What Are The Real Causes For The Deaths Of Adivasis?
Visakhapatnam/ Kakinada: Chaparayi, a nondescript Adivasi village in Y.Ramavaram mandal of East Godavari district overnight came into media and administration focus with a graduate youth of the village breaking unpleasant news on Saturday to the civilised world around, thanks to the all-pervasive mobile phones.
The news is that as many as sixteen persons of his village died almost in a row between May 29 and June 21. Sadly, among them were four children. A newspaper which managed to make it to the place much before the government staff, identified the children as Sadala Babu(2), Bachchala Papa(6), Pallala Ramacharan Reddy(2), Kondla Vijayalakshmi(3), all of them are in the age group of 2-6 years. Of the 32 patients who have now been treated at Rampachodavaram and Maredumilli hospitals, eleven are also children. Among these 11 children, the condition of four children turned critical and they have been shifted to a private hospital in Kakinada.
The reason for shifting: anaemia. Shame on the government!
On hearing the breaking news, the Dy. Chief Minister, the Tribal Welfare Minister, the District Collector, officials and staff of the Medical and Health Department and the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) rushed to the area, as if they were waking from the slumber just then. The tech-savvy Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, as is his wont, held a teleconference with the district administration and announced a financial assistance of ₹ 5 lakh to the family of the deceased.
The Tribal Welfare Minister Nakka Anandababu who paid a visit to the patients being given treatment at Rampachodavaram area hospital told media on Monday that the deaths occurred because of food poisoning and contaminated water. He said the tribals consumed stale meat at a marriage function followed by contaminated water in nearby stream wherein lay a decaying carcass.
There might be truth in his statement which could only be verified by the villagers who attended the function. However, the reasons being cited for the deaths in the Agency by the media are as follows: The Adivasi villages lack road connectivity to the health centres, hilly terrains prevent medical staff from serving the patients in the remote villages, they drink contaminated water flowing in the streams or in aquifers in the absence of protected potable water, eat unhygienic food such as stale meat and dry fish, prefer traditional medical practitioners to primary health centres and believe in superstitions. On top of them the malnutrition. There is no denying that these are the factors for the spread of diseases and deaths.
K R Venugopal’s Report Holds True Today
A report by the retired IAS officer K R Venugopal, at the insistence of National Human Rights Commission when YSRajasekhara Reddy was the Chief Minister, attributed 2, 227 deaths that occurred in Visakhapatnam Agency in the first seven months of 2005 to poverty, poor sanitation, lack of drinking water, malnutrition, shortfall of medical staff and official apathy.
In his report submitted to NHRC, KR Venugopal cited the acute shortfall of medical staff a cause for the malaria deaths in Visakhapatnam Agency. It holds true to other Agency divisions as well. There has not been recruitment of doctors and paramedical staff in all the seven regions of ITDA in Andhra Pradesh. Even after 12 years since the report submitted to NHRC, there has not been any action in this regard from the successive governments.
Secondly, he identified abject poverty as one of the reasons for the deaths of Adivasis. “The tribals here go to the bed hungry for 25 days in a month for 5–6 months in a year, because of lack of work opportunities and food,” he observed in some of the villages he visited. Other important observations he made were the lack of sanitation and protected drinking water in the villages. They fetch water from the brooks whose hygiene is always questionable.
The then Opposition Telugu Desam made responsible the State government for the deaths of Adivasis. Its leader Late K.Yerran Naidu brought the issue of the large scale deaths of Adivasis to the notice of NHRC which later assigned Venugopal the task of finding out the facts. The recommendations he made continue to be true even today. Although his report pertains to Visakhapatnam Agency, its content reflects the pathetic state of all Adivasi regions in the State. None of the basic problems has been addressed to bring about a change in the lives of Adivasis in any of the regions. And Chaparai is no exception.
This being so, the East Godavari district administration is leaving no stone unturned to portray the deaths of Chaparayi villagers as the ones possibly caused by food poisoning. It is a blatant attempt to escape from the criticism that they did not oversee the measures that should have been taken in the villages just before and during the monsoons.
The officials are fully aware that the Agency areas receive heavy rainfall during May end and June and they bring in their wake diseases like malaria, fever, diarrhoea and the like. None of them is incurable. A simple course of medicines coupled with nutritious food will cure all the ailments.
Poser to CM from an Adivasi: “If any of the places on the CM’s wish list of smart cities experienced this kind of emergency, no doubt the CM would have stayed over there and worked overtime. It was evident in the aftermath of cyclone Hudhud that lashed Visakhapatnam. He stayed in Visakhapatnam and ensured relief works were expedited. Where is such commitment in the government now? Just because we are Adivasis, we have become the neglected lot,” said Ramarao Dora, an adivasi youth of Paderu.
Update: News broke in that malaria took three lives on Monday each from Sriramagiri and Tabbaguden in East Godavari district and G.Madugula in Visakhapatnam Agency.
Five persons belonging to Kodipunjuvalasa in Araku mandal in Visakhapatnam admitted to the King George Hospital with symptoms of anthrax.
Malaria and typhoid are on the rise in Vizianagaram and Srikakulam Agencies.