Kerala’s Adivasis living in abject poverty

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on May 2, 2011

Despite the hundreds of crores of rupees being spent by the Government on several programmes for the uplift and welfare of Adivasis in Kerala, a large number of them are still struggling to keep themselves alive. According to official records, about five percent of the Adivasis residing in Kerala’s forests are having food only a once a day.

The “children of the forests” are living in such hardships when the Government is claiming to provide benefits like free rice and all other benefits to the economically backward sections. The harshest of the hardships are being borne by five sections of the Adivasis living in the State’s forests.

As per the findings of a survey conducted jointly by the State Local Administration Department and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Development Department, five percent of the people in these five sections have food only once a day. These five extremely weaker sections are Kattunaikkan, Cholanaikkan, Kadar, Kurumbar and Koraga.

Twenty-six percent families of these five sections do not have ration cards and therefore are not receiving subsidized food items sold through ration shops. There are 6,738 families in these sections living in the forests of Kasaragod Wayanad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Palakkad and Thrissur. As many as 1,782 families among them do not have ration cards.

As per the survey findings released last month, 374 families can afford to have food only once a day. The survey also shows that these five sections are far behind other Adivasi tribes in the areas of healthcare, education and housing. Sources in the Government said that steps were being planned on the basis of the findings of the survey that had started back in 2008.

As per these measures, a special package of Rs 148 crore would be implemented to alleviate the hardships of these sections. Focus of the package would be on providing food, healthcare, housing and education to the Adivasis. Implementation of the package is to be completed within March 31, 2015.

The Government is planning to utilize the services of voluntary organizations under its control for the implementation of the package. Sources said discussions were progressing with Attappadi Hill Area Development Society (Ahads) and Mahila Samakhya controlled by the Union Human Resources Development Ministry for outsourcing their services.

However, NGOs working for the welfare of the tribespeople and Adivasi organizations say the reason for their misery was not lack of allotment of funds. “The allotted funds are either leaked from the bags on the way to the Adivasi colonies. Or they go into the wrong hands,” said Prakasan, an Adivasi of Aaralam, Kannur.

The shocking revelations about the abject poverty among the extremely weaker sections among the Adivasis have come close on the heels of the reports that large numbers of Adivasi women have been victims of sexual exploitation. According to a recent hearing, there are 48 unwed mothers in the 20 Adivasi Oors (villages) in Palakkad district’s Attappadi alone.

Of these 48 unwed mothers, 23 had suffered exploitation in the hands of non-Adivasis. The guilty in almost all these instances had escaped mainly because of the lack of awareness among the girls about the legal procedures for filing complaints and also because of the apathy on the part of the police.

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