27 September 2007

Nomadic Gypsies

The Arcot Lutheran Church (AlC) work with nomadic gypsies legally categorised as a “scheduled tribe” in the designated ‘Vahiri Ministry’. A colony of these nomadic people live at Madampoondi about 40 kilometres from Tiruvannamalai. They live in tents and huts and support themselves by making jewellery and selling cosmetics to homes. In previous times these nomads also hunted however recently the Government cancelled the tribe’s licence to hunt.

Traditionally the tribe placed no value on education and would only marry within their own group. The majority of the nomads are baptised and live as Christians. There is a camp of these people located in the township of Tiruvannamalai at a place called Canon Nagar

The Tamil Nadu Government, in an effort to give importance to these uneducated people, has arranged assistance in the form of free land at Madampoondi. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Dr.M.Karunanidhi, asked that officials give a proper place to these people and that Patta Land (freehold, titled land) be given to the leader of the tribe (Devaraj) to hold on behalf of his people.

Mr.G.Ebenezer Irai Amirtham (a pastor of ALC) is in charge of organising social programmes for these nomads. Of prime importance is imparting to the group of 180 people the value of education. From this group 60 youngsters go to Government School. The pastor visits the nomads 3 days a week and conducts ‘Faith in Christ’ programmes, prayers for healing and a spiritual and secular Sunday School.

The people of this nomadic tribe are non-vegetarians and the ladies work selling from big baskets, door to door and place to place. Another source of income is making beaded necklaces and malas. Previously the tribe were forced to work for exploitive wages of Rs.8 for the production of 12 chains. However recently a better rate of Rs.200 per 12 chains (an average day’s production) has been negotiated. The tribe also make decorative flowers in paper, plastic and cloth.

The social approach of the Vahiri Ministry is; Awareness Programmes, Importance of Education, Family Counselling, Cleanliness and Exposure Programmes. It is hoped that at least 20 children of this group will reach Higher Studies (Engineering and Medicine).

1 comment:

divyakka said...

It is wonderful to hear of the efforts to help these people!