Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Minister for Scheduled Tribes P K Jayalakshmi have blamed alcohol consumption by tribals for malnutrition deaths in Attappadi, but a study report by a government agency tells an entirely different story.
A pilot study under the aegis of KIRTADS, which was headed by Dr P K Sasidharan, Head of Department of Medicine, Kozhikode Medical College, reveals that massive deforestation, growing influence of consumerism and lack of awareness are the major factors behind the health issues there.
The study reveals that some tribal mothers who lost their newborns were overweight as they ate more quantity of food, but the quality of their food was worse than that of the poorest people in the mainland. It says that all the neonatal deaths in Attappadi were due to malnutrition, lack of basic health care and lack of social security measures. The root cause of all these issues, according to the study, is the massive deforestation.
At present, there is hardly any forest left in the area. With the forests disappearing as a result of human intervention, the tribals have increasingly become reliant on extraneous elements who exploit them. They have to beg before the outsiders, for their needs and as a result they have become lazy and malnourished and sick, says the report. The team detected several Type One diabetes cases in Attappadi, all diagnosed in the last two years.
Significantly, the report adds that no house had toilets, but almost all of them have mobile phones and some families even have TV and dish antenna, which exposes the growing influence of consumerism.
The TV, dish antenna and other consumer goods are procured by loans from unauthorized financial sources who exploit them. The tribals have no money to buy the most essential items for them including medicines. And they have no idea at all about a balanced diet.
Usurers give loans to buy electronic goods and extract money from them, adds the report, which recommends the government and the law enforcement departments to deal with an iron hand.