IRCS offers them an opportunity to rear hybrid Ongole cattle
The Chenchus once used to rush to climb a tree on seeing strangers in their locality.
But now, they are socialising with people from the other areas as well, thanks to sustained efforts of the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) and the Integrated Tribal Development Agency to empower them. “It has taken us a lot of time to gain their confidence,” explains IRCS district secretary Ch. Chalamaiah while talking to The Hindu.
The septuagenarian ophthalmologist distributed dhoties and saris to the community people in the remote Garapentachennupalem tribal hamlet as a confidence-building measure before introducing them to the Indian Red Cross Society’s latest livelihood support programme — to rear hybrid Ongole cattle — to improve their income.
The girijans jumped in joy and performed a traditional dance before a joint team of the IRCS and ITDA personnel.
“'We will henceforth wear dhoties for social occasions,” said an elder of the community Mandala Nagamma while accepting the gift with gratitude.
Traditionally, they had been guides to kings in moving through the dense forests down the ages. They acted as guides for the British too during which time that got used to wearing half pants, ITDA Special Officer K.V. Ramakrishna Prasad added.
With the Centre recognising the rights of forest dwellers, they had taken to cultivation of rain-fed crops such as redgram and millets, Mr. Ramakrishna Prasad said.
“We have already tasted the fruits of development and want to increase our levels of income to lead a better life,” added another tribal woman Bumani Ankamma.
Dr. Chalamaiah explained to them that by rearing the Ongole breed of cattle, the most sought-after breed the world over, they could easily earn up to Rs. 1 lakh a year.
They immediately grabbed the opportunity and agreed to the proposal. “Initially, we are going to distribute 100 milch cattle to the tribal people in association with the Go Samrakshana Sangham,” Dr. Chalamaiah added.
Dr. Chalamaiah medically examined every member of the over 50 families living there and gave them medicines to improve their general health. He also advised them on general hygiene for women.
Change in attitude
“I can see a change in their attitude. They have an urge to come up in life,” he said, with a sense of satisfaction.
The inhabitants of the remote area, the northern most tip of Prakasam district, were open to the piece of advice given by Dr. Chalamaiah to educate their children for a better future for themselves. He also asked them to shun consumption of liquor and spend the amount thus saved on buying nutritious food.