07/19/2010, 00.00
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Karnataka: Jesuits promote development of Kurubas, tribal and shepherds

by Santosh Digal
The Kurubas live in north Karnataka and survive by grazing animals. They were not aware of modern medicine or integrated in to society. Thanks to the work of the Jesuits, for over 15 years, they have learned veterinary medicine and founded a federation. For Kamal Kishore, a veterinarian and scientist, the Jesuits "have done monumental work, the only example of its kind in India”.

Bangalore (AsiaNews) - The Jesuits in the province of Goa, Karnataka State, have for the past 15 years through the Association Jan Jagaran (Jj) have been helping the Kurubas, a nomadic tribal community that lives from grazing sheep and goats.

In northern Karnataka, 200 thousand Kurubas live in 12 districts and own about 13 million sheep and goats, moving constantly in search of new pastures for their livestock. The Kurubas have always been marginalized by society, living without a home and or land of their own.

Before their encounter with the Jesuits, they were in a precarious condition . Every year most of their livestock died from diseases that the shepherds did not know how to cure, not knowing the existence of veterinary medicine and unwilling to detach themselves from their way of life.

"We Jesuits are trying to improve their living conditions," says Fr Joseph, Chenakala JJ director of. "We have been helping the shepherds and defending their rights for a long time." The work of Jj has borne surprising fruit and began 15 years ago, when the Jesuits were sent a veterinarian to speak to the heads of Kurubas, who explained the need to vaccinate animals to prevent deadly infections.

Later, the Jesuits organized a seminar for 50 Kurubas that lasted 15 days under the guidance of Veterinary College, Diagnostic and Vaccine Institute and the Sheep and Wool Development Board of the Government of Karnataka. This is how the Kurubas became involved in society and were convinced to use modern medical practices, dramatically reducing the death of livestock.

The Jesuits have also contributed to the development of the Kurubas, raising the whole community in socio-political and economic terms. After years of commitment and educational organization, the Kurubas formed the North Karnataka Shepherds Federation, composed of 400 groups for a total of 6 thousand people.

Ghanta Manjunath, president of the federation, says: "I am a shepherd and I have received minimal education. I still can not believe I am chairman of such a great organization and represent my community. No matter how much it costs, I will not disappoint my people”.

A delegation of North Karnataka Shepherds Federation recently met with Indian authorities to present a document where Kurubas outline their needs from the standpoint of economics and trade, beginning a dialogue with the government.

Kamal Kishore, a veterinarian and scientist who participated in drafting the document, commented on the work of the Jesuits: "As I went from village to village, it became apparent that here was a monumental work done . I believe that it must be the only example of its kind in India”.

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