Giving Compass' Take:

• Xavier Dias discusses how he has worked to help Adivasis in Jharkhand secure their land, labor, and human rights against exploitation for precious minerals. 

• How can funders and organizations support minority groups protect their rights? 

• Learn more about the role of philanthropy in India

Activist, humanitarian, and writer, Xavier Dias is a name familiar to most Adivasis in Jharkhand. An integral part of the Jharkhand statehood movement, he was also a key leader in the fight against uranium mining in the state. At 67, Xavier has spent most of his adult life working closely with Adivasis, helping them secure and safeguard their land, labor, and human rights, and raise their political consciousness.

What does development mean to you?

The development that people talk about—our middle and urban classes don’t understand what it really means. For them it’s about ‘the Adivasis are sitting on iron ore, coal, uranium. Why can’t they sell their land—it’s a win-win situation.’ Till now, nobody has become a millionaire by selling their agricultural land or mining on their land.

Imagine that you live in Malviya Nagar, New Delhi. And the government finds gold beneath your land. They will requisition your home and land and give you compensation. You can go to another part of the city and buy a house there. That is called relocation. But what if they gave you a wooden plank, with some Bisleri water, a bundle of money notes and leave you in the middle of the Arabian Sea. That is what displacement looks like for the Adivasi peoples.

They don’t have much of a choice; they have to leave their lands and go to the mines or bastis. Most of the mining towns don’t have sewage treatment plants, and all the sewage is released into the surrounding rivulets and rivers, which in turn are sources of drinking water. The women and children suffer the most—in the millions. And nobody knows. In Bombay electricity is available with the flick of a switch and you take it as a right, as an entitlement. But does anyone think about what it really costs?

Read the full  interview with Xavier Dias about helping Adivasis by Sneha Philip and Smarinita Shetty at India Development Review.