Not a lack of knowledge but loss of land behind malnutrition: How forced dependence on distribution system shatters self-sustained communities – Kerala

K. A. SHAJI, The Hindu, PALAKKAD, June 15, 2014

A year after a large number of child deaths were reported from Attappady owing to malnutrition, an official survey held in the past two weeks has found that 572 children below the age of five in the tribal belt still remain malnourished.

As per the findings of the survey conducted by the National Rural Heath Mission (NRHM), the condition of 127 of these 572 children remains extremely serious and the rest are in the high-risk group deserving immediate attention.

This is happening at a time when the Central and State governments are pumping in about Rs.500 crore under different special packages in the region to fight poverty and malnutrition and for employment generation and improving basic living standards. […]

Attappady has 10,000 tribal families belonging to the Irula, Muduga and Kurumba tribes, living in 192 oorus (settlements) scattered in the three panchayats.

The report attributes the reasons for malnutrition to marginalisation and impoverishment of Adivasi communities, lack of food and nutritional security, and poor health-care and supplementary nutrition services. […]

Source: Malnutrition continues to stalk tribal children – The Hindu
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Date Visited: Sat Jul 26 2014 13:51:17 GMT+0200 (CEST)

M. Suchitra, Down to Earth, 14-7-2013 | Read the full article >>

Schemes launched by the government in Attappady have reduced the area’s tribals to wage labourers and has disempowered them

Attappadi stands testimony to how land encroachment by outsiders and the mainstream development process of the government could deeply shatter an erstwhile self-sustained community. […]

“Despite spending crores, these projects could not make the tribes a self-reliant community. Instead, they made tribals, who were cultivators, mere wage labourers,” points out P R G Mathur, anthropologist and former director of Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development Studies for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (KIRTADS), a state government organisation based in Kozhikode.

These projects, incomplete or completed, paved way for the emergence of a strong nexus of contractors-politicians-officials in the block. Politicians became contractors, contractors became politicians, and they became the people’s representatives. They did not have any empathy for the tribal communities, points out K A Ramu, convener of Thampu, an organisation working among adivasis in Kerala. […]

More than that, over the years, adivasis have become a minority in Attappady and they are living amidst of the settlers, contractors and politicians. Besides, the government never took them into confidence and made no special efforts to empower them as the decision makers. […]

The poverty and malnutrition among the tribes itself is a testimony of the failure of the development projects,” points out Ramu. According to him, the only way forward is to take tribal communities and organisations into confidence before planning anything for them. Now the community is shattered. “So the beginning must be empowering oorukoottams once again,” he says. None of the ministers who visited Attappady in the wake of infant deaths and announced packages has bothered to meet and consult the tribal organisations, he says.

Source: Victims of development | Down To Earth
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Date Visited: Sat Jul 26 2014 14:08:42 GMT+0200 (CEST)

“I hope that this report will prove to be a milestone in realizing the aim of health and health care to the tribal people of India.” – Abhay Bang, Chairman, Expert Committee on Tribal health

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Download Tribal Health in India PDF (35 MB) >>
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 BRINDA KARAT, The Hindu, Opinion, July 2, 2013

[…] Wise men coming here [Agali Community Health Centre in Attappady, Palakkad district, Kerala] from the governments of Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram have declared that the women do not know how to feed their children properly, they must be educated about nutrition, exclusive breast feeding and weaning. The deaths are due to ignorance, they say.  […]

The third National Family Health Survey in 2005-2006 showed that at the all-India level, 46.6 per cent of tribal women and 41.1 per cent of Dalit women have a body mass index that is below normal. Of these, an alarming 21 per cent of tribal women and 18.5 per cent of Dalit women are moderate/ severely thin. If Attappady is an indication, there has been little improvement.  […]

Before Kavitha was born, her family owned land and grew millets and, sometimes, pulses which helped maintain a certain level of nutrition. As many health officials say, it is not a lack of knowledge but loss of land, which is an important factor behind poor nutrition. In Attappady, as in other parts of India, dispossession of tribals from their land by various methods of land grab has occurred. There is a consequent forced dependence of tribals on a now weakened public distribution system. […]

If this [high incidence of infant deaths due to malnourishment] can happen in Kerala, what of those States where governments equally committed to neo-liberal policies do not even have a proper monitoring system? […]

India along with the sub Saharan Africa region is the only country in the world where the number of very poor people has registered an increase in the last 30 years. According to a recent World Bank study (The State of the Poor: Where are the Poor and where are the Poorest), India now accounts for one-third of the world’s poorest people — that is those earning around 87 cents, less than Rs 50 a day. In 1981, one-fifth of the world’s poorest people lived in India; in 2010, the numbers increased to one-third, around 400 million. Clearly, the government has to make drastic changes and reversals in its present policies to address the issues of deprivation. It should draw the right lessons from the Attappady tragedy because the deaths could have been prevented had the policies been different. […]

(Brinda Karat is Polit Bureau member, Communist Party of India-Marxist) 

Source: Gruel, rice and tamarind water – The Hindu
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Date Visited: Wed Jul 03 2013 19:12:10 GMT+0200 (CEST)

The Hindu, July 6, 2013

Even after 65 years of independence, the infants of Attappady are dying of malnutrition. The tribal communities, alienated from their lands in the name of development, are beyond the pale of officialdom. Will the Centre’s food security move ensure basic entitlements to these people on the margins? Photos: The Hindu

Source: Hunger: Attappady’s silent killer – The Hindu
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Date Visited: Fri Jul 12 2013 17:10:23 GMT+0200 (CEST)

The Hindu, Editorial, July 18, 2013

State governments often show great concern for provision of infrastructure for economic growth but fail to see where it all begins — in a school system that produces the workforce of the future. Without even being able to guarantee children a safe meal, their assertions are meaningless.

Source: The poisoned plate – The Hindu
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Date Visited: Thu Jul 25 2013 18:00:18 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Losing their lands to “development”, the tribals of the country are waiting for the state’s largesse. A scene at an anganwadi in a tribal hamlet in Attappady. […]

Malnutrition is the major cause for premature births as well as deaths of infants in Attappady in Kerala. Yet, even the very few anganwadis in the region are providing only this gruel to children.

Photo: Thulasi Kakkat in The Hindu | View the entire slideshow on this topic in titled
Date Visited: Fri Jul 12 2013 16:49:47 GMT+0200 (CEST)

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Learn more about the tribal communities mentioned in this post

  1. Irula
  2. Muduga
  3. Kurumba

“The tribal food basket has always been ­diverse and nutritious, including maize, minor millets like kodo and kutki, oil seeds like ramtila, along with fruits, leaves, ­rhizomes, mushrooms, meat and fish. […] We have pushed them out of their complementary relationship with ecology, way of life and time-tested nutrition.” | Learn more >>

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