Sulekha Mal greeted us with homemade Maalpoha (dessert) when we arrived at her residence. Sulekha has earned a reputation for herself in her hamlet of Gamra in Sikaripara Block, Jharkhand, for her revolutionary efforts in the field of health. Gawra, situated on the border between Jharkhand and West Bengal, is isolated from basic health and education services.
Sulekha sat with us and told us about her experience after she was free of her routine responsibilities. Sulekha Mal, 45, is a member of the Mal Pahariya Tribe, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PTGs). The Dhebhar Commission established the Primitive Tribal Groupings as a separate category in 1973, indicating that they are the least developed of the tribal groups. The PTGs were renamed PVTGs by the government in 2006.
There are 75 PTGs among the 705 Scheduled Tribes. They are mainly homogeneous, have a tiny population, are relatively physically separated, lack written language, have primitive technology, and change happens at a slower pace.
Sulekha said, “When I was younger, I wanted to be a nurse so that I could help those who are sick. Even I had intended to study science after tenth grade. However, due to family pressure, my father married me after the tenth result. Consequentially, I had to leave my studies behind.” Sulekha currently works as a cook at a neighbouring government school and volunteers as a Badlav Didi, (teaching woman) in her community for basic health etiquette.