A 42-year-old Konda Reddi tribal woman, Kechhala Lingamma, is a mother of 11 children, including four girls. Still, she has no thoughts of going for a family planning option.
Four of her children - two boys and two girls - have died due to poor health. The youngest is an year-old baby boy, whom Ms. Lingamma carries with her to the field. The eldest one, Ms. Vijaya Shanthi, has a two-year-old baby. In fact, if the entire family prefers to sleep together on the floor, their thatched house cannot accommodate them.
“I am scared to undergo any surgery (for family planning). It physically weakens me, and if that happens, I will no longer be able to trek the hill for Podu cultivation,” Ms. Lingamma reveals her apprehensions. In Podu cultivation, tribals level the forest cover on the hill to grow crops.
Her husband Raghava Reddi nods, in agreement with her views on the family planning.
Classified as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) in Andhra Pradesh, the Konda Reddi tribe is arguably one of the tribes of India that still has no ‘population plan’.
Five or more norm
At Muntha Maamidi village of Chavadikota panchayat in Alluri Sitarama Raju district, an unwritten population policy, ‘five or more children’, still exists. Ms. Lingamma and Ms. Sandhula Mangamma are the two women who have the highest number of 11 children each in the Naxal-hit village.
“I have never planned for any family planning surgery. The doctors have counselled us to undergo the operation for birth control, but we couldn’t dare to go for it,” Ms. Mangamma tells The Hindu.
She is now 42. Her eldest daughter Rajamma has one child. Neither Ms. Mangamma nor her husband Narsi Reddy could quickly recall the names of all their 11 children.
“We firmly believe that the women who undergo the family planning surgery will physically get weak. Post surgery, they will lose strength to trek and work for long hours. Unless both husband and wife work, a family cannot be run,” is what the men of the village say. Most of the families here own barely two acres of land and grow commercial crops and cereals.
At present, the village has a population of 208, including 53 children enrolled in the Anganwadi and primary school.
Village volunteer Sadala Pratap Reddy says, “For generations, our village has been preferring more children. The practice, however, does not suit the people anymore. But none is ready to heed our advice.”
Mr. Raghava Reddi, 47, reveals the tribe’s alternatives to sterilisation (vasectomy). “I have started using a preparation made of locally available herbs as suggested by our elders. The herbal treatment is based on the tribe’s traditional knowledge. I hope it will work this time,” he says.
The other men, including one Sadala Linga Reddy, a father of six, have acknowledged the existence of herbal birth control methods.