B. Srimathi, a young Adivasi woman from the Irula community, remembers how, as a child, she would walk five kilometers from her home in a village near Sholur Mattam in Kil Kotagiri, to go to school, every day.
After years of hard work and dedication, the 20-year-old from Thumbibettu village has become the first member of her community to gain a medical seat at the Tirunelveli Government Medical College and is set to become the first doctor from her community.
The daughter of a teacher at the Government Tribal Residential School in Aravenu and a plantation worker, Ms. Srimathi who cleared the NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) said that she was extremely proud and looked forward to the chance of becoming a doctor. “Ever since I was a child, I have always wanted to become a doctor and help members from Adivasi communities,” she said. She added that she wished to specialize in paediatrics after the completion of her MBBS course.
“I want to show members from other Adivasi communities in The Nilgiris and from across the State that it is possible to aspire and reach our goals,” said Ms. Srimathi, who added that a lack of awareness about affirmative action policies and financial stability were the primary factors that foiled the aspirations of other youngsters like herself from becoming doctors, lawyers, scientists and engineers.
While Srimathi’s achievements have been talked about on social media and mobile messaging applications, child rights activist S. Christuraj states that more needs to be done to help children from marginalised and underprivileged backgrounds. “In Adivasi belts such as The Nilgiris, access to schools itself remains a hurdle. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure quality, non-discriminatory education which provides conducive, protective and child-friendly environments for children to study and thrive in,” he says.