Taking care of Attappady Tribes
“We should never forget our original tribal culture”
- Birsa Munda
Attappady is a tribal block located at Mannarkkad taluk in Palakkad and has one of the largest tribal settlements in Kerala. Bordering Kerala and Tamil Nadu, close to the Nilgiri Hills and the western Ghats, lies Attappady. The reserve area is currently inhabited by Irulas, Mudugas and Kurumbas, each having a distinct lifestyle, culture and food habits. They live in hamlets, known as Oorus. Currently, Attappady has 192 Oorus.
The hilly area is famous for its worship of the mountain peak “Malleeswaran” at the Malleeswaram Temple is an extremely important event in the area. The Bhavani River plays an integral part of this area. The area is among the most picturesque location in Palakkad district.
Attappady is like a kid on the lap of the mother. District Administration provides all the possibilities for their living like community kitchen, Anganvadi, Kudumbashree, Attappady millet village, Attappady cooperative farming society, The National rural livelihood mission (NRLM), Kerala state literary mission and AADI (Attappady Adivasi Development Initiatives).
The Government of Kerala is much intensed to take care of tribes. In order to empower their life, Government is implementing enoromous plans.
Community Kitchen is a programme aimed at addressing the malnourishment of the tribal community in Attappady. It is the revival of the earlier practice of the community’s eating food together to discuss their social issues. It is started in 2013 and managed by Social Welfare Department. In 2014, the management shifted to Kudumbashree mission.
The pregnant, lactating women, children from 6 months to 6 years of age, school going children and elderly citizens are to be provided breakfast like avil (rice flakes), broken wheat upma, rice gruel, green gram and idli. A protocol is being developed for maintaining hygienic condition. Vessels have been provided for fetching and storing water and cooking food. At present, food is prepared in community kitchen twice a day. The community kitchen has also started using vegetables grown by the community. The cleaning process is managed by the same NGH (Neighbourhood groups) who cooks. The stock book is written by the Secretary of the NGH with the support of the animator. The Oorusamithi Executive Committee, the animator and the project management unit of Kundumbashree Mission, would be responsible for monitoring the management of the project.
The aim of community kitchen would become the nutrition education centre recall the traditional food. Internalizing the nutritious value of traditional food items like Ragi, Chama, Varag, Chola, Thina, Kambu etc and pulses like Thomara, Amara, black gram, horse gram, groundnuts etc and about 63 varieties of leaves popularising the traditional form of agriculture like “Panchakrishi”.
Attappady has 172 Anganwadis which are supposed to provide supplementary nutrition to children, pregnant women, lactating mothers and adolescent girls under the Integrated Child Development services (ICDS) project.
Kudumbashree Mission is getting strong among the tribal population in Kerala. The Attappady special project is being carried out by Kudumbashree from 2013 onwards for making progressive changes among the lives of tribes. Projects giving special emphasis to the areas like Edamalakkudy are the major ones among the tribal focused programmes. Kudumbashree plans to strength the livelihood activities in tribal areas.
Kudumbashree is setting up ‘Bhakshyavanam’ at Attappady as a part of Attappady Comprehensive Tribal Development and particularly vulnerable Tribal Group Development Project. This programme is convergence with the Subiksha Keralam Concept initiated by Government of Kerala. ‘Bhakshyavanam’, which aims at ensuring food security at the 192 hamlets of Attappady and for preserving the organic diversity was launched on 5 June 2020, as part of the Environment day observance. The plan is to cultivate Paddy, Ragi, Sama rice, Millet, Sugarcane, Koda millet other food crops in Attappady area, vegetables, tubers and spices. Bhakshyavanam is being implemented for the rejuvenation of agriculture, creation of livelihood and self sustainability in agriculture, preservation of the tradition, mother earth and plants.
Recognizing the fact that only education could lead the tribes to a bright future, Scheduled Tribes Development Department has been investing heavily on tribal educational institution in Attappady. There is one Model Residential School (MRS) and 16 Pre–Matric hostels established in Attappady by Scheduled Tribes Development Department. APJ Abdul Kalam Tribal Residential School is to provide quality education exclusively for tribal children, mainly from Kurumba community of Attappady in complete residential mode with superior infrastructure and resource pool. The school is situated at Attappady, the largest tribal block of Kerala in around 4.59 acres of its ethnic locale. It is contributing to the sustainable development of tribal community retaining their cultural values and heritage. The mission is to enable the tribal children to have an insightful and confident future overcoming the various inhabitious while interacting with the mainstream society.
There are several schemes of Scheduled Tribes Development Department for the overall development of scheduled tribe children which includes Post - matric and Pre - matric Scholarships, supply of uniforms, various educational grants, incentive to parents of students, assists for brilliant students and study tour, tutorial scheme and entrance coaching for admission to professional courses, skill development projects, supply of laptops to students who are studying professional courses.
Special activities of the Government Tribal Speciality Hospital, Kottathara is monitored by Nodal officer and Tribal Health, Attappady. Around 65,000 people live in 3 panchayats like Agali, Puthoor and Sholayoor in the Attappady block. This includes more than 33,000 members of about 11,000 tribal families from the category of Irulas, Mudukas and Kurumbas. The health department has set up the best measures for their health care. Attappady’s main treatment centre is Kottathara Tribal Speciality Hospital with 100 bed facilities. No one can deny the characteristics and quality of this hospital that beats a private speciality hospital. Agali Community Health Centre is also functioning well with 44 bed facilities. Primary Health Centre like Anakkatti, Sholayoor and Puthoor are also playing a vital role in the health care of Attappady at the panchayat level.
Construction activities are underway to convert these three hospitals into family health centres. Moreover, 28 sub centres and 5 mobile medical units are working. 52 doctors including specialists are available in Attappady. Field workers like Nurses, Health Inspectors, ASHA workers are visiting villages and giving necessary instructions to pregnant women, underweight children and other patients. Using all these systems, Nodal officer and Tribal Health, Attappady ensures a comprehensive progress in the health care of the tribes.
The district administration has organised a Tribal Cross Country Run at Attappady on January 2, 2020 to insist the importance of physical fitness. DTPC, NRLM – Kudumbashree, ITDP have organised the program. 256 people participated in the competition. Arjun Pandian IAS Sub Collector, Ottapalam and Nodal officer, Attappady had flagged off the race.
District Administration has made an open call for volunteers to create awareness classes on Covid-19 in the tribal hamlets. Until now, no case of Covid-19 has been reported from Attappady. The volunteers and the police still continue their work in the hamlets, ensuring that the condition remain the same.
The Samagra Siksha Kerala (SSK) has scripted a success story by reaching out to all 192 tribal hamlets in Attappady hills with online and television education facilities. Hundreds of tribal children in the remote villages from the SSK initiative done with the support of the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP).
As no mobile phone signal range is available there, lessons are downloaded for a week and given in a flash drive to be used in laptops. Besides upper Galasi, Anavai, Upper Thudukki and Lower Thudukki are covered this way. Community centres in the tribal hamlets are converted into learning on warfooting by getting speedy power connections.
Arjun IAS, Nodal officer, Attappady visit the tribes every Friday and has much concern on their lives. Tribes are pampered by his smart administration. He has made them feel free to approach him at anytime. Moreover, he motivates the researchers to document the life of tribes in literature. Leadership is not a position or a title. It is action and example. Undoubtedly Arjun has the capacity to translate the vision into reality in the life of tribes in Attappady Tribal Settlement.
(The author is assistant professor and Tribal Researcher, Dept of English, PKR Arts College for Women, Gobichettipalayam, Erode, TN)