Pathanamthitta: No land to call their own, no place for them to sleep. Even though they are adivasis belonging to the scheduled tribe community, they don’t get any benefits of the law.
This is the plight of 92 adivasi families in Pathanamthitta belonging to Malambandara tribe, who sleeps out in the rain and fog in the forest. Even though the government had promised multiple times to relocate them, nothing has materialised so far.
In 2014, the government had started processes to rehabilitate them through the Mathruka Colony (Model Colony) programme and had located forest land for the same. The scheduled tribes department allocated Rs 1.5 crore to build houses.
However, the project was later abandoned due to interference from the National Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climatic Change. The central ministry opined that adivasi families living in a specific forest land for a long time before 2005 December 13 can only be given the land. The ministry also took the stance that people who were constantly moving were ineligible for land under the scheme.
Later, the state government tried to co-operate with the Devaswom Board and tried to create rehabilitation facility at Nilakkal, but that didn’t materialise either. Currently, Malambandara tribe families live inside temporary sheds at Ranni and Konni taluks. When wild animal menace increases at one place, they would move out to another temporary settlement.
Lack of permanent houses adversely affect the education of kids from the tribe. Most of them do not even complete 10th grade. Shifting houses multiple times a year and not having enough facilities to reach the schools are the two major causes. Malnutrition is also seen among women and children. Anaemic diseases and weight loss is also alarmingly common among them.
Since the settlements of each of the families are scattered, women don’t get enough care during pregnancy or while giving birth. Most of them undergo labour inside their houses itself. Their major source of income is collecting forest resources. However, diminishing forest resources and poor market pricing makes matters worse.