The Sabar tribe of Jharakhand (East India) is an endangered tribal population, once trapped in the maoist zone, is still struggling to beat extreme poverty and underdevelopment. Thanks to Palash (www.ambalika.org), that not only offered them sustainable livelihood but also saved their tribe from extinction.
Palash is an initiative to train Sabar artisans from Sarikela district to weave eco-friendly designer products to make a livelihood. Sabar is one of the most primitive and languishing tribes in the country. Their strong resistance to British dominance resulted in getting them listed among the 68 denotified tribes who were tagged criminals under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871.
Most Sabar people now live in Samanpur (60 km from Jamshedpur), a village which does not have proper road connectivity.
“It was beyond my imagination to see the pathetic condition of the Sabars when I first went to Samanpur in 1996. Abject poverty prevailed there. They lived in small huts of three by four feet, which they could enter only by crawling, they survived on roots and fruits or on dead animals,” said Suchitra Sinha, the then Joint Director (Industries) Jharkhand government, who initiated the project Palash.
“We lived in the Jungle and never knew of education. We used to gather firewood and sell them to earn Rs 100-200 a month (US $ 3-4). There is still no road, hospital or anything” said Sagar Sarwar, one of the artisans.
Things started turning around when Sinha saw a woman weaving a basket out of Kanshi grass. “I saw a huge potential in this intricate weaving” she said. With the help of National Institute of Fashion Technology in Delhi, Sinha arranged training of such artisans. “The village can also be projected as a tourism destination due to its greenery” said Sinha. Tourists can also see the work and directly buy the produce.