Wednesday, Feb 27, 2002
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ALAPPUZHA, FEB. 26. The Alappuzha district may soon witness agitations by a group of people who had hitherto remained far from public attention. A representative of the Adivasi Gotra Sabha, the apex body of various tribal organisations, told The Hindu here that they were determined to protest the neglect of tribals in the district by the authorities.
Johnson, a leader of the sabha in the district, said tribals in the district would no longer take it lying down. ``We have had enough of promises, what we want now is solid result,'' said Mr. Johnson. He said the Government was showing a discriminatory attitude towards the tribals of the district in appointments to governments jobs.
According to Mr. Johnson, welfare activities meant for tribals were not being implemented in the district. Also, no progress had been made in identifying lands to be distributed to tribals, he said.
Citing a recent notification by the Government inviting applicants to the post of Forest guards, Mr. Johnson said Alappuzha district was excluded from the list of districts from where applications were invited. He said the reason as revealed by the authorities for this omission was the absence of forests and tribals in the district.
Mr. Johnson felt that the reason was not valid as the government records show the presence of tribals in the district. According to him, the district has around 750 tribal families. Most of the tribals residing in the district are Ulladas. They are mostly found in areas in the district extending from Cherthala taluk to Karthikapally taluk.
According to him, more than 25 panchayats in the district have tribals. ``We are present in the three municipalities in the district also,'' he said. In the context, Mr. Johnson noted that the effort of the authorities to portray Alappuzha as a district without tribals would not hold ground.
On the welfare activities of the Scheduled Tribes being executed in the district, Mr. Johnson said the activities were almost nil. The full-fledged Scheduled Tribe development office for the district is situated in Punalur in Kollam district, he said.
According to him, a single government employee looks after the whole welfare activities for tribals in the Alappuzha district. The tribal extension officer in charge of the district has to shuttle between the main office at Punalur and the Alappuzha office. The Alappuzha office does not have even basic facilities. It does not have a telephone or a vehicle, or an additional staff to help the officer, he said.
Mr. Johnson said that the plight of a majority of the tribal families in the district was pathetic. A majority of them lacked permanent houses, he said. Even those who owned houses have no proper latrines, he said. He alleged that the free rations distributed to the tribals often failed to reach their hands. According to Mr. Johnson, the aid extended by the Union Government to help tribal students get training in various classical art forms is not properly distributed in the district.
``The funds meant for the welfare of tribals in the district are often misused,'' he alleged. Even the amount earmarked by the district panchayat for tribal welfare activities often gets lapsed, he said.
According to Mr. Johnson, tribals in the district are facing severe unemployment as their traditional jobs are no longer possible in the district. The main occupations of the tribals in the district were tree felling, collecting herbs, construction of wooden boats and catching tortoises are no longer viable. Tortoise catching had been banned by the Government. Wooden boats have few takers as fibre and steel boats are becoming popular.
On the proposed distribution of land to tribals, Mr. Johnson alleged that the authorities have failed to identify lands to be distributed to tribals in the district. He pointed out that almost half the tribals in the district did not possess land.
Reacting to the issue, the District Collector, M.N. Gunavardhanan, said he had already sent proposals to the Government to establish a full-fledged tribal development office in the district. Mr. Gunavardhanan said various proposals for the welfare of the tribals in the district were before the Government. On the issue of distribution of land, he said the Government did not have enough land to distribute in the district. And purchasing land would cost a very high amount, he said.
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