Death of tribal people due to malnourishment in Attappady

Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Kodikunnil Suresh in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sought his intervention to stop the “silent genocide” of the tribal people of Attappady.

The Minister, who visited Attappady on Tuesday, said “evidences of malnourishment and resultant death of infants and children indicate that a silent genocide is happening.” He sought an inquiry into the crisis and demanded punishment for the guilty.

Mr. Suresh said he met United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Thursday and requested her to direct the Union Ministers concerned and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to take steps on a war footing to stop the death of the tribal infants in Attappady.

The UPA Chairperson had promised to take up the matter with the State government, the Minister said over the phone.

“The tribes are aliens in their own land. All cultivable land of the tribes have been encroached upon by non-tribal people. Allotment of land to the tribes is still an unfulfilled dream. The tribes in Attappady should be brought back to farming by restoring their alienated land and providing assistance for agriculture,” the letter said.

Six deaths of children from the Scheduled Tribes had been reported in the last four days taking the death toll of the tribal children to 52 in the last 16 months. Apart from the death of children, abortions and premature deliveries were common here.

There were nearly 6,000 malnourished children and 1,000 anaemic pregnant women in the area, he said. Among the children, 500 were severely anaemic and should be brought under institutionalised care along with expectant women.

Mr. Suresh said there was lack of coordination among departments and the grama panchayat concerned to implement welfare schemes for the tribes.

An IAS officer sympathetic to the cause of the tribes should be appointed to implement the packages announced for Attappady.

He also pointed out the lack of medical facilities in Attappady. The Kottathara Tribal Specialty Hospital did not have a surgeon, anaesthetic, pharmacist or storekeeper. The 28 health sub-centres in Attappady also lacked facilities. The functioning of field staff of various departments and Asha workers were unsatisfactory.

“Illicit liquor brewing and trade are going on in Attappady though the area was declared liquor-free in 1996. The cultivation of ganja goes on in some interior forest areas. Men and women consume liquor. Even pregnant women do not abstain from liquor. If steps are not taken to stop illegal brewing and sale of liquor, a liquor tragedy cannot be ruled out,” the letter says.

It said anganwadies had failed to discharge their duties. Most of the anganwadis were non-functional in Attappady, the letter pointed out.

  • Says a silent genocide happening in Attappady

  • Demands punishment for the guilty