Govt. Neglect: Adivasis Dying With Fatal Regularity In Vizag Agency

The State government is exhibiting glaring negligence towards the health, drinking water, food security and other basic requirements of Adivasis in the 5th Schedule areas. This was evident to a two-member fact-finding team of the Human Rights Forum (HRF) that visited Paderu division on Sunday.

Following media reports that a large number of Adivasis had succumbed to various ailments at Seesaipanuku village in Jarakonda panchayat of Hukumpet mandal in Paderu division of Visakhapatnam district, we went to the village and spoke with local residents. Our enquiries revealed that at least 25 Adivasis of the village had died over the past two years due to gastro-enteritis, pulmonary tuberculosis and malaria. Of these deaths, 11occured from April onwards this year. This is a shocking figure considering that the total number of households in the village is 44 and the population only 212. Governmental failure in meeting its obligations to the Adivasis is squarely responsible for these deaths.

Seesaipanuku is by no means an inaccessible and remote village. The nearest motorable road is not even half a kilometre away. However, all the kondh residents have no access to clean drinking water. They rely on a well which contains water that is clearly unfit for human consumption. Even this dries up totally during the summer and they make do with water from a nearby narrow stream which is also contaminated. Consumption of unsafe water is responsible for most of these fatalities.

It is a matter of shame that the government has not provided the village with potable water. The Adivasis themselves point out that the best way they can access clean water is by what is known as the ‘gravity scheme’. This involves tapping water from the perennial mountain spring (‘oota neeru’) atop a hill adjacent to Seesaipanuku and carrying the water through a filter bed and pipeline to a tank in the village below. This would ensure that the residents have an adequate supply of safe drinking water.

The Adivasis have made countless appeals to the administration for installation of the ‘gravity scheme’ but to no avail. In fact, this ‘gravity scheme’ is highly appropriate for the Paderu Agency since most villages are located at a height below and not too far from perennial mountain springs. Constancy of flow is assured. Moreover, the scheme is not expensive as it does not require any power to run it. It is by far the easiest and safest way to provide drinking water to most Adivasi habitations, including very remote villages.

However, time and again, the government has failed to fulfill this very basic requirement of providing clean drinking water to the people. This negligence has resulted in Adivasis succumbing year after year with fatal regularity, to totally preventable diseases. The government continues to treat the right to life of Adivasis with contempt.

In the absence of food security, the Adivasis have low nutritional status making them easily succumb to ailments. Most, if not all the residents Seesaipanuku are malnourished, particularly the children. The anganwadi centre in the village is running but it is not fully equipped.

HRF believes that the high large number of deaths at Seesaipanuku were because the Adivasis had no access to clean drinking water, inefficient and insufficient medicare, malnutrition leading to enfeebled resistance to disease, atrocious public hygiene and pathetic health intervention by successive governments. The negligence of the State in its minimal administrative and welfare responsibilities is the proximate cause of Adivasis succumbing to preventable diseases year after year with fatal regularity. This grim situation is not peculiar to the Paderu division alone. It exists all the way from Utnur division in Adilabad district to the Seetampeta Agency in Srikakulam district.

Instead of resorting to lies and playing down the extent of the crisis, the government should honour its welfare responsibilities to the Adivasis. Concrete measures are needed to address the drinking water, health and nutritional needs of those residing in the Fifth Schedule areas. The absence of an appropriate intervention by the government will, we fear, result in many more Adivasis succumbing to preventable and treatable diseases in the coming months.

VS Krishna
(HRF State general secretary)

S Jeevan Kumar
(HRF State president)


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