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 The RoFR act recognizes the dwelling site, religious places, burial grounds, village council sites along with places of MFP, water resources, biodiverisity etc and also PVT tenures. As the implementation boils down to title deeds for house sites and lands under cultivation, SAKTI engaged the Chenchu youth to document their traditional knowledge in their idiom and dialect, in encouraging them to assert as inborn foresters, capable of managing these resources as envisaged in the Act.

"Since SAKTI activities are mostly issue based and covering a large area, here we concentrate on the forest-related programmes of SAKTI for the present study."


The Tribal Struggle for Property Rights

-Arun Kumar

SAKTI: Review Report by: Mukta Srivastava, Programme Officer, Oxfam GB in India - Hyderabad . DATE : 20-25 November 2002




Bhukya Bhangya

Asst. Professor of History

Nizam College,

Osmania University,


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Tribals speak one language
(Deccan Chronicle, Sunday, July 23, 2000)(Deccan Chronicle, Sunday, July 23, 2000)

Geeta Ramaswamy meets Sivaramakrishna, the director of Sakti, who is also working
very closely with the tribals and has initaited several writ petitions on
issues concerning them.

TRIBAL PURSUITS: Sivaramakrishna

School teacher turned activist Sivaramakrishna is easily the one activist who has made a significant impact on marginalised people’s politics this past decade. He is variously known as the director of Sakti (search for action and knowledge for tribal initiative), a voluntary agency working with tribals in the four districts of East and West Godavari, Khammam and Kurnool, as being the initiator of several writ petitions on important issues concerning tribals, and over the past five years, as being intensely involved with tribals assertions over lands in the Agency area.
Lanky and unassuming with heavy glasses perched percariously on his nose, Sivaramakrishna melts into any background, rather than standing out officiously. He is an unlikely looking leader for the tribal movement in West and East Godavari and Khammam districts that conjured up romantic images. He is well-known in administrative and activist circles, yet, remains somewhat of an enigma, both because of his low profile and his distance from the old boys’ network where ‘you-scratch-my-back, I-scratch-yours’ is the rule. He is single-minded (people who are not fond of him would say he’s pig-headed), intelligent (the same people would say he’s devious) and he’s a hard worker (‘he does only his work’, say his detractors). Being a man, he’s at an disadvantage in the field of social activism where he towering figures are women and the agenda of the day is ‘women-empowerment’. A woman is almost ‘always sincere’, a man
"Even though I had taught tribals at Geddada for
seven years, I was taken aback when I discovered teh
richness of tribal life while documenting
tribal knowledge in their songs and lore."
is suspect till he’s otherwise proved so, a woman is deemed to have ‘sacrified’, whereas a man makes a living off his activist work, a woman is deemed ‘unconventional’ where a man is ‘deviant’ - many of the gender stereotypes work against men in social activism.

A rare sensitivity marks him however - he will not impose his views on you, he is willing to go along only as far as you want to, and he respects others’ priorities and time where their own work is concerned. In a world where male activists have expected the world (that is women) to cook for them, entertain them and provide the comfortable shoulder to weep on, Sivaramakrishna has a woman’s sensitivity.

He was born 47 years ago in a impoverished family. His family taught the Puranas for a living in Jaggayapeta. His father sold his last acre of his land for ‘Sivaramakrishna’s education. The three brothers went through Oriental Colleges to become Telugu teachers. In those days English education was considered expensive. In 1969, Sivaramakrishna was appointed a teacher in a Zilla Parishad school in his hometown. Two years later, he moved to Maredumilli in the East Godavari agency area, where he taught in Geddada for seven years.

As a young man, Sivaramakrishna had wanted the Western-based formal education. While teaching he continued to study till he took his Master’s in Telugu. The Geddada Maastaaru (coastal Andhra Telugu for Master --- school-teacher) who commanded respect from the villages around for his sincere work quit his job to do his Ph.D. in tribal songs and lore. Working towards his doctorate changed Sivaramakrishna’s life. "I travelled through the agency areas in seven districts of Andhra Pradesh extensively, a lot of it walking. Even though I had taught tribals at Geddada for seven years, I was taken aback when I discovered teh richness of tribal life while documenting tribal knowledge in their songs and lore. A single couplet of the 16 lines had so much knowledge distilled in it that I needed three to four pages to interpret it. With this discovery, I became so restless that I could not go back to formal teaching."

Sivaramakrishna worked with a voluntary agency in Chintur for a short while till he returned to Geddada in 1984 to set up SAKTI. SAKTI worked on the soft development options of social forestry, skill-training and thrift coops. With his concern for tribals, he was soon drawn into conflicts. "We had a social forestry programme in a village where the tribals were agitated over the illegal sale of liquor by a contractor and the strong arm tactics of his goondas. (Tribals brew their own liquor). With my approval, they looked up his illegal stocks of liquor. I was arrested along with the tribals and we spent the night in the police lock-up. The contractor had already sent his men to negotiate a compromise with us. If the tribals had not stood firm. I don’t know if I would have. "We are already in police lock-up,’ they said, ‘let us wait till we come out on bail.’ That was a landmark for me." The Gaddada maastaru was learning the ways of the tribal.

The ex-school-teacher picked up fast. In the villages around Rampa, travelling to the town for seeing the cenima was a costly affair. Girls and young women picked up rides in timber lorries and were routinely assaulted. In many other instances, non-tribals (not setlers who came with their families) routinely kept tribal women as mistresses and deserted them and their children when they wanted. Sivaramakrishna helped women to file cases against rape, for maintenance, etc. It stands to his credit that he painstakingly trained the women to argue their own cases.

"The law and its procedures should be demystified." he argues, "for the tribals to gain control over their own affairs. Even a night in lock-up or a couple of days in jail is part of the demystification process!"

Within two years, Sivaramakrishna had ‘graduated’ in social issues. In 1987, the Chipko leader, Chandi Prasad Bhatt’s visit to the Eastern Ghats had sparked off Sivaramakrishna’s interest in sustaining the environment of the tribal. When mango trees, dear to the tribal, were cut down for plywood factories. Sivaramakrishna coined the slogan, mamidi kottoddu, ma potta kottoddu - don’t cut the mango trees that feed us.’ A chance letter to a High Court lawyer led to a writ in the High Court. The High Court gave a stay. Sivaramakrihsna had no idea what a stay was, nor what forest management principles were. When the official papers of the court reached him, he had, for the first time access to both. The consequent checking up in the field, gave him his first heady taste of success. From then on, there was no looking back, Privatisation of the katha trade, illegal large-scale felling, private mining, cheating by the Government agencies, non-compliance of the Minimum Wages Act, unsound forest management principles - many more issues followed.

"Tribals speak with one voice, unmediated
intra-community conflicts are rare, they have the
stamina and the instinct to fight for centuries. Tehy pick
up quarrels slowly, but when they do, they don’t leave them"
Meanwhile, Sivaramakrishna was slowly being pulled into the conflict over land. Despitere restrictive legislation, large tracts of land formerly cultivated by tribals had been taken over by non-tribal Kamma and Kapu settlers from the Andhra plains. The forest, the natural environment of the tribal was being slowly and surely destroyed, his land was colonised - the tribal was being hemmed in from all sides. Skill training (carpentry, basket-weaving, and other government schemes) was not helping either. They needed long gestation periods and favourable market conditions to survive. Land cultivation was the only skill available to this generation of tribals and yet the tribal land had been grabbed.

Sivaramakrishna prepared ground by accessing all possible information of land records from revenue offices, karnams and courts. In 1995, the land movement of the tribals began, though from an entirely unexpected corner. Tribal youngsters had been employed by SAKTI to work in the land classification area. They read their grandfathers’ names in the records. The 1933 revenue survey report of Jillallagudem had stated that all holdings were tribal. 62 years later, 80 per cent of the holdings were non-tribals. Wholesale illegality was possible through connivance of the revenue officials, apathy on the part of district and senior officials and a less-than-rigorous, examination by the court, including the High Court. According to a 1995 court order, a chunk of land had to be restored to the tribals. When the non-tribals refused, the tribals rose up to the last man. ‘We known that the entire village belonged to our grandfathers. How did they lose all our lands? Give us back all our lands.’ they said.

Jillallagudem blazed the way for West Godavari agency areas and adjoining Khammam. Very soon, land records were being read out by the literate tribals and SAKTI volunteers. Whole villages rose up to reclaim their lost lands. The movement itself has been well-reported. Readers will remember the cases of MROs and Sub-Inspectors being kidnapped by tribals, crops harvested by them, police shooting at tribals. Bows, arrows and spears - reminiscent of the great Rampa revolt, were again freely used. But this time, the might of the State represented by its gun-toting police, their dreaded lock-ups, the rimarole of court proceedings and the double-talking politicians could not cow the tribals down. The help given by SAKTI in reading the records, analysing the documents, legal help to get bail and fight court cases, was enough to up the balance.

"A decade earlier. I had throught that the normal democratic processes could solve the problems of the tribals. I had thought that the government could and would implement its own laws."

Those were also the golden days of committed young officers like Reddy Subramanyam, P.V. Ramesh, MVPC Sastry, T. Vijay Kumar and others who had activised governance in favour of the tribals.

Observing the movement and monitoring the responses of the administration, politicians and courts, Sivaramakrishna now feels that the tribal has to enter an an equal partner in governance if justice has to be done. He says, "Tribals have the advantage. They speak with one voice, unmediated intra-community conflicts are rare, they have the stamina and the instinct to fight for centuries. Tehy pick up quarrels slowly, but when they do, they don’t leave them. Their forefathers have withstood starvation, today’s tribals can still do so. Their demand is for a dignified life and self-esteem."



W.P. No. 5515/87 M.P.No.7398/87 Date:May 1987

W.P. No. 6175/87 M.P.No.8273/87 Date:May 1987

 "Managing Director Godavari plywoods ltd. Rampachodavaram E.G.Dt. be and hereby is directed not to cut any mango trees, jamun and jack trees and cutting the forests of Maredumilli mandal, E.G.Dt."

 Only matured or dying trees were to be felled. Jeelugu (Caryota urens) palm, trees yielding minor forest produce like tamarind or cane brakes, creepers were not to be touched. A gap of 20 meters from a stream.)         --Times of India, April 30, 1991.


The candidate has chosen a topical subject, very relevant to our thinking on culture, cognition and language. He has red widely and is familiar with the literature that matters. His linguistic and anthropological reasoning is sound. His language is clear and simple.

...evidence of the investigator's ability as a linguist by special training and as a linguistic anthropologist by self - cultivated interest.

Prof. A.Munirathnam Reddy, Head, Department of Social Anthropology,S.V.University, Tirupati - 517502


Enabling the Community to Gain Command Over the Administrative Process is Empowerment.


"Today the development is manaement without governance and governanace is without proper participation."



A.P.Cabinet Sub - Committee Report on Left Wing Extrremists. - P.Sivaramakrishna.

The only information the government or media always compile carefully is on Naxalite encounters, never the violations of the instruments of rule of law such as minimum wages, fifth schedule, mismanagement of forests, equity in the distribution of welfare benefits, displacement, fragmentation of Socio-economic entities etc. 



if the R & R is found to be lagging with reference to the fixed bench marks, the construction should accordingly be deferred / stopped;



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