Government accused of ‘criminal neglect’ of tribal belt of Attappady

The Opposition walked out of the Assembly on Monday holding the government responsible for the death of several newborn babies owing to malnutrition in the tribal belt of Attappady in recent months.

The issue came up before the Assembly on the opening day of the session through a notice for an adjournment motion moved by A.K. Balan of the CPI(M), who said the entire tribal population in the State was facing a livelihood crisis and some of the tribes were on the verge of extinction.

He termed “horrifying” the death 52 children of malnutrition in one tribal pocket during the last four months. He attributed the situation to “criminal neglect” on the part of the government towards tribespeople. In Attappady, there had been a decline in spending on Tribal Sub-Plan and schemes for the welfare of the tribal people after the United Democratic Front (UDF) government came to power, he said.

Mr. Balan said a large section of the extremely poor among them did not receive ration rice at the BPL (below poverty line) rates and the employment opportunities offered to them during the tenure of the previous government had been withdrawn.

He said the anganwadis in Attappady, where children were given nutritious food, were dysfunctional and the Social Welfare Department had not taken measures to rectify the situation.

There was absolutely no coordination between various government departments to reach the benefits of welfare schemes to the poor tribal people, he said.

“A government that cannot protect people’s right to life has no right to continue in office,” he said.

In reply to the notice, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the malnutrition deaths among newborn children in Attappady should not be given a political colour. It was not as though the present government had withdrawn the lifeline after coming to office.

Everyone was responsible for the current situation, Mr. Chandy said.

He said problems confronting the tribal people were extremely complex and they had to be dealt with in a comprehensive manner.

He told the Assembly that the government was resolved to do so and explained the details of the Rs.112-crore package of measures announced by Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh last week.

The Chief Minister did not accept the Opposition’s demand to adjourn the listed business in the Assembly to discuss the topic, prompting Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan to announce a walkout. Mr. Chandy said the government had no objection to discussing the issue in detail in the Assembly on one of coming days of this session.

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