Tribal welfare: NGOs' help sought
By Mahesh Vijapurkar
MUMBAI, MAY. 10. When Chief Minister, Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, visited tribal areas in north Maharashtra yesterday, he was in for some surprise: there were mothers who married at the young age of 11 and 12; today they had as many children. By the time they were into middle age, they had big families of malnourished children.
``I met some women whose children were in hospitals for treatment'' and ``find it the basic issue'' for poor mother and child health, he told correspondents here conceding that a lot of problems remained to be solved there.
``The Government itself,'' despite an impressive list of health facilities, ``cannot do much, and NGOs have to step in to change tribal view of life and health, he said.
In a hour's time, this was contested by the BJP, whose Maharashtra chief, Mr. Pandurang Phundkar, said the ``Government is running away from its responsibility.'' When this happened ``during our regime, we took decisions and improved facilities and in Melghat region, the infant mortality came down. ``It is a question of commitment.''
Mr. Deshmukh cites the Melghat experience and says that it would be replicated in the tribal areas of Nandurbar in Nashik division.
``The rate came down drastically,'' he affirms but said that tribal practices would have to be changed. They first go to the local witch doctor and then to a hospital. From there too, they tend to flee ``which leads to deaths due to a half-treated child.''
``Loss of working days spent at the hospital in the company of a sick child is a wage loss,'' Mr. Deshmukh explains.
He announced that henceforth, an accompanying parent would be given Rs. 40 per day plus two free meals when a child is in the hospital.
Nashik division, whose Nandurbar region is now under scrutiny for the high rate of infant deaths, has a contrast too. The division reported 107 per cent success in family welfare but tribal women continue to give birth to any number of babies.
Mr. Deshmukh now wants to replicate the Melghat model of welfare but there was no mention of the infrastructure, crucially the road network that BJP's Works Minister, Mr. Nitin Gadkari, built in that hilly track, which came in for open and public commendation from the Governor, Dr. P. C. Alexander. It is not just healthcare but access which was provided in the region that did the trick.