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Will minister O.R. Kelu implement his own report?

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Will minister O.R. Kelu implement his own report?
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In November 2021, the state government formed a legislative committee to study the more than usual infant mortality being reported from the tribal settlements of Kerala. The objective was to probe why the tribal people were still suffering despite having spent crores of rupees for their health care and well fare. Carrying out the probe, the committee visited a few tribal villages (Prakriti) in Attapadi and the government hospital there. The inquiry report submitted on February 9, 2022 concludes: ‘Over the last eight years, the total outlay for various Centre and state schemes is more than 250 crores. If calculated per capita, it will come to Rs 75,000. Despite spending so much, there is no significant improvement in tribal life due to various reasons.’ There is reason to recall this report now. The then chairman of the legislative committee, O.R. Kelu is the current State Minister for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Speaking to media for the first time since swearing in as the minister on Sunday he stressed on prioritizing tribal welfare. Announcing to take necessary steps after studying the matter, he issued an order to make the treatment assistance to Scheduled Tribes via online. It could be termed in that sense a momentous start for a minister. It is about time we thought about the outcome of such formalities. An almost comprehensive report on the miseries and hardships of the tribal people of the state is lying glossed over in the dust in his department. The Minister has an obligation to fully implement the recommendations in that report.

At the beginning of the report, the assembly committee says that about 80 percent of Attappadi's residents are anemic due to malnutrition; this statement accurately points to Attapadi's health condition. The factors are so obvious requiring no further probe why infant mortality was occurring there. Another health concern leading to a racial wipeout is endemic sickle cell anemia. It is a fatal genetic disease. In 2020, some health workers in Kerala studied the sickle cell disease in Attappadi and published a report in International Journal of Contemporary Pediatrics. The study conducted on a selected 25 anganwadi in Attappadi showed 65 percent children as having sickle cell symptoms. The government is indifferently looking at this dreadful situation. The Kelu Committee report admits that screening for sickle cell disease has not been done here in the last ten years. The same is the case in the minister's constituency of Mananthavadi. This is happening when the country is witnessing revolutionary progress in the treatment of sickle cell disease. Given its examples and traditions in health care, it is not impossible for Kerala to implement such new treatments. Adivasis can be saved from this danger to a large extent by setting up specialty laboratories for genetic testing, carrying out pre-marriage genetic testing for adults alongside implementing mandatory screening for all people. Also, in order to treat those who have been diagnosed with the disease, arrangements should be made for bone marrow transplant and blood transfusion.

The minister who found out all these details two years ago should have the will to implement them. The truth is not even ten percent of those countless announcements and promises for tribal welfare has been implemented. However, the corruption of the bureaucratic mafia remains a major impediment. The Janani Janmraksha Yojana and the Community Kitchen, which were started ten years ago, have now become paper projects. The millet scheme, implemented to solve the malnutrition among the tribals, has been mired in corruption. There should be immediate governmental intervention in these matters. More important, the land belonging to tribals is being grabbed by big mafias. Where Attapadi had 99 per cent tribals in 1947, it has fallen to around 40 per cent today. It suggests the extent of migration happening there. Adding to it, the revenue minister told the Assembly the other day that mafia is trying to grab tribal land under the guise of trusts. In short, Minister O.R. Kelu is left to handle the survival struggles the Scheduled Tribes. Hope, he will creatively work out solutions.

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TAGS:#EditorialTribal-issuesOR Kelu
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