How it began at Native Medicare Charitable Trust

Native Medicare Charitable Trust (NMCT) is quite a misnomer for this Coimbatore-based organisation. However, its apt for when the organisation was setup – back in 1988, to carry out research and related activities on Alternate Medicines, Bio-diversity Conservation, Environmental Protection, Waste Management, and Forestry Seeds Collection organization of Adivasis in Tribal villages.

In 1986-87, Mr. Sankaranarayanan was studying “Ethnic Tribals and their traditional practices” at Coimbatore’s Bharathiar Unviersity. His interest in the same motivated him to go on and do a PHD in Alternative Medicine too. It was during the course of his PHD that he set up Native Medicare Charitable Trust, along with his wife Mrs. Seethalakshmi.

The organisation’s first project was with the World Wildlife Fund. A 3 year tie-up, the project was aimed at enhancing the Bio-Diversity in the Nilgiris through the conservation of medicinal plants. It was during the course of this particular project that they witnessed many incidents that made them realize that Tea-estate and Resort owners were clearly taking advantage of the tribals’ illiteracy. Like, when tribal families sold their land for Rs.1-2 lacs to tea-estate/resort owners; enough to feed themselves in the short-run but certainly not in the long run. What’s more – they’re left landless in the process too!

The Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution provides protection to the adivasi (tribal) people living in the Scheduled Areas of nine states in the country from alienation of their lands and natural resources to non tribals. Mr. and Mrs. Sankaranarayanan realized that tribals weren’t even aware of this; and tea-estate/resort owners were using loophools in this amendment against the tribals. Moved by their plight, they decided to do something about it. And that’s how NMCT started working for the welfare of tribal folks.

Their venture into the HIV+ space was motivated by a personal experience. In 2001, one of their staff member who was diagnosed with the disease. Her experiences made them realize that clearly still is a stigma attached to the disease. So, one of their first activities was awareness camps to dispel misconceptions about the disease.

All their projects have started for similar reasons – personal experiences combined with need of the hour. At the end of the day, they want to uplift and empower deprived communities, mainly Tribals and Dalits. And they’ll do what’s necessary to make that happen.

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