The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has intervened in the problem of malnutrition deaths plaguing the tribal belts of Attappady in Palakkad district in the State.
A letter written by T.K.A. Nair, Adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has urged Kerala Chief Secretary E.K. Bharat Bhushan to take preventive measures to find an amicable solution to the grave problem. (As many as 54 children have reportedly died owing to malnutrition in the Attappady hills in the past 11 months.)
Mr. Nair, who paid a two-day visit to Attappady mid-July, has asked Mr. Bhushan “to consider ensuing appropriate action on the following points which are of great urgency in my assessment.”
The letter, dated July 23, a copy of which is with The Hindu, mentions 12 points to be implemented in the tribal hamlets. A major programme is asking the government agencies to put into practice name-based tracking of the already identified 900-odd tribal and non-tribal pregnant women in the three villages of Agali, Sholayur, and Pudur. This method should also be adopted for tracking children below 12 months.
Joint teams of medical professionals and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) staff should visit each Ooru (tribal hamlet) once a week.
A part of the facilities at the Kottathara Tribal Hospital can be allocated for treating severe malnutrition cases of pregnant women and children. Besides, children and women suffering from severe malnutrition may be hospitalised for intensive care. The proposed community kitchens should be set up urgently with full participation of the Thaikulam Sanghoms (women’s organisation campaigning against drug abuse and alcoholism in tribal colonies.)
He has also recommended “micro-plans for procuring nutrient food requirements” at each anganwadi centre, “taking into account local sensibilities and local availability of edible items.” The government should ensure the supply of seeds and other inputs, including water and service, to tribal people, so that they can cultivate the land in their possession. It should provide crop insurance for all tribal land and settle pending claims.
The letter asks the District Collector and Sub-Collector to decide all the pending cases relating to tribal land alienation within three to six months. Speedy implementation of orders already passed on land alienation within the next three months is another recommendation.
The Excise, Police, and Revenue departments should start “working with the Thaikulam Sanghoms to stop illegal distillation.”
Urgent measures should be taken to provide drinking water to each Ooru and anganwadi centre by filling the gaps in the existing arrangements, and strict implementation of the midday meal programme should be ensured, the letter says.