For the past 20 years, Manoharan P acted as a link between the tribal people and the Kerala government, after he joined as a Scheduled Tribe (ST) promoter with the ST Development Department of the government in 2000, conveying the need of people from his community and ensuring that it gets fulfilled. But during the last local body election, something unexpected happened.
He contested the elections as CPI (M) candidate and got elected from Chaliyar panchayat in Malappuram district in Kerala. And later he became the president of the panchayat, which was reserved for ST, and is believed to be the first from Paniya Tribe as reported The News Minute.
According to ST Department, ST/Tribal Promoters are those selected and appointed to function as "facilitators in tribal areas for channelising and extending the benefits of tribal development schemes to the STs."
Chaliyar panchayat alone has 37 tribal colony settlements, according to Manoharan and he comes from Peruvambadam colony. Malappuram district is normally dominated by Muslims. Almost 70 per cent of Kerala's Muslim population resides in the district.
According to the Kerala Institute of Research Training, Paniya is one largest tribal communities out of 35 communities in Kerala. Most of the members of the community are from the Wayanad district.
Manoharan told The News Minute, "In my 20 years as an ST promoter, I have made it possible for 17 families to get 33 cents of land to build their homes, helped get their ration cards and with job opportunities. Now I am trying to work out a way to uplift the community without changing their ways, like how I have been able to grow in all these years."
As COVID-19 impacted the lives of the tribal population, Manoharan has laid out his plans for the welfare of his community people and what work he wants to undertake for the development of the society as a panchayat president. He made sure that ration kits reach every household during the pandemic. He has also arranged to administer COVID vaccine doses to those between the age group of 18 and 44.
Manoharan wants to improve the living condition of his community. According to him, the community has been at the lowest rung of the ladder as many of them study up to Class 12 and later are reluctant to go for further education and look for employment opportunities in the state itself. Several middle-aged people end up working as daily wage labourer as they don't have sufficient farmland.