There is an alarming fall in the population of Attapadi tribals due to declining birth rates and life expectancy. The number of deaths is increasing in the age group of 40 and 55 years in a small population of over 30, 000. Lack of medical care, addiction to liquor and drugs, nutritional deficiency, infertility and high abortion rates have taken a heavy toll of their lives. The story is not different for the non-tribals also numbering over 60,000 in the area.
Basic medical facilities are not being made available in Attapadi. Hence the tribes and the locals travel to Palakkad and Coimbatore for the purpose.
In the three panchayats of Agali, Pudur and Sholayur in Attapadi, there were 776 deaths and only 519 births between January 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012, according to an RTI information.
K A Ramu of Karara in Agali who is an activist of Thampu, an organisation which works among the adivasis, said: “Though the deaths of tribals have not been recorded separately, over 60 per cent were tribal folk and most of them were between the ages of 40 and 55 years.’’
In the Sholayur panchayat, of the 49 births between January 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012, 24 were males and 25 females. In the 182 deaths, 117 were males and 61 females. In the Pudur grama panchayat, of the 103 births, 54 were males and 49 females.
Of the 164 deaths,124 were males and 40 females. In the Agali grama panchayat, of the 367 births, 184 were males and 183 females. Of the 430 deaths, 271 were males and 153 females.
Suresh Babu, secretary of the Sholayur panchayat, said, “Since the Sholayur panchayat lies on the border with Tamil Nadu, many of the births take place in the Bethany hospital and Kuppuswamy hospital in Aanakatty on the other side of the border. But still the death rates recorded by the panchayats in Attapadi are very high.’’
Attapadi Block programme officer Radhakrishnan stated that according to a survey conducted by Kila, Thrissur, and published in January 2011, the tribal population was 30,658 and that of non-tribals 67,672 in Attapadi.
Dr Prabhudas, who had attended to a record 3,200 deliveries during his 14-year stint in Attapadi, commented that in this age of modern medicine, the fact that the life expectancy of tribes has not increased is disconcerting.