Breaking ground: ACT staffer steps up to top Indian body

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

By Rachel Rao

A young Indian man from a sidelined ethnic group is about to take his place on a government body that strives to improve life for India’s poorest.

Gladson Dungdung, 32, has become the youngest member of India’s prestigious planning commission working on long-term development schemes for the country.

The commission recommends and writes new government policies for excluded socio-religious groups, such as Adivasis, Dalits and religious minorities. Dungdung’s job will be to help create programmes for disadvantaged people.

Dungdung works for an ACT Alliance member as a human rights activist. His position on the commission and his role as an Adivasi will enable him hold talks between the “inaccessible government” and India’s socially and economically powerless, he says.

He believes his influence could bring about lasting change for voiceless communities.

“I feel extremely happy as I’m the youngest in the committee and perhaps the first from Jharkhand. It is recognition of my work by the government of India and also of the voices, problems and issues I have been raising.

The job is a key to opening the locked doors of power from where government authorities are reluctant to talk to the people. Most people have no access to government.

“I believe I’ll be able to create space for the Adivasis in the corridor of power, access information I have been denied for a decade and be able to implement programmes. I’ll also establish myself as a leader of the Adivasi community.”

Dungdung has been working amongst the Adivasi of Jharkhand for many years and has been urging the government to acknowledge the situation of these people.

His life story is an epic one. Coming from the Adivasi community in Jharkhand province, he was forced from his home when the Kelaghagh dam was built. His parents were brutally murdered when he was only 12.

After a number of struggles and a disruption to his studies for two years when he couldn’t pay school fees, he eventually got a post graduate degree in human rights. His life since has been one of championing displaced people to all who listen.

ACT members mentioned in this story: Church of North India Synodical Board of Social Services.