Kerala

Acute water scarcity adds to misery of tribal hamlet

Water is so scarce that the tribals have to dig pits in the dried-up Walayar river bed to collect the muddy water that oozes out of the ground.

Water is so scarce that the tribals have to dig pits in the dried-up Walayar river bed to collect the muddy water that oozes out of the ground.  

The term ‘bedridden’ sounds an overstatement in the case of 104-year-old tribal chieftain Mayilsamy Mooppan of Nadupathy settlement, which is located deep inside the Walayar forest.

Being ill for the last one month, he has no bed to lie down on in his hut in the drought-hit area on the State border. Despite the seething pain, he lies on the bare floor outside the hut.

No official has visited the centenarian

“No official has visited him so far despite our repeated pleas. No medical care has been provided. He has not been eating properly for the last one month,” says Manikandan, a tribal head-load worker at the Walayar railway station.

According to him, Mooppan is also bearing the brunt of the crippling effects of the escalating heat that has engulfed Palakkad district.

“The chieftain looks fragile. His body rejects even fluids."

His aged and illiterate wife looks helpless. Similar is the case of other members of his impoverished family. It was a chance visit to the colony to take photographs of the prevailing acute water scarcity that led me to Mooppan,” says Hariharan Subrahmanyan, a Palakkad-based freelance photographer.

Incidentally, it is the duty of the Tribal Welfare Department to provide proper health care to tribal people. Apparently, the district administration and the political leadership are also insensitive to Moopan’s case.

With summer turning harsh by the day, the entire settlement is passing through an extremely tough phase. There is acute scarcity of drinking water.

50 families reside

The hamlet has 50 families belonging to the Irula tribe. For the record, it was in 1984 the community came to Nadupathy from Parapatty, a far-away location in the Walayar forest, in accordance with the translocation programme of the government.

The programme is aimed at enrolling children from the tribe at the tribal school in Walayar.

However, most youths are dropouts, while some have managed to complete high school. Collecting bamboo reeds from the forest used to be the prime occupation of the people of the hamlet.

Now, reeds are scarce in Walayar, and most of them have ended up being jobless. A few have managed to land temporary jobs as loading khalasis at the Malabar Cements Factory.

Now, the Walayar river has almost dried up.

Water is so scarce that the tribals have to dig pits in the dried-up river bed to collect the muddy water that oozes out of the ground.

“Summer has left their existence miserable,” says Hariharan.

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2020 2:02:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/acute-water-scarcity-adds-to-misery-of-tribal-hamlet/article8348000.ece

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