Ailing tribal hamlets of Attappady

tudents of the lower primary school close to Anavai tribal hamlet at Chindakki in Attappady are mostly on the sick bench. Children often complain of vomiting and diarrhoea. Doctors posted under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) have their hands full treating these students for indigestion.

Teachers said the poor quality rice allocated by authorities for preparing noon meal at the school and the free “nutritional food” being supplied through community kitchen in the hamlet were playing havoc with the children’s health.

“Same is the case of most tribal children in the Attappady region. We are forcing them to follow a food habit different from their tradition. The earlier government promise to supply pulses and millets through ration shops for tribespeople in Attappady is not getting implemented. Rice was never part of their food habit but tribespeople here have been forced to become rice eaters and that too of poor quality rice,’’ says R.J. Rajendra Prasad, a social worker.

It was following a series of deaths due to hunger and malnutrition last year, a group of ministers descended on Attappady and promised that pulses and millets along with tubers would be supplied through Public Distribution System to Adivasis.

But the promise still remains in papers. Two days ago, two more tribal infants died in Attappady taking the toll from January this year to 12.

“In both the cases, the mothers were daily wage labourers with poor health. Government is claiming it was providing nutritional food to all tribespeople in Attappady. If so, the food being supplied through schools and community kitchens must be subjected to quality assessment, nutritional value and social auditing. The food now being supplied is not in conformity with their traditional food habits,’’ says social worker B. Marimuthu.

According to tribal leaders and social activists, the malnutrition in Attappady are the result of a combined effect of poverty, lack of employment, land alienation, failure to provide forest rights, loss of traditional agriculture, loss of indigenous food, and lack of alternative nutritious food.

“When we had land and irrigation facilities, our people used to cultivate ragi, chama (bajra), thomara (horse gram), maize, millets and pulses and vegetables. Land alienation and inaccessibility to irrigation facilities have made our lives difficult. Instead of restoring our livelihoods, government is just concentrating on free meal indigestible to our community members,’’ says tribal activist B. Palaniswamy.

Massive deforestation also contributed to the present plight of tribespeople in the Attappady region.

There was a time when tribespeople used to get a variety of wild greens, tubers, and meat of small animals from forests.

A well-balanced diet consisting of iron, carbohydrates and proteins were available to them. Now most tribes are living on barren hill slopes.

The Forest Rights Act, 2006, has not been properly implemented in Attappady and it has been pointed out as one of the major issues confronting them.

We are forcing schoolchildren to follow a food habit different from their tradition

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Printable version | Sep 29, 2020 5:40:13 PM |

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