RTI cracks language barrier - RTI User manuals in Santhali, seven other tribal tongues

As reported by PRIYA ABRAHAM in The Telegraph on April 2 , 2008

Bhubaneswar, April 1: In a pioneering effort, the state information commission and the Academy of Tribal Dialects and Culture plan to publish a manual on the Right to Information Act in eight tribal languages.

In what is being touted as the first-of-its-kind venture in the country, the manual strives to explain the basics of the RTI in eight languages, including Santhali, Saora, Kui, Kuvi, Koya, Desia, Sadri and Munda.

“No matter how much is said or spoken, members of the tribal community tend to bypass the RTI. The best way to help people remember is to bring out a written manual,” said A.B. Ota, the director of the SC and ST Research and Training Institute.

Orissa has the third-largest concentration of tribals in the country. According to 2001 census, Orissa’s tribal population amounts to 8,145,081, constituting 62 communities, including 13 primitive ones. Thus, the manual makes perfect sense in Orissa.

The manual manuscripts were prepared by the academy at a 10-day translation workshop.

“We had invited tribals from selected pockets, who knew both Oriya and their mother tongue. Most were grassroots functionaries working in tribal sub-plan areas,” said Ota. “They were youth club volunteers and members of self-help groups,” he added.

Translations over, the eight manuscripts were submitted to the information commission that approved it for publication. The first set of manuals is ready and would be soon sent for distribution.

The manuals would be available through Soochna Mahasabhas, where government officials, employed in tribal welfare departments such as Integrated Tribal Development Agency, micro-projects, Adivasi schools and Kanyashrams, would also be educated about the law.

“This is an effort to make tribal people aware about the RTI. Once they know about this powerful tool, they will be able to assert themselves better,” stressed the former state information commissioner, Radhamohan.