: Adivasis living in settlements in the Attappady Hills have asserted that the recent death of infants were not just cases of malnutrition, but, in fact, starvation deaths with the women, including would-be mothers, being denied proper food and healthcare.

A group of Adivasis reached the State capital on Friday to ‘present their case directly to the authorities concerned.

The group, led by the Thaikula Sangham, had the first woman doctor from among them, Kamalakshi, describing how the food habits of the people in the hills had changed over the years, and how, from a healthy diet of grains, pulses, leafy vegetables and occasional meat, they were now forced to have the Re.1-a-kilo rice and green grams supplied by the government.

Earlier, salt was the only commodity they bought from outside their hamlets. Now, everything had to come out from outside and at huge costs.

The Adivasis had been dispossessed of their agriculture land, and the government’s promises to return their land has remained on paper.

Several schemes like the one to distribute autorickshaws or cows too had ended up in the same manner with not a single autorickshaw or cow reaching the intended beneficiaries so far.

They alleging that the actual Adivasis never got to interact directly with ministerial delegations that visited Attappady.

Representatives selected by politicians and contractors ‘presented’ their problems to the government, and they never depicted the ground reality.

The missing women

Bhagavathi Rangan, president of the Thaikula Sangham, spoke of another distressing face of life in the hills when she said there were several young girls who had gone missing, many women who were found dead, and several other cases of atrocities against Adivasis.

In almost every single case, the approach of the police was ‘insensitive’ as they refused to book cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Some complaints lodged by the Adivasis were misrepresented with counter cases being booked against them, she said.

Sangham secretary Maruthy Mari alleged that any police officer who behaved well or showed a little bit of empathy towards the Adivasis would be transferred immediately by politicians.

Director General of Police K.S. Balasubramaniam, who reached the seminar to interact with the Adivasis on the law and order issues they faced, said he had made a note of the cases they presented to him and these would be verified.

Stringent action would be taken if any officer was found to have refused to register a case under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. On complaints of bootlegging and widespread availability of arrack in the hills, the DGP said he would take action without delay.