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Malkangiri child death continues: needed political will of local tribal leaders.

For last two months the most shocking death of innocent Tribal and Dalit children in the lap of helpless parents continues unabated in the poorest STs and SCs dominated district of Malkangiri in state of Odisha.

By Manas jena, Bhubaneshwar

Dec 04, 2016

 Privately it is being claimed that during last two months the death number has reached to more than three hundred though the figure shared by district administration is very much doubtful. The majority of the children died are girl child of STs and all most all blocks are affected.

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 It is estimated that in the past thousands of children died every year due to ill health, fever,malaria, diarrhea and many more diseases without proper heath care facility in this interiorbackward districts.This is a criminal negligence of the Government in ensuring basic health care system and violation of constitutional guaranty to right to life. It is also failure of Government to protect the marginalized communities and the vulnerable sections who deserve special care and protection. It is most unfortunate that the children are dying in a time when the whole country engaged in Beti Padhao and Beti-Banchao and child rights are international concern of the day.

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In a continued helpless desperate condition Umesh Madhi, ten year old student of class four from Polkanda Primary School under Sikapali GramPanchayat, wrote a letter to Prime Minister of India to save the life of poor Adivasi children disappearingwithout food and medicine. He requested the Prime Minister to make a visit to his district to see their vulnerable condition. Few days back the central minister from Odisha visited the area.

There are many Government and non-Government actors concern are also visiting the district and filing reports of their observation came in press and social media to draw Government attention over the issue with hope of timely intervention but nothing has changed to stop the death of children. The issue of child death has been a matter of worriedness for many students and activists outside the state and protest were organized at Delhi, Mumbai and many other parts of the country in sympathy and solidarity with the suffering masses of Malkangiri. It is expected that the constitutional bodies such as NCPCR, NHRC, NCST and NCSC should timely intervene in the matter and holding Dthe state accountable,Heath department,ST and SC Development Department,women and child welfare department and district administration  for its negligence in providing service to the children  in need.

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As per 2011 census STs and SCs constitute more than eighty percent of the 6.13 Lakh total population of the district (23 per cent SCs and 58per centSTs). The district has 1056 villages in 108 Gramapanchyat under seven blocks with very lower literacy and a favorable sex ratio of 1028 female per 1000 male.  The district is home to Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG) such as Koyas, Bonda, Poraja, and Didayai and many other Tribal and Dalit communities. The whole of Malkangiri is a 5th Scheduled area has been always heading the news for its suffering and continued backwardness, Maoist violence, poor social, health and educational infrastructure, non-implementation of Government schemes and programmes and lack of access of the illiterate and socially backward inhabitants of the district to their constitutional and legal rights and entitlements guaranteed under constitution of modern India. But for last sixty five years there has been violation of rights of the people by the state itself. The Ministry of Panchyatraj Government of India ranked Malkangiri in 2006 as one of the country’s 256 most backward district out of 460.

There has been flow of central assistance in many ways to the district but the ineffectiveness of the state administration has not percolate down the resources to the people there. The state Government officials posting at Malkangiri being treated as punishment transfer because of the backwardness of the district. Majority of the service providers mostly non-tribal and outsiders shows insignificant commitment for the poor and marginalized in the absence of political will and administrative commitment that has been reflected in the poor implementation of Government schemes and programmes. The political leadership of the whole district belong to Adivasies as the district is a Scheduled area, all the Sarapanch, Panchayat Samiti Chairperson, ZillaParisad Chairperson, two MLA and one MP seats are reserved for STs. But Adivasi leadership has always been managed and appropriated by the ruling parties and the assertion for rights and identities has been neglected due to lack of political awareness. The present MLA and MP of the district are belong to the ruling parties. The elected people’s representatives of Panchyatraj institutions and local MLA and MPs have a major role in the development of the people of the district.

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Number of studies by Government and private organizations have established the fact about poor implementation of central Government schemes for poor, STs, SCs, women and children such as NFSA /PDS, ICDS, Mid-day meal, NREGS, NRHM and programme of dedicated agencies such as TSP/ITDA,micro projects, Bonda Development Agency, Didayi Development Agency, OTELP and many more special grants for its Tribal and left wing extremist presence.

There are also presence of a host of international development agencies and private NGOs for a long time engagement in tribal development. Why all these multitude of schemes have not contributed in ensuring basic minimum for life after so many years of intervention. There has been huge unemployment, distress migration and chronic hunger with every household as more than ninety percent of the household are under BPL. The STs and SCs household lack access to productive resources i.e. Land, education and skill to cope with the changing economic context. Poor economic status and backward social and education condition leads to serious food and malnutrition problem for all and children are more vulnerable to this situation. There are families in extreme poverty and takes such local verities of items such as seed of Badachakunda (cassia tora) and Mango kernel. The hamlets are without safe drinking water, sanitation and proper housing for decent living.

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Government of India has been implementing  National victor borne disease control programme for prevention and control of malaria, Dengue, Kala-azor, lymphaticfiloriasis, Chikengunia and Japanese Encephalitis and Acute Encephalitis syndrome in affected states since 2006 but this has coveredMalkanagiri in late. The state Government has not properly implemented this programme in inaccessible tribal areas with priority. There has been no health related awareness among people.The tribal people prefer traditional method of treatment and still have faith on traditional healers (Jani and Diasari) of the community and they have very limited access to modern heath facilities in their area which is very inadequate and in weak form. The state Government have distributed mosquito nets and coil to very few households to control mosquito bite which is not enough.

The Government must be pay compensation to the families having child death and the farmers who have lost pigs. Health is very much linked to the availability of nutritious food, socio-environmental condition of the locality which need a radically change. The living condition of the people need to be changed and there must be separate settlement for cattle population, pigs etc.  There is need for literacy and specially health literacy among the tribal, SCs and other rural poor along with building basic health related infrastructure such as drinking watersources, latrine, housing and promotion of personal hygiene and cleanness among women and students in schools. Vaccination must be compulsory for every child and special care and protection is highly required.It is not just Malkanagiri the whole of undivided Koraput district, Nawaragpur, Rayagada, Koraput the condition of the inhabitants have not improved to the desired extent. The old practices and believe system needs replacement with modern health and education system.

(*manasbbsr15@gmail.com)

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