NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Tribal Affairs should constitute a COVID-19 response team to coordinate with tribal departments in states to reach out to tribal people, said experts.
With migrant workers returning homes, states with high tribal population should closely work with civil society organisations to monitor their health concerns, they said.
Amid the lockdown, the first ‘special train’ left Telangana for Jharkhand on Friday.
According to the Economic Survey 2016-17, the pattern of flow of migrants showed while the less affluent states saw more out-migration, the affluent states were the largest recipients of migrants. While Goa, Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka saw in-migration, states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh saw people migrating out, the survey said.
An expert committee report submitted in 2018 showed that tribal population bears a disproportionate burden of communicable disease like malaria, tuberculosis, skin infection, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, typhoid, viral fever and cholera.
“There are over 15 tribal districts which have been included in the hotspot areas. New cases are being reported from other tribal areas. This poses serious health concerns for tribal communities in India. The lockdown has also led to financial distress in tribal areas as their livelihoods have been affected,” said Tushar Dash, an independent researcher and expert on forest rights issues. Among the hotspots, some districts had large outbreaks.
The total number of tribal people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 were 25 across the country, said Deepak Khandekar, secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs. “The number is small. In case, the situation worsens that COVID enters in tribal area, we are in readiness (of forming a response team). We have a plan that if the situation arises, then that would be our action at that point of time,” said Khandekar.
The government should coordinate with civil society organisations in order to reach out to the tribal population in remote areas, said Odisha-based activist Y Giri Rao. “The government needs to develop mechanisms and involve civil society organisations for COVID-19 affected state. There is a need to work closely with the local community to ensure that the entitlements reach them. The states with high tribal population should see more proactive efforts,” said Rao.