Recently conducted studies suggest that the tribal populace in Attappady, that is mostly malnourished and affected with addictions and medical problems, is on the brink of extinction
Arun Lakshman, Thiruvananthapuram
The aboriginal tribes of Attappady, with their rich culture seem to be on the verge of extinction if medical reports emanating from that area are to be taken into account. The tribes which according to social scientist Dr KR Krishnakumar who has done a detailed study on them, are affected with medical problems like sickle cell anaemia, tuberculosis, infertility and Thromboangiitis Obliterans (TAO) which leads to the amputing of limbs of the affected person and is seen extensively in this area.
Dr Krishnakumar, while speaking to this correspondent, said that a study conducted regularly has found that the tribes are mostly malnourished and also suffer from several addictions like the use of tobacco and alcohol.
There are, according to Dr Joseph John former Professor of several Kerala medical colleges, several rich herbs that are medicinal and help rejuvenating the health but unfortunately without lack of preservance these are also extinct. According to Dr Krishnakumar, a recent study conducted by the state health department has found that 30 to 40 per cent of tribal couples are infertile and this is leading to a dwindling population of the tribal’s coupled with the serious health problems faced by the present generation. Dr Krishnakumar said, “The present generation is of ill health and with high rates of malnutrition and with the infertility rates of couples soaring high, the tribes are certainly going into the black hole or rather the tribal community is clearly on the verge of extinction”.
Maoists Making Inroads
The brutal killing of Madhu, a 27-year-old tribal youth from Attapadi, has resulted in the entry of the Maoists in a big way into the tribal hamlets of the state. A recent press release received at Wayanad press club signed by the Public Relations officer of the Maoist group, Jogi stated that Madhu was lynched with the charge of stealing one kg of rice. The release further said that while crores of rupees were being swindled on a day to day basis by the high and mighty, the aborigine tribes of Kerala, who are the actual owners of the land and wealth of the state are living in poverty and malnutrition. It further stated that even if Madhu had stolen one kilogram of rice as stated by the perpetuars, why was he brutally lynched to death. The statement said that this was done because he was hapless and a tribe and there was no one to speak for him.
Sickle Cell anaemia, a genetic disorder of the blood is creating major problems in the tribal community and according to Dr Prabhudas of Kottathara Government Tribal specialty hospital, this disease is rampant in the tribal community of Attapadi. The patients suffer from severe anaemia, pain in limbs, stomach and chest and may lead to paralysis which has affected several tribes. Dr Prabhudas said. Most of the patients die in the early childhood unless there is proper medication which is rare among the tribes.
Both the doctors said that the tribes have a poor hygiene culture and this results in the urinary infection affecting the reproductive capability of women. The tribes don’t use sanitary napkins during the time of their monthly periods and hardly wash after the periods leading to infection. This results in urinary track infection leading to reproductive disabilities, Dr Prabhu Das and Dr Jacob John said.
Another major problem affecting the tribes is the lack of healthy sperm among men which is usually owing to Sexually Transmitted Diseases which is rampant among them as also high rates of tuberculosis and sickle cell anemia. Dr Prabhudas also said that while these medical reports were sent to district medical officers, no action was taken. Dr Krishnakumar said that he had sent repeated reminders to the health department and the social welfare department to tackle this issue on an urgent manner but no action has been taken yet. Dr Prabhu Das warned that if proper action was not taken immediately the tribal population with their rich legacy would soon turn into memory.
Dr KrishnaKumar said that an RTI enquiry has revealed that the state and central governments have been pumping in around 1600 crore of rupees for the past fifteen years in the Tribal hamlets but the net effect of this is turning into the deaths of tribal with malnutrition and diseases like Tuberculosis which, if given proper treatment is easily curable. This shows that there are reasons to believe that the money was not distributed at the lower level and might have been eaten up at the middle level. Without a proper follow up on the money spent by the Central and State governments in the tribal hamlet, the tribes are still lagging behind in poverty and malnutrition leading to the deaths and possible extinction.
A senior IAS officer on conditions of anonymity said, “The Attapadi tribes are a laughing stock for the politician, bureaucratic and contractor nexus and the prosperity of those around Attapadi and Agali except the tribes is due to the state and central assistance given to this place. If there is no proper study and analysis and follow up action on the part of the government, the tribes will surely be extinct which we should not allow at any cost.” n