Tribal participation in efforts to overcome diseases and malnutrition: Tribal activist and medical doctor Dr. Kamalakshi – Kerala

A doctor couple have dedicated their life to the tribal people of Attappady.

Till two decades ago, the majority of tribal people in Attappady were reluctant to approach doctors even in cases of emergency, preferring herbal medicines they inherited through generations. The number of patients turning up at the sole primary health centre at Agali was negligible.

It was in those days assistant surgeon Prabhudas heard of S. Kamalakshi, an MBBS student at Thrissur Medical College and a Muduga tribal from Attappady. Ms Kamalakshi was the first tribal from Attappady to opt for medical education.

Dr. Prabhudas, who hailed from Parippally in Kollam, sought Dr. Kamalakshi’s help in winning over the tribal people to fight communicable diseases and near-total starvation.

An eloquent speaker and a social activist, Dr. Kamalakshi soon became part of the public health activities in the region and later married Dr. Prabhudas, who had devoted himself to the cause of the tribal people in Attappady. […]

Apart from conducting medical camps, they hold career guidance and motivational sessions for the tribal youngsters.“It was my self determination that brought me out of extreme backwardness to study medicine. My mother and sisters had worked in farms to support my studies. Now I am determined to give something back to society,” Dr. Kamalakshi said. […]

“Now, the region has 52 doctors. In 1995, I was the only one to cover the whole region,” he said.

The government had recently appointed him nodal officer to fight malnutrition in the region.

Source: “Together for the tribal cause” by K.A. Shaji, The Hindu, 1 July 2014
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Date Visited: 4 May 2021

THE RED DATA BOOK-An appendix from sree mith on Vimeo.

The documentary, ‘ The Red Data Book-An appendix‘ brings to the fore the alarming rate at which the Adivasi (indigenous) communities in Attappady, Kerala, are facing extinction! The film set in the background of increasing infant mortality in Attappady, exposes the hollowness of the argument that babies die because of malnutrition; the film traces the life and culture of various Adivasi tribes, from their own narration and from the routine of their everyday life […]

Source: THE RED DATA BOOK-An appendix on Vimeo
Date Visited: Sat Sep 05 2015 12:01:51 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Access to State services difficult for people

[…] Four years ago, the then District Collector Ali Asgar Pasha put forth the proposal to the State government. The Attappady hills, part of the Nilgiris biosphere reserve, was once known for its rich biodiversity. But the migration of farmers and deforestation destroyed its ecosystem and made most part of it barren.

The 745-sq km stretch of verdant hillocks, perennial streams, and fertile agriculture lands was traditionally inhabited by three tribal clans — the Kurumbas, the Mudugas, and the Irulas. […]

The total population of the area is 68,824, of which 41 per cent (27,121) are tribespeople. The Scheduled Castes population is 4 per cent (3,024). There is only 50 per cent literacy in Attappady and among the tribespeople it is only 38 per cent.

Geographically, three major rivers flow through the area — Bhavani, Kunthi, and Shiruvani.

District officials say there a new taluk is needed as the people travel over 100 km to reach Mannarkkad to get the services of a taluk headquarter. From Agali, the main centre of Attappady, the distance to Mannarkkad is 40 km. Most of the tribal hamlets are in inaccessible forest areas. […]

In the absence of proper survey records, land encroachment is rampant,” says Rajendraprasad, social worker. The tribespeople had lost more than 10,000 acres of land in Attappady to non-tribals. […]

Source: Proposal for Attappady tribal taluk gathers dust – The Hindu
Date Visited: Sat Sep 05 2015 12:18:57 GMT+0200 (CEST)

“Health spending by the Indian government as percentage of GDP has long been one of the lowest for any major country, and the public health system is chronically dismal.” – Pranab Bardhan in “The two largest democracies in the world are the sickest now” | Learn more:, 24 August 2020 >>

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

The tribal households traditionally had a backyard garden that had multiple, multilayered and multipurpose indigenous trees, plants, herbs, and shrubs,” Sanjay Patil of BAIF Development Research Foundation, an NGO that works with Adivasis in 16 states of India, told “The produce from this small garden was sufficient to meet the dietary and nutrition needs of a family for an entire year. | Learn more about food crops that are resistant to pests, grow on poor soils, flourish under changed climatic conditions and offer high nutritive value >>

See also

Biodiversity and development – Kerala

Childhood – Kerala | Childrens rights: UNICEF India | Safe search

Childrens rights: English or Malayalam (UNICEF India)

eBook | Background guide for education

Education and literacy | Right to education

eLearning | “National development and the development of tribal communities are linked to each other”: Droupadi Murmu – 15th President of India

Ethnobotany & ethnomedicine

Food distribution

Health and nutrition

Human development – Kerala

Kerala | State wise ST list (Scheduled Tribes)

Literature and bibliographies

Literature – fiction | Poetry


Recommendations by the Expert Committee on Tribal Health

Success stories

Tribal schools and educational projects – Kerala

Video – Kerala

Video | M.S. Swaminathan on Biodiversity and the sharing of resources

Video | Trailer to “Have you seen the arana?” – Kerala

Vulnerable tribal groups – Kerala


Women | Safe search | President Droupadi Murmu on women’s empowerment