‘Phase Pardhis' of Central India in Search of Sustainable Livelihoods through Natural Resources Conservation
With the changing colonial-modern, postmodern and globalised conditions in India, as many parts of the world, a number of communities engaged in traditional livelihood practices turn out to be ‘broken men’. The objective of this paper is to address the collective action and social change among the Phase Pardhi, the denotified, displaced nomadic tribal community of Akola, Washim districts of Maharashtra, traditionally engaged with hunting and therefore tagged as villain of nature which turned out to be the conservers of natural resources.
The paper, based on empirical qualitative data gathered from personal narratives, observations on the field, informal interviews of the tribals and the Samavenada actionists around Akola region of Vidarbha. It analyses, spaces, conditions and mechanisms where a traditional downtrodden community can design nature conservation model to strengthen alternative, sustainable livelihood activities and escape from the labels of ‘hunter destroyers’ and ‘poachers’. The tribal community in association with Samvedana, an action group of nature, generated and conserved around hundreds of sq km area of grassland and the biodiversity around their villages to support alternative livelihood. Indigenous collective efforts of the community coupled with the traditional knowledge and civil society support is trying to overcome with an alternative model of their own to sustain, develop and live with pride. This novel case shows new avenues to small, marginal communities in India with distinct cultural and traditional economic background can build alternative livelihoods and conserve natural-forest resources. Civil societies working on the environmental aspects of sustainable development can have a lot baggage with this unconventional exercise.