Survey throws up revelations about 18 tribal villages in Thalli, Kelamangalam panchayat unions
Over 18 tribal villages out of 24 situated on the hills and its periphery in Thalli and Kelamangalam panchayat unions are deprived of proper approach roads, medical facilities, education and other basic amenities, says a survey conducted by the Child Rights and You (CRY) recently.
The survey was conducted by the Rural Development Council (RDC), an NGO based in Denkanikottai headed by Gowri.
On the sidelines of the public hearing conducted here on Saturday, Ms. Gowri and S. Dominic, Manager, CRY, told The Hindu that the RDC worked with the marginalized community i.e. Irular tribal women and children residing in and around five hills in Denkanikottai taluk.
According to the survey, out of 1,394 Irular children only 83 are going to school. With the intervention of CRY, five anganwadi centres were established in five villages.
The children are ready to go to school, but they have to travel at least 15 to 20 km from their hamlets atop the hills.
This was due to poor transport and road facilities, thus, violating the provisions of Right to Education (RTE) Act.
The study with the support of a medical team on height, weight and nutrition aspects clearly indicates that children between 0 and 5 years and 80 per cent of pregnant women in Kodagarai, Thozhuvapetta and Kottayurkoil hamlets are malnourished, look pale and almost 70 per cent of them are severely anaemic.
The main aim of the study was to mobilize community health care, reduce infant mortality and pressurizing the government machinery to establish anganwadi and health centres in the hilly terrains.
About 130 children and 20 pregnant women were screened by the medical experts to ascertain their growth chart. The study shows that many children were on the verge of death and malnourished. Eighty per cent of women and 70 per cent of children were anaemic. The haemoglobin level in the students was only 8 per cent as against the normal 13 per cent. Rampant child marriages is one of the reasons for malnutrition among women and children.
In continuance of the survey, a public hearing was organised at a marriage hall in Denkanikottai on Saturday.
The participating women and men vent their anguish towards the government and district administration.
When one of the panel members Dr. Krishnamoorthy asked the villagers whether they were ready to take up self-employment like collection of forest gatherings and marketing the same to government agencies jointly, Veerabadran, a ward member of Siddique Nagar, expressed his desire for the same.
Ms. Gowri said that the Kodagarai hamlet with a population of 1,500 was deprived of health centre as the people had to take patients in a stretcher.
Many of them died on the way to hospital. Recently, a 23-year-old pregnant woman Papathiammal of Kodagarai died on the way to hospital.
S. Dominic said that “the tribal children are the most marginalized in Tamil Nadu. Special attention should be given to meet the shortages. The deplorable state of the child should be given immediate attention.”
He also said that this was the first survey conducted by CRY and the same would be replicated in Nilgiris and other hilly areas wherever the tribals are living in large numbers.
The other panel members were Dr. K. Krishnan, Executive Director, Aadhivasi Solidarity Council of Vellore, Malar Amudhan, journalist from Chennai, and Jahnavi Devi, Development Consultant and Family Counsellor, Thalli.
The panel recommendations will submit its recommendations to the government.
These include urging the government to intervene in the issue and declare the tribal pockets as healthcare emergency region, need to strengthen health infrastructure, special measures with regard to poverty eradication, special PDS package for the region, and pre-school education with nutritious food for children below five years of age.
Installation of special ICDS centers in this area would address the issue of malnutrition to a greater extend; Implementation of Forest Right Act so as to ensure that all the tribal families obtain 5 acres of land and help them to access the minor forest produces; Special concentration on the school education should be made possible.
All the children should have access to schools at their localities and promote tribal residential schools in this particular tribal belt.