in Kerala

Saturday, 8 November 2014 – 5:15am IST | Place: Attapaddy | Agency: DNA
  • Uday Mohite  DNA

The macabre dance of death is back at Attappady, Kerala’s largest tribal settlement lying at the foot of picturesque Nilagiri hills in Palakkad district. Acute malnutrition haunting the tribal population here has claimed their 18 infants so far this year. Last year 76 newborns had lost their life. Many babies died in their frail mothers’ womb itself with underdeveloped skull and vital organs have not find place in official dossiers.

As Kerala’s development indices stand almost on par with those of the developed economies, infant deaths at Attappady grabbed headlines last year as well. The district saw its population is being wiped off from their own land by the combined effect of poverty, pollution, alcoholism, landlessness, illiteracy and exploitation.

They found that women are too anemic to bear healthy children and the majority bore the brunt of early marriage and the short-gap repeated pregnancies. Naturally, the chances of healthy children being born is next to nothing.
As an initial step, the Centre and the State together pumped in Rs500 crore to ensure quality food to expecting mothers and children, medical care, clean water and enhancing facilities at Anganvadies.

“The schemes launched against the backdrop of infant deaths have not brought any qualitative change. Clean water is not still available at 130 of 174 anganvadies and 66 of them have no toilet facilities,” Rajendraprasad who heads Thuump, an NGO based at Attappadi says.

Panels headed by TKA Nair, former advisor to the prime minister and Dr Ekbal, a renowned public health activist and former vice-chancellor of Kerala University, had pointed out that pumping in money was only a temporary measure and permanent solution is restoring of their grabbed land with tribes. Then Union rural affairs minister Jairam Remesh, who had visited the area, has also endorsed their assessment.

As in the past, Nair and Ekbal said, they should produce their own food for their healthy survival. The present state of affair at Attappadi adds credence to their statement. Yet the State is not serious on restoring the land which has been grabbed by influential people including senior politicians and their relatives. It is easy to say who else among the politicians have not grabbed the land rather than naming the grabbers. Land grabbing is so rampant at Attapadi.

Astronomical growth in land price, proximity with Ootty, high fertility and rumour of gold deposit, entice land sharks, various institutions and even corporate houses to Attappady. The State which plays hide and seek in initiating permanent remedy be held responsible for death of each infant.