Large-scale unemployment among tribal people of Attappady

Various tribal and social organisations of Attappady have said that the State government has not taken any steps to address the tribal land alienation issue in Attappady which is very crucial to finding a lasting solution to the vexed tribal problem.

Secretary of the L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer International Centre for Anthropological Studies P.R.G. Mathur said that the tribes of Kerala, especially those in Attappady, had depend upon their patrons, petty traders and immigrants for their subsistence. “There is no denying the fact that poverty is the greatest problem of the tribal people of Attappady.”

Dr. Mathur, the former director of KIRTADS, said that mere passing of a piece of legislation or announcing some special packages were not sufficient and loopholes had to be plugged whenever they existed. Otherwise this would enable the unscrupulous exploiters to defeat the purpose of the law and welfare packages.

“None of us can shirk the responsibility of contributing to the process of restoring alienated tribal land,” he said.

“Large-scale unemployment among the tribal people of Attappady, particularly during the lean months, resulted in abject poverty among them and as a matter of fact they do not have any means to purchase provisions for the family. This may have resulted in malnutrition and starvation among the tribal people,” Dr. Mathur said.

10,796.16 acres

The Girijan Seva Samithy (GSS) said that unless the tribal people were given back their alienated 10,796.16 acres of land in Attappady, their problems could not be solved.” They demanded the implementation of The Kerala Scheduled Tribes (Restriction on Transfer of Lands and Restoration of Alienated Lands) Act, 1975, which restored their lost land. But the Act stood annulled because of an amendment unanimously passed by the Kerala Legislative Assembly in 1996. The amendment stipulated that only those land that were alienated after 1986 be returned to the tribes.

With this, for all practical purposes, there was no land left for restoration in Attappady, said U.C. Kunchan, president, GSS.

The government was saying that they had repealed the original 1975 Act to provide alternative land to tribal people as the alienated land could not be taken back from the present non-tribal occupants. But according to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the resettlement of landless tribes, launched in 2001 by the Kerala government, only 4.44 acres of land was given to tribal people in Palakkad district, he said.

The Ooru Moopan’s Council (head of 192 tribal settlements in Attappady) president Natta Mooppan said that the government should take steps to restore the tribal people their alienated land instead of announcing special packages. What was the use of an agriculture package if there was no land available with the tribal people to cultivate, he asked.

The activists of the Green Union for Radical Uplift and Variety Upkeep (GURUVU) said that the tribal people wanted their cultivable land taken away by others. The government should resettle those occupying the land. It would be easier for them to leave the place and settle elsewhere. Those who made improvement in the land and constructed buildings should be adequately compensated. “The present problems can be solved only after returning our traditional land.”

White Paper sought

The Sauhridam Desheeya Vedi, a voluntary organisation, has demanded a White Paper on the huge amount of money spent on tribal welfare in Attappady.

Forum president P.V. Sahadevan said in a statement here on Friday that over Rs.1,000 crore was spent for tribal development in Attappady during the last six decades. But the tribal people were still starving and their children dying due to malnutrition, the statement said.

  • ‘No use of farm packages if land is not available’

  • Resettle non-tribal occupants elsewhere: forum