Tamil Nadu

So near, yet so far from nutrition

The household of Periya Mallahalli tribal habitation in Mallahalli village of Kotayyur Panchayat..  

It is only 100 metres to the nearest anganwadi centre and its promise of nutrition. Yet, it is an insurmountable distance for the tribal children of Periya Mallahalli tribal colony in Mallahalli village of Kotayyur Panchayat.

“Look at our children, what if they say something that invites trouble,” asks 22-year-old Mangamma, as a little army of unkempt children huddle up from across the habitation. “We didn’t send our children and nobody from the anganwadi has ever visited our colony to persuade us to send the children,” she says of the centre, folded into one room in a Lingayat household.

Subtle rules of social engagement directed by caste equations have denied this tribe its access to the angawadi centre in the predominantly upper caste Lingayat village in Thally block here.

As of date, not a single tribal child of Periya Mallahalli has tasted the food of the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) centre. Incidentally, the teacher of the anganwadi centre had written to the higher-ups to replace eggs with bananas. “Lingayat children don’t eat eggs,” says Pachayammal, the anganwadi teacher.

“The tribal children don’t come to the centre and they are never there,” she says. Pachayammal holds the additional charge of a centre in Thagatty Panchayat. The anganwadi of Mallahalli Panchayat is the main centre. The centre’s cook Dudamma claims to cook 1.5 kg of rice per day for over 30 children. But ask her about the portion for each child, and she fumbles.

The original anganwadi was built out of DRDP (Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj) funds only five years ago, but was abandoned soon after a section of the tin roof was blown away.

For the residents of the tribal colony, ICDS nutrition for children is of little concern. There are graver issues, they say.

Grave issues

The 30 houses constructed as part of Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY) are in varying stages of dilapidation. Roofs of seven houses have crumbled, forcing the households to occupy the nearby Anjetty forests.

Most roofs of the remaining houses are held up by bamboo poles stuck in the middle of the house.

“We don’t know when this roof will fall on us,” says Maadevan, pointing to the exposed and rusted iron rods in the ceiling. The habitation neither has Hogenakkal water pipeline nor the panchayat water pipeline. Many households do not even have ration cards.

Sivarudrappa, the Lingayat village headman, says there is no discrimination.

But, when asked whether they would let their children eat out of the same plates as the children of the tribal colony, there was an uncomfortable silence.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2020 10:00:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/So-near-yet-so-far-from-nutrition/article14556712.ece

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