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Odisha Govt Establishes Commission to Safeguard and Promote Tribal Languages

Bhubaneswar:  In a groundbreaking move to uphold linguistic diversity and empower tribal communities, the Government of Odisha has officially instituted the first-ever Commission for Preservation and Promotion of Tribal Languages of the Scheduled Tribes of Odisha. This initiative, which aligns with the state’s commitment to preserving cultural heritage, was approved by the Odisha State Cabinet on January 29, 2024, and has been in effect since February 16.

The Commission’s establishment was formally announced through an official notification from the Scheduled Tribes & Scheduled Castes Development, Minorities & Backward Classes Welfare (SSDMBCW) Department, published in the Odisha Gazette on February 20, just ahead of International Mother Language Day.

The primary objective of the Commission is to preserve and promote the 21 tribal languages spoken by the 62 scheduled tribe communities, including 13 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in the state. It aims to protect linguistic diversity, encourage multilingual education, and facilitate the dissemination of indigenous languages.

The Commission will be headed by a chairperson (an individual appointed by the state government for their significant contributions to tribal language preservation and promotion) while the Secretary to the SSDMBCW Department acting as its vice-chairperson. The Director of ST will serve as the Member Convenor, and the Commission will also include ex-officio members, expert members, and ST members, with a mandatory 33% reservation for women among ST members.

The Commission’s powers, equivalent to that of a cabinet minister, empower it to advise the state government and take necessary steps to address discrimination and deprivation related to the promotion of tribal languages among tribal populations.

Ms. Roopa Roshan Sahoo, Commissioner-cum-Secretary of the SSDMBCW Department, expressed optimism about the Commission’s role in building upon the successful implementation of various policies aimed at protecting, preserving, and promoting tribal languages in the state. She highlighted the active involvement of ST communities as stakeholders in these processes.

Tribal Language Commission, Odisha Gazette

The Odisha government, through its SSDMBCW Department, has been proactively promoting tribal languages by introducing multilingual education in schools, providing Multilingual Education (MLE) training to teachers, publishing multilingual dictionaries, hosting tribal language poetry conferences, organizing multilingual tribal drama festivals, and establishing community spaces for the exchange of ideas in indigenous languages. The department, through its research and training institutes, continues to conduct rigorous research to further the promotion of tribal languages.

This initiative marks a significant step towards preserving the linguistic and cultural richness of Odisha’s tribal communities, ensuring their voices are heard and celebrated.

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