A Paroja Samaj delegation led by Mrs. Sumani Jhodia on Friday called on UPA Chairperson Mrs. Sonia Gandhi at her residence 10, Janpath, New Delhi and submitted a memorandum requesting to include ‘Jhodia community’ in the Scheduled Tribe list, which was part of the same till 1997.
The Jhodia population stands around 50,000 who live in around 85 villages, particularly in Kashipur block of Rayagada district in Odisha and eke out a living by collecting forest produce and engaging themselves as daily-wage labourers.
Smt. Jhodia, the crusade of anti-liquor movement in Rayagada, alleged that their community was enjoying the tribal status, but since the late nineties they have been included in the OBC.
“The problem started when industries came to our area and started acquiring land. As government is well aware that it is difficult to acquire tribal land, it slotted us as OBC,” she pointed out.
Smt. Jhodia also recalled the 1987 story to Mrs. Gandhi when the latter visited Kashipur Block of then Koraput district along with former Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi. On a lighter note, she narrated how Mrs. Gandhi had taken the traditional tribal food particularly the Ragi gruel and Gurdi Saga along with the Jhodia inhabitants.
After seeing the horrific situation of poverty stricken Kashipur area, Rajiv Gandhi had sanctioned Rs. 32 Crores for International Agricultural Development Proeject (IFAD) for the development of the Kashipur block as well as the tribal communities.
The community members alleged that they were deprived of various welfare programmes meant for the tribals.
The delegation humbly requested Mrs. Gandhi to direct the concerned authority to include the Jhodia community in the tribal list as early as possible in order to bring the community into the mainstream.
Sankar Prasad Duria, a native of Kashisipur who is now pursuing Ph.D at Delhi University, also participated in the delegation. He has invited Smt. Sonia Gandhi to visit again the undivided Koraput district.
Others who represented the delegation are- Makaranda Muduli ,Ghasen Jhodia, Padma Lochan Jhodia, Mangala Charana Jhodia, Rohidas Nayak and Akshay Malik.