People with no address
by Emanuele Siracusa
With about 4 million members in more than 300 different communities, the nomadic population of the State of Gujarat in India is quite substantial and diverse. In the past, each nomadic community used to provide a specific service to the community: many groups specialising in performing – they were musicians, fire-eaters, snake charmers, acrobats, whereas other tribes would carry out manual work (eg. Iron-smiths, knife sharpeners, bamboo artisans.) Technology and industrialisation have contributed to the collapse of the demand of such services, threating the survival of their culture and traditions, and what’s worse – eroding their livelihood.
The level of literacy among these tribes is negligible and therefore it’s being hard for nomads to move on to other jobs and pursue alternative sources of income. Plus they’re often victims of prejudice and discrimination, which created even more hurdles. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s no record of their existence as individuals in the civil registry, which ultimately means they have no IDs, they can’t vote, and have no access to the health or welfare system.
A number of NGOs, including Ahmedabad based VSSM, managed by former journalist Mittal Patel, are fighting for the upliftment of the nomadic communities of Gujarat. Interventions carried out include establishing informal schools in settlements, helping children access normal schools, helping adults getting ID, voter cards and housing benefits, and providing professional skills training to facilitate access to the job market.
© Emanuelle Siracusa, Soul Frames Collective