NEWSLETTER

No.11

Aug-Sep 2006


More than 2000 Adivasi houses get Electricity

 

The newly elected Government of Tamilnadu announced that the Nilgiris adivasis were selected for its 'Free Colour Television scheme'. Under this, every adivasi family would get a free colour Television. More importantly, electricity connections will be provided as a first step. More than the Television sets, the possibility of getting electricity into every home spurred the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam into intense action in August and September. All AMS animators held a series of meetings with Government officials at various levels to get electricity connections for our adivasi villages. They even managed to get remote, interior villages inside the Mudumalai sanctuary onto relevant administration lists. And miracle of miracles, the consent of the forest department officials was obtained.

 

The AMS President and Secretary were in constant touch with Revenue officials at Gudalur and the district administration at Ooty, while the area team members interacted closely with the Electricity department officials. When the official inauguration date of September 15th for the scheme arrived, more than 2000 adivasi houses received electricity connections and arrangements are afoot for more villages in the next phase. Since many of these families will get electricity free of charge as well, this will not only result in reduced expenditure on kerosene, but will also help in creating an atmosphere conducive for the children to study at home and may minimise the health problems due to smoke.

 

Consultation on National Tribal Policy

 

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs of the Government of India has formulated a draft National Tribal Policy. This policy paper has been circulated widely and the Government has sought the views of the adivasis and the NGOs working with them. As this has been the first such policy document prepared by the Government, we decided to provide our inputs in finalising the document. Dr.Syeda Hameed, member of the Planning Commission invited Mari Thekaekara on the Steering Committee for Women and Children. She asked Mari for the views of the tribal team and experts on the Draft policy.

 

We therefore held a consultation in Gudalur on August 26th in which 15 tribal leaders and activists working in the villages participated. The salient features of the Tribal Policy document were discussed and the group came out with a series of recommendations. Simultaneously, we sought the views of Drs.Shylaja, Premila and Deva, doctors who have worked on adivasi health for over a decade.  These expert opinions were also sent to the Planning Commission in New Delhi. Incidentally, Dr.Deva who initiated health work in Gudalur is now on the Planning Commission Steering Committee for health.

 

For more details on our response to the policy document, click the following links.

a. Recommendations of AMS

b. Expert Opinion of Dr.Shylaja and Dr.Premila

c. Expert Opinion of Dr.Devadasan

In conclusion, we wrote in our response to the Government of India that

Click picture for big map

"The draft National Tribal Policy is clearly in keeping with the Government's commitment towards protecting the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of Adivasi communities. Operationalising the policy through proper structures and systems of review and monitoring which are within the control of the adivasis themselves is vital."

We trust that the present government will fulfill its promise made in the common minimum programme. The millions allocated for tribal welfare hardly reach and when it does, it is in inappropriate forms that benefit not the adivasis but the very sections of society that oppress them. So, excluding the adivasis from the planning and subsequent implementation process leaves any intervention wide open to misuse fraud and corruption. In other words, it is important that the policy does not remain yet another document of beautiful intention, but should translate into action through well designed interventions that will ensure that the adivasis remain at the core of all that happens.

 

As a follow-up of this effort, Stan and Mari will be visiting New Delhi in the first week of October to personally meet Dr.Syeda Hameed, the Planning Commission member  and impress upon her our views. We are thankful for the inputs of Shikha in coordinating our response to the tribal policy.

 

Intensive training to Health Animators

 

Dr.Premila was in Gudalur during most part of August and September. She coordinates the Medical Student Electives programme of Ashwini; we had 12 medical students from UK attending this programme in these two months. Dr.Premila used this opportunity of two months stay in Gudalur to provide an intensive training to all the Health Animators working in the villages. 

 

 

Dr.Premila with Omana (Devala area) ↑

and Kumar & Latha (Ponnani area)    →

      

A detailed review of the health monitoring systems of the health animators was done and health status of the community - especially with respect to immunisation, growth monitoring and preventable illnesses -  was evaluated. During these one to one interactions with the health animators, Dr.Premila could not only improve their health knowledge, but also could increase their motivation.

 

CD with Adivasi Songs released

 

Recording and publishing the adivasi songs has been an important aspect of our cultural documentation activities. A few years ago, Manu Jose facilitated the recording of adivasi songs by taking a group of adivasi singers to the Chetna Studio in Thrissur.

 

The AMS brought out totally seven cassettes - Putheri, a collection of songs of all the tribes, two volumes of Bettakurumba songs, two volumes of Mullukurumba's Vattakali songs and two volumes of Korathi Nadagam. The Putheri cassette is hugely popular and is also part of the Artefacts Pack being sent by us for UK children studying about the adivasis of Gudalur. (See the section on Chembakolli.com below for more details).

 

As the technology of storing songs moved from analog to digital format, it was decided to preserve the songs in Compact Discs. As a first step, we got the Putheri songs converted into digital format and AMS brought out its first CD of adivasi songs.  At present, these CDs are available for sale.

All the other cassettes have also been converted into digital format and those CDs will also be released by AMS in due course.

 

Burial Ground problem in Kuthalkolli

 

The Paniya families living in Kuthalkolli village near Thorapalli had a dispute regarding their burial ground. They were using a common 'puramboke' land near a stream as the burial ground for their village for many years now. For the last one year, one non-tribal farmer called Prabhakaran of that area has been claiming that the land belongs to him and tried to take over the land with false documents. The adivasi families of Kuthalkolli resisted these moves by Prabhakaran.

 

The issue reached a flash point when one villager died in August and the people tried to enter the burial ground. Prabhakaran threatened the people and attempted to prevent them from entering the burial ground. Immediately, adivasi sangam members from Kuthalkolli, Nellikarai and Molappalli villages gathered in the place and ensured that the burial ground was used. The Area leader, Kempi took the lead in this protest to assert the people's rights. To ensure that it does not happen again, they formally lodged a complaint with the local Village Administrative Officer and the Revenue Divisional Officer about the problem. After a village meeting, the sangam members have fenced the burial ground and have clearly staked claim for the land.

 

The problem in Kuthalkolli is just an example to the many attempts by non-tribals to encroach on the common lands, sacred grove and burial grounds of adivasis. The village sangams have become more conscious of this and are beginning to assert our rights. We will protect these common properties, come what may.

 

Dental Students visit regularly adivasi villages

 

Dr.Venkatesh, the Dental Surgeon left for Bangladesh for a two years stint in a private hospital there. However, we managed to ensure that his absence did not affect the dental health programme. We approached the Coorg Institute of Dental Sciences in Virajpet, Coorg District of Karnataka and agreed to host their final year students in our hospital for a month.

 

Santhosh and Varghese -

two of the Dentist Students

Since our Dental clinic is well equipped, the students could provide the badly needed dental care to the patients in our hospital. Besides running the Dental clinic in the Gudalur Adivasi Hospital, these students visit the adivasi villages and schools as well. Screening of patients requiring dental care is done at the village level and health education is provided to the sangam members, especially to the adivasi children. Simple procedures like filling and extraction are also done by the Dentists when they visit the villages.

Till now five batches of two students each have spent a month each in Gudalur and we hope that we will be able to continue this relationship with the Institute.

 

Chembakolli.COM project

 

Over the last 10 years, we have developed very interesting development education materials in association with Actionaid, UK. The most important being the Chembakolli pack, which is immensely popular among the primary school children and teachers in UK. In fact, some of the visiting teachers associated with Actionaid have specialised in this particular education pack. When a group of eight adivasis visited UK in March this year, they interacted with many kids and were thrilled by the interest generated by these materials.

 

Now, we have launched a major project to upgrade the website with more interesting materials, lots of photographs showing the different aspects of adivasi life and stories about some interesting people from the adivasi community. The highlight of this website will be the WeBlogs section and the Hot Seat section, through which the children in UK schools will directly interact with the adivasi children in Gudalur and can ask questions to some selected adivasi people in Gudalur valley.

 

The website is being redesigned right now incorporating all these exciting new elements and made more colourful and children-friendly. A couple of sample pages of this website are given below.

 

       

The redesigned site is expected to go live on October 15th. Check out the new-look chembakolli website at www.chembakolli.com after 15th and get to learn lots more about the adivasi life in Gudalur valley.

 

Health Guides Training

 

In September, we had organised two important training sessions for our Health Guides. These women volunteers from the adivasi community are proving to be the backbone of our community health programme. The enthusiasm shown by these women in taking responsibility for the health of their villages and community is amazing and motivating.

 

The health team has been providing inputs to the health guides on a regular basis and the health knowledge of the community is constantly upgraded through these training sessions. Classes by doctors, role plays, visits to the Gudalur Adivasi Hospital, power point presentations and films are part of this structured training programme.

 

 

Dr. Amar Fettle, HIV-AIDS Consultant and South Zone Resource person for HIV Training from Trivandrum,  Kerala too attended the Health Guides training programme this month in which over 80 people participated. He gave a detailed account of the AIDS disease. He enumerated the routes by which the disease could spread, and reassured the audience that HIV AIDS could be prevented from entering their community, if people remained vigilant, and followed simple guidelines of behaviour. The audience showed keen interest in the talk, asked questions, and were grateful for the information which they could now carry back with authority to their villages. He was pleased to hear there had been no endogenous cases of HIV infection in the two Taluks, but warned of its possible advent, with the inevitable mainstreaming of adivasi life, and the necessary migration of young people to neighbouring towns and cities in search of work.  Dr.Fettle held separate sessions for the Health Animators, Doctors and the teachers of Vidyodaya School on HIV and AIDS.

 

We have been chosen by the Government of Tamilnadu as a AIDS testing and counselling centre. We hope to implement an extensive AIDS awareness programme during the next one year, which will benefit even the non-tribal community of this region.


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