JOIDA (UTTARA KANNADA): Even before the government announced the lockdown, these tribal hamlets in Joida taluk quietly followed voluntary lockdown.
The idea of ‘home quarantine’ is ingrained in them. During Lockdown 1 and 2, no one stepped out of their houses. Entry and exit to the hamlets was strictly blocked. Their wants are simple and they had enough stores like tubers and grains to last them during this period.
Though Joida is considered to be one of the most backward taluks of Karnataka, the place is abundantly rich in natural resources and the tribal hamlets here have proved that they are more disciplined that their urban counterparts when it comes to the pandemic and following the lockdown rules.
Staying at home, not visiting neighbours and not crossing the village boundary are not new for these tribals. Their self-driven initiative is rooted in their tradition and their socio-cultural way of life.
They have learnt through their ancestors about the dos and don’ts when a pandemic breaks out. Unlike the urban population which was found flouting lockdown rules, many village dwellers did not even move out of their houses for many days.
Mirashe, the local priests, perform the boundary rituals at tribal hamlets and villages—people believe it is an order from the Gods to remain indoors. Once the boundary rituals are completed, no outsider can enter a hamlet or a tribal village till the Mirashe decides, and not the local authorities. Some people have followed lockdown rules so strictly that they did not even visit their relatives in the same village.
"Our ancestors were aware about the pandemics. The plague often used to hit villages and without knowing what was happening in the other parts of the world, the villagers themselves used to stay indoors to ensure they were not affected. When anyone died in the village, such houses used to be abandoned and torched. Those who died of a pandemic used to have a different burial. Their bodies used to be tied to long bamboo poles and they were dragged to digging points ensuring no one came in contact of the dead," explains Babu Mirashe from Deria village in Joida.
Noted ayurvedic expert Shreedhar Desai from Gund in Uttara Kannada points out that the abandoned and deserted hamlets in the middle of the forests are nothing but signs of previous pandemics. "In the earlier days, there were many pandemics and several ayurvedic pundits have documented illnesses that are similar to the COVID-19. During the late 1800, there was a pandemic which has been referred to as Gaon Gutti and one of the remedies was leaving the village for a certain period of time to stay away from the virus," he explains.
The locals also point out that in the last two months, Joida has reported only two Covid-19 cases and both had travel history. "One patient has recovered. The strict lockdown implementation and not allowing anyone inside the villages and hamlets may have curtailed the spread of the virus to villages. The district has reported 30 plus cases but they are mostly concentrated in Bhatkal and surrounding areas. Every year, we prepare ourselves to fight the monkey fever during summer, but this time we had to be more cautious as there is a pandemic that is affecting the whole world. Village seniors took decisions fast and ensured complete lockdown for the safety of people," says Jayanand Derekar, social activist and a resident of Deria.
Local policemen say it was less taxing for them to convince people to stay at home in Joida and surroundings. "But villagers themselves stayed at home during the first and second lockdowns. Our main worry was those who used to come from outside and we maintained the records and details of those ersons," says a police official.