The Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is making a concerted bid to recapture its stronghold of the Attappady tribal heartland which it had lost in the last grama panchayat and Assembly elections.
Senior LDF leaders are making a beeline for Attappady. CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan already visited the tribal hamlets on May Day. A team of the Communist Party of India (CPI), led by its central executive committee member and the former MP K.E. Ismail, will reach Attappady on Saturday.
Earlier, another CPI team consisting of party MLAs V.S. Sunilkumar and Mullakkara Ratnakaran had visited the area. The former Minister for the Welfare of Scheduled Tribes A.K. Balan, MLA, is expected to call on the hamlets soon.
Mr. Vijayan’s visit along with senior leaders of the party in the district, including district secretary C.K. Rajendran and N.N. Krishnadas, former MP, drew good response from the tribespeople who are anguished over the death of 33 infants of malnutrition in Attappady.
Those who accompanied Mr. Vijayan during his visit to Nelliampathy, Vadakke Kadampara, Thekke Kadampara, Vellimari and Paloor said the CPI(M) leader was visibly upset by the cries of the tribal women. He criticised the State government for “criminal neglect of the tribals’ cause”.
The tribespeople complained that government officials and politicians ruling the three grama panchayats in Attappady had neglected their repeated pleas for help. Addressing a press conference at Agali on Wednesday, Mr. Vijayan asked “whether Attappady was part of Kerala or part of Ethiopia in Africa where starvation deaths had taken place years back.”
The CPI(M) leader directed his party machinery to take up relief measures in Attappady by distributing food, medicine, and other assistance as required by the tribespeople. The CPI(M) State secretary announced that a health committee of the party headed by B. Ekbal would visit Attappady and give recommendations on the remedial measures.
Another high-level committee comprising party leaders and tribal experts will be formed to make recommendations to the party to formulate a tribal policy’ in the State, he said.
Mr. Vijayan called upon Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) to appoint a Minister exclusively for Attappady. He said the government should provide compensation to the families who had lost their children due to malnutrition, as it had happened due to the breakdown of the government machinery in Attappady.
He urged the government to open a nutrition centre in Attappady to end malnutrition among children. An IAS officer should be appointed to co-ordinate the various government programmes for tribal welfare in Attappady.
The CPI(M) State secretary has asked the government to appoint officials with integrity and pro-tribal approach. He has also advised the feeder organisations of the party working among government employees not to protect the guilty officials at various levels in Attappady.