Save Tribal Colonies

News reports indicate daily occurrence of deaths in tribal colonies in the State. Not natural deaths, (but) due to disease and starvation. The two deaths at Pulithooki colony of Kallur in Noolpuzha Panchayat of Wayanad is said to be due to diarrhoea -vomiting. About one dozen people from there are in the hospital. One person of Govindamoola Paniya Colony at Ambukuthy (near Kalpetta) died due to rat-fever. Starvation and dreaded diseases have been spread in Paniya, Naika, Adiya and Ooraly colonies. Two women of Mullan Kolli within Wayanad died one week ago due to starvation and disease. Three persons of Kurathikudi Adivasi colony in Idukki also died. Reports also said that a boy died due to diarrhoea at Sugandhagiri project area.

There are lot of reasons to cite as having caused these deaths like cholera, diarrhoea vomiting, intestinal infection, etc. In official records, starvation as the reason would not be found. The Minister's official statement in the Assembly that there was no starvation death in Wayanad, therefore, becomes technically correct. However, it is not at all difficult to identify the ground reasons for these as utter poverty and starvation. For example, the death at Noolpuzha Panchayat claimed to have occurred due to intestinal infection had not taken place suddenly. Without any work, these tribals were in the grip of poverty and starvation since the past two months. Reports say that although the workers at Sugandhagiri project have jobs, there was no salary for the past four months. Out of the total around 1,200 workers there, that one person died due to diarrhoea is an indication of this. A situation may also emerge with the likely closure of the ration-shop, upon which the Adivasis solely depend, due to non-payment of their dues from the Project. All the diseases affecting the Adivasis are linked to lack of protein food. Down with vomiting or other diseases after losing the resistance strength of the body, the relatives are unable to provide medicines. If there is money with them for medicines, they would have purchased food. Each disease and death also constitutes destruction of each household. Most of those who die are also lone earning members looking after their families. Without work, they collapse. Their collapse pushes their family into total starvation and abject poverty.

Starvation deaths have not begun recently. At Priya Estate in Achankovial a lot of tribals died last year due to starvation. Starvation deaths also took place at Puthuppariyaram in Palakkad. Today's socio-economic condition is a reason for this situation. The State administration, which cannot find solutions at the right time, is responsible for this. Besides, the ignorance and unhealthy habits and tendencies of tribals also create the grounds for starvation. The overall economic changes in the country is against the downtrodden including Adivasis. The Father of the Nation, Gandhiji, had directed that the criteria while formulating governmental policies should be whether it is good or bad for the most poorer segments within the country. But, all of today's policies are meant for the sake of the rich. The lots of Adivasis are thus pushed to the backyard. When these segments are drowned in starvation, it serves as a warning to all others within the country. The moment the poorest people die and perish, other sections will come to occupy their place and soon they too would be pushed into starvation. Because, the country's economic system of today is governed by the rich, for the rich and of the rich. Therefore, when the poor are dying due to starvation, surplus food stocks are not distributed on the grounds of economic theories while food perishes in godowns. Recently, ration prices were reduced not for making rice and wheat available for the poor. It was, on the other hand, meant to empty the godowns before the next harvesting season.

Along with the overall economic injustice prevailing in the whole country, the State Government's apathy is also responsible for tribals' death. Even if they die due to starvation, the Ministers and officials hurriedly deny it so as to sustain their "image". With a posture of fulfilling duties, they distribute free ration and medicines only to forget Adivasis. At the same time, the politicians' sympathy remains with the settlers and pro-project people, who uproot tribals from their hamlets. The Adivasis are in dire straits due to losing of their traditional jobs and non-availability of new jobs. There is no firm programme within the agenda of the rulers to permanently solve their pathetic conditions. Soon after occupying power, Chief Minister Antony expressed a desire that there should not be any more starvation deaths in tribal colony. However, his Ministry failed to reflect that sympathy in ruling administration. Instead of distributing food, clothes, etc. after starvation strikes, the practical form of translating sympathy is to make the Ministers and officials avoid luxury till there would be no starving person instead of distributing food, clothes, etc. after starvation death occurs.

The ignorance of the tribals also contributes to their problems. Even if there is work, they waste a major portion of their daily wages for drinking toddy and arrack. Even women are becoming slaves to liquor in their colonies. Therefore, each starvation death is a testimony for the need to eliminate liquor addiction. Starvation deaths will end only when Adivasis are liberated from the clutches of economic Brahminisation, governmental apathy, and local exploitations.

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Source:"Madhyamam", Malayalam Daily, Editorial, 24 July 01
Referred by:Mukundan CM
Published on: July 24, 2001
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