Former Vice Chancellor of Kerala University B. Ekbal has blamed inefficient implementation of Central and State development packages for the recent child deaths at Attappady.
In an open letter to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Thursday, Dr. Ekbal said, ‘‘The declaration and implementation of various special packages have not brought any significant changes to the pathetic conditions of the tribal people. It is wrong on the part of administrators to blame the tribal people instead of rectifying the drawbacks of the projects,’’ he said.
Responding to the comments made by Mr. Chandy regarding the findings of a five-member committee of doctors, which included Dr. Ekbal, he agreed that there were detailed observations in the report on liquor consumption by the tribes. However, there were other observations as well in the report.
According to Dr. Ekbal, there were 360 watchers, including 280 tribespeople, who were appointed as part of the Attappady Hills Area Development Society (AHADS) for preventing brewing of illicit liquor and ganja cultivation, in addition to forest conservation. As the functioning of AHADS got stalled, the vigil had come to an end, paving way for such illegal activities in the area. Moreover, the Excise Department has adopted no measures in this regard. The report has mentioned that the present circumstances, if unchecked, could lead to a hooch tragedy at Attappady, he stated.
Authorities are yet to fulfil their assurance on providing the tribal people their staple food commodities, especially powdered ragi, through ration shops. The ‘matta’ variety of rice being provided through ration shops is not preferred by the tribes. He criticised the State government for instructing anganwadi teachers to supply milk and eggs for children on their own expense. As per the instruction, the government would reimburse the expenses. ‘‘It is unjustifiable to compel them to carry out the unfeasible scheme, considering the meagre wages earned by the anganwadi teachers,’’ he said.
Though the State government has made other assurances, not many are realised as of yet. ‘‘The Community Health Centre at Agali has a capacity of 12 beds meant for children in the rehabilitation centre. The facility is obviously inadequate, considering the fact that government agencies have recommended that 251 malnourished children require immediate treatment.’’
In addition, there has been no effort to establish the proposed de-addiction centre at the Kottathara hospital, he said.