Indigenous Peoples’ Programme
The Indigenous Peoples’ Programme area endeavours to revive and restore indigenous culture and knowledge and help communities bridge development gaps with active participation in sharing of traditional knowledge and educating the younger generation. This programme uses mass media like a quarterly newsletter and community radio to reach out to the community. Documentation of culture and traditions and imparting knowledge to younger generations is also an important area of focus.
Community Newspaper – Nilgiri Seemai Sudhi
The Nilgiri Seemai Sudhi was begun in 2007 after discussions with the indigenous communities in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. As commercial newspapers do not cover indigenous news, the communities felt that a dedicated newspaper would be a good medium to share happenings within the communities and spread traditional knowledge, thereby communicating better and reviving connections that had earlier existed between individual groups.
Today, the 8-page newspaper is published quarterly with news related to births, deaths, rituals and ceremonies within the communities. Further news includes information about traditional knowledge, political news, prices of farm and forest produce, information on human, tribal and forest rights, health tips and recipes. The Nilgiri Seemai Sudhi has 30 reporters (20 female and 10 male) from Kurumba, Irula, Kasava, Vettikadu Irula, Urali , Kota and Toda communities. The newspaper articles are written in Tamil, Malayalam or Kannada and the headlines are in community dialects. One thousand copies of the newspaper are printed every quarter and these are distributed to 235 villages. For those who are not able to read the newspaper, there are reading sessions conducted by the reporters in each village. With active community cooperation, the Nilgiri Seemai Sudhi has now been successfully completed 10 years.
Community Radio – Radio Kotagiri (90.4MHz)
After many years of publishing news regarding indigenous peoples in print, IPP expanded to include voice media and Radio Kotagiri (90.4 MHz) was inaugurated in 2013 at the Keystone Centre. The community radio works as a tool for documenting indigenous oral tradition. The initial target group was also expanded to include majority communities and overcome barriers of culture and language between indigenous groups. Most of the broadcast is in Tamil and Badaga infused with indigenous dialects. Currently, the radio is broadcasting seven hours every day and reaches out to listeners within a 15-kilometre radius around Kotagiri town.
Emergency Health Support
Indigenous communities of the Nilgiris have very low populations. They also live mostly in very remote areas and their economic status is very poor. Oftentimes, it has been seen that due to the distance from hospitals and expense incurred during treatment, a large number of people are reluctant to opt for modern medical care even during life-threatening medical conditions. Under Emergency Health Support, IPP encourages people to seek treatment by covering medical, food and vehicle expenses. Some of the health issues supported by the programme are conditions such as gangrene, sickle cell anaemia, kidney and heart problems, surgeries, complicated childbirth and mental health issues.
Higher Education Support
The Nilgiris have always been known to be a centre of quality secondary and higher secondary education, but the lack of higher education opportunities locally has affected indigenous communities badly. It has been seen that in remote and impoverished areas, the cost of travel and subsidized fees of government collages are too high for some individuals to bear. The Higher Education Support programme for especially vulnerable indigenous students provides partial college funding for children of families in difficult circumstances such as single mothers, who otherwise may not have been able to send their children for higher education.