Poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and failure of the public healthcare system worsen the situation
Most of the tribal people earn about Rs. 30 a day
There are no anganwadis in the haadis
H.D. Kote (Mysore district): Three-year-old Suma, daughter of Jayamma of Balle Haadi in H.D. Kote taluk, recently died of tuberculosis. Delay in providing medical treatment for the child because of the family’s superstitious beliefs is supposed to have caused the death. However, Director, Development through Education (DEED), Srikanth, says Suma was severely malnourished.
Malnourishment in children is a common problem in over a hundred haadis (tribal settlements) in H.D. Kote taluk. Poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and failure of the public healthcare system have worsened the situation, says Somanna of the Budakattu Krishikara Sangha (BKS). The Government can provide some help by way of establishing anganwadis in these haadis for the benefit of children and pregnant women. In fact, there is provision for opening an anganwadi even if there are just 25 children in the area, but sadly the authorities concerned are not prepared to establish anganwadis in these haadis.
Over 25 children of Kollegagowdanahalli Haadi, which is just 5 km from the taluk headquarters, recently fell ill. Tribal people, who are superstitious, did not take their children to hospital. However, because of the initiative of Basavaiah, a farm labourer, a doctor visited the Haadi. “However, after administering medicine to children once, the doctor did not make a second visit to the haadi. We cannot afford to go to private hospital,” says Basavaiah (60) who earns Rs. 30 a day.
“Had there been an anganwadi in our haadi our children could have benefited from nutritious food that is provided and pregnant women also could have got nutrition supplement and medicines provided there. If the Government is ready to open a “mini-anganwadi”, I am prepared to donate my house,” he says.
It is significant that tribal people are not even aware of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) envisaged to enhance livelihood security by extending at least 100 days of guaranteed employment to people in rural areas. Most of the tribal people work in farms for as small a sum as Rs. 20 and Rs. 30.
The situation is no different in Aanagatti Haadi, which is on the other side of State Highway. Besides the problem of malnourishment, there is drinking water shortage. At least 9 people live in each of the thatched huts in this haadi. “We have trek 2 km to Shiramalli to get drinking water. It is difficult to fetch water at night as there is no power connection to our haadi. Borewell water that we get is contaminated. Our repeated pleas to authorities to provide safe drinking water and power connection has not yielded any result,” says Rajamma (29). More than water and power connections, women in Aanagatti Haadi are worried about their malnourished children.
Mr. Srikanth says that according to a survey, over 40 per cent of children in the tribal haadis in H.D. Kote taluk were malnourished. Many tribal women who do not take vitamin tablets during pregnancy give birth to malnourished children. And, child mortality rate in these haadis is very high, he adds.
According to Mr. Srikanth, an appeal has been made to Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa for establishment of anganwadis in 215 haadis in the taluk. But there has been no response as yet. Mr. Srikanth argues that if the problem of malnourishment is not addressed, then it would have a cascading effect on other programmes envisaged by the Government for the welfare of the tribal community. “What will the Government achieve if there are malnourished children? More cases of tuberculosis are being reported from tribal areas. The illiterate tribal people not only ignore their health problems but also refuse to take medicine even if the disease is in its advanced stage as they are highly superstitious”, he regrets.
Tahsildar of H.D. Kote taluk Maligi says that the Child Development Project Officer has been directed to take steps to address the problem of malnourishment.