ISP Delhi Bureau
Can a government officer go out of her way to help a tribal art form survive. Yes. Suchitra Sinha, a former bureaucrat, is helping revive Jharkhand’s Sabar tribe with their traditional skills and art forms. Her mission began when she was a serving administrative officer and after retirement she made it her personal mission.
Sinha first met the Sabar tribe members when she was posted in Jamshedpur. Today, the 63-year-old former officer is as active as when she began with her work in the year 1996 with the community as an administrative head. Even today, she drives 96 Km from Ranchi to villages of Saraikela district to meet and mentor the women of the community with bags full of sweets and educational articles for the tribal community in the remote areas.
Sabar tribes of Jharkhand are categorised as “poorest among the poor” and counted among the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG). The areas they live in were once Naxal affected. An endangered tribe among adivasis, with barely 216 families, Sabars are predominantly dependent on the forest for their survival.
The families of the tribe traditionally are dependent on the forest produce for their survival. They cut Kansi grass and make baskets out of it. They also make artistic products out of Date leaves. Suchitra Sinha helped the members of the tribe to develop new designs and organise themselves into a cooperative and guided them in marketing their products.
Intrigued by the designs and skills of the Sabar tribe, Sinha made it her life mission to train them in marketing and get the best price for their products. The turning point in her career came when she was posted in New Delhi and she brought the tribal products and introduced it to the Handicraft Development Commissioner and connected the tribe members with designers from NIFT Delhi and helped enhance the design for international markets.
Suchitra started her work with the tribals in the three villages of Bhangat, Makula, and Samanpur and later reached out to all the 12 villages inhabited by the Sabars. She first created prototypes of bags, table lamps, planters, decor items, baskets etc and exhibited it in Delhi for a wider audience. In 2002, Suchitra set up Ambalika NGO for the development of the Sabar tribe and for promotion of their handicrafts. The breakthrough for the NGO came in 2012 when her group was mandated to design file folders and souvenirs for the BRICS Conference.