someone up a tree and fell from a great height onto her spine. Her parents brought her to me only after 10 days, which was just too late. We were able to lessen the agony, but she slipped away very soon.

We are now pushing hard to have an accident & emergency facility attached to the hundred bed hospital Yogeshwar Raj Singh has recently succeeded in getting sanctioned from the State Ministry for Health. Badly broken limbs and severe burns usually have to be referred to Raipur, but most of Kawardha's poor, especially Baigas, just will not go there for fear of being ripped off, while the roads are still ghastly and the city frightens them. It is essential we have these facilities available here, even if we at KBTT have to watch over each referred case. Yogeshwar Raj Singh has requested the State Minister for Forests to place a total ban on any logging activities in the Kawardha Forest Range, and has also proposed the establishment of The ~ Sahaspur Wildlife Sanctuary, which has been approved in principle, and we now await the implementation procedures to form the boundaries and employ locals Tribals to participate in its protection. Without jungles our Baiga friends, (and ultimately all humanity in this area), will most definitely discover water & food difficult to find or grow, and along with these gentle souls will fade the sightings and calls of the animals and birds with whom they share these tracks of Mother Nature' s purity Let us hope that we, as a species, wake up soon to the fact that we are not invincible, and if we let Tribals, Tigers and the natural environments the Creator permits us to live in simply perish from existence, we, the more clever, progressive, superior and infinitely more destructive beings will follow these gentler peoples and creatures into obscurity, and sooner than we think. lndia is already facing these crisis, regularly.

Yogi Raj Singh organised a sizeable week long meeting of Baigas from five different districts that once made up Baiga Chak, (the supposed Land of the Baigas), in Feb. 2000. The meeting brought forth the problems each community was facing; possible solutions; alerted Baigas to the schemes the MP Govt. has established for them, and who to approach to utilise these programmes properly and to their benefit; encouraged them to not lose their knowledge of medicinal plants and their uses, and to start cultivating these items around their villages.

 It was a huge success, as Baigas who have succumbed to 'assimilation' suddenly realised what they had was special and are actively trying to resurrect their freedom of spirit. The meeting will be repeated again annually, at their request. My efforts to publish `Free Spirits' - A tribute to the Baiga Tribals of Kawardha is proceeding at a painfully slow pace, due mainly to lack of time, constant interruptions and emergencies. I do apologise, but I will endeavour to get the text finalised by the end of September, 2000, when hopefully my words of love for and gratitude to Baiga Tribals can join forces with Myk Briggs' more than beautiful photographs of our friends, and help us to make a dream come true for all the Baigas of Kawardha by building them their very own hospital & diagnostic centre, in their own environment and on their own land.

Modern Technology - Apologies should also be expressed that our email does not function - someone stole our password on its release from the head office of D.o.T., and they have only just acknowledged this more than irritating one year plus wait for a solution. The lines are still totally unreliable, so it may be a while before we catch up with the globally exciting 214 century high speed communications networks! We still have an intermittent post thief, and, according to those who try, our incoming phone line has a message attached stating that it does not exist. I refuse to allow paranoia to imbed itself in my grey matter, but I feel something not so pleasant is going on.

We would like to thank, enormously, the guests who have graced our doors during the last 12 months, and our stalwart friends who have kept uncannily remembering Baigas when the going was getting rougher than we could cope with, as follows:

Myk Briggs for putting us on his website, Hamish & Anna Dewar, Lockie, India & Woody Dewar, Vanessa Branson & her lovely family, Nick & Elizabeth Brankin-Frisby, Miranda Kielen, Ton de Rooij, Jan Hendrik van der Veen, Arnait Oldenburger, Mirjam Calune, Henk & Jeanne Coeckelbergh, Alies Rutgers, Bubu Kar, Henk Hoeksema, Eric Nederlof, Rix Heijdenrijk, Barry & Sharon Morris, Amanda Bright & Carole Elliott, Sam Vincent, Roswitha Joshi7 Anne Jackson, Claude & Anne Marie Wasserfallen, Thomas & Ellen Flannigan, David & Fern Gerber, Stan & Bonny King, Margaret Godwin & Neel Pratap, Luc & Carole Berger, Francesca Blackwood, Stefan Klein & Alexandra Rigos, Tom, Ingrid and Kim Beazley, Sandra Dudok van Heel, Stephane Bloch Saloz, Adelaide Braamcamp-Maria, Olivier Rossier & Ruth Banziger, Michael Rose & Pam Brereton, Suhail Gupta & Jehan Bhujwala, Sir Anthony & Lady Lilwen Skingsley, Anne & Mark Collins, Clive & Ann Piercy, Tim & Trish Scott Bolton, Nicholas & Suzanna Lyell, Claire Harper Gow, Johnny & Dione Verulam, Gill Collymore, Philip Horniblow, Christopher & Dinah Bell, Sarah Bowden-Smith, Nicola Butler, Donald & Sylvia Stanat, Lady Sally Wade-Gery, David & Jeannine Barber, Sheila Cooper, Margaret L. Munro, Jenny Weeks, Davinder Singh Wazir, John B. Ash, Peter & Pia Werre, Bruce Bristowe, Chris Turner & Ashley Bristowe, Lionel & Lindy Moffat, Kenner & Sondra Beecroft, Harry & Sally Beattie, Tom, Aiden & James Farrell & Lisa Barsumian, Sophie Legard & for her kind assistance in helping me, Robert Graham- Harrison, Gillian Mellsop & Mary Johnson, Len & Eileen Milsom, Marilyn & Dominic McDonald, Ann Gifford & finally Julian Hartnoll & Lizzie Fleetwood Hartnoll.

To you all please accept our heartfelt gratitude for enduring our wretched roads to come and share Maharaja & Yogi's lovely home with us, especially as you make our hopes of helping Baiga Tribals a reality, and their lives a little less traumatic when illnesses and accidents occur. My eternal thanks also goes to Dr. A.K. Shrivastava, without whose medical expertise and kind attitude towards Baigas we simply couldn't achieve what we manage to.


(KBTT is affiliated to The Kawardha Rajya Parivar Nyas Trust
F. No. Regn/Rajnandgaon/8/73. Income tax exemption No. ClT/M.P./TRUST/Rajnandgaon/4173.)

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