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 (A tribal home in Kerala-Image Courtesy CAG)
 
Does #PoMoneModi (get lost Modi) campaign actually reflect hurt Malayalee pride? Would this campaign have trended on Twitter, had PM quoted official guesstimates on infant mortality rates (IMRs) for all tribes that would put Somalia in better light than India?    
Does #PoMoneModi embody certain groups’ deep-rooted hatred for Prime Minister Narendra Modi? (He loves to operate as a star campaigner for BJP and thus provide fodder for anti-Modi campaigns! http://bit.ly/1Sh9m8s). Was #PoMoneModi driven by argumentative Indian’s tendency to get into debate without doing home work? 
The answer to these issues would become clear if we dig out bitter truth about the plight of tribals in Kerala and elsewhere across the country. And the unpleasant facts would equally expose the Centre where BJP is carrying on with UPA’s policy paralysis on tribals. The facts would also shame Kerala Government and those who like to shoot from the hip.   
Let us start with the crux of #PoMoneModi. IMR in Kerala is 12 per 1000 live births, as compared to national average of 40, according to latest Sample Registration System (SRS) 2013 under which health indicators (HIs) data is collected by Office of Registrar General of India.  SRS does not collect data for scheduled tribes (STs) or scheduled castes (STs) as separate groups.  
Mr. Modi did not contest this or any of the other health indicators for God’s own country that are better than national average. Nobody can deny the fact Kerala is role model for other states as far as human development indicators are concerned.
In spite of this, a deliberate attempt was made to twist Mr. Modi’s observation that “infant mortality rate among the scheduled tribe community in Kerala is worse than Somalia” as comparing Kerala with Somalia. Such blatant distortion can only be done by persons who are allergic to facts or by ones who have inane dislike for Mr. Modi.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy cashed in on anti-Modi campaign instead of basing his letters on what precisely PM stated at an election rally in Kerala. In his letter to PM, CM reportedly posed “Yet, you (PM) compared Kerala to Somalia that is reeling under poverty and internal strife. Is it not a shame for the prime minister to pronounce that a state like Somalia exists in the country?” 
In fact, Mr. Chandy should be ashamed for distorting PM’s controversial statement that can neither be disproved nor proved as we realize this later in this column.
Mr. Modi, of course, should have avoided articulating ex-CM V.S. Achuthanandan’s views on plight of Kerala tribals. After visiting Attapadi where over 30 children died of anaemia and malnutrition, he reportedly told correspondents: “The UDF government, by its continued neglect of the pathetic condition of the Tribals of Attapadi, is turning the heartland into a Somalia type situation.” 
In the perceptions war, Achuthanandan is an insider in Kerala and his statements thus don’t hurt Malayalee pride.  Mr. Modi, on the other, is much as an outsider for Keralites as for Biharis! 
The High Level Committee (HLC) on tribals set up PMO during UPA regime has echoed Achuthanandan anguish without drawing comparison with Somalia.
Prof. Virginius Xaxa-chaired HLC, which submitted its report to NDA Government on 29th May 2014, says: “Attapadi is a stark reminder of how forgotten tribal communities can become and what contexts of direness are produced by extreme poverty, remoteness and the non-provision of services by an administration.”
It adds: “At a public hearing in Attapadi, speaker after speaker spoke of the distance between the dwellings of Kurumba tribals and the ration shop, the paucity of minor irrigation projects that could ensure drinking water and irrigation to the tribal community, the inaccessibility to remote tribal villages and the problem brought on by drought. One issue that was raised was about forest-dwelling communities which have had a sudden shift in their nutrition status after rules that have been made which prevent killing of animals without providing them with alternatives that would make up for the loss of nourishment.”
Why no #PoMoneModi campaigner has attacked HLC, whose report is available on the websites of few NGOs? The campaigners also turned blind eye to the fact Modi Government has not yet made the report public, leave aside taking any decision on its recommendations that envisage a new deal for all tribals. 
There is no latest, official HI data on Kerala tribals. What is available is woefully outdated data that cannot form the basis of #PoMoneModi.
The Union Government’s latest ‘Statistical Profile of Scheduled Tribes in India 2013’ (SPSTI) quotes data collected under National Family Health Survey (NFHS)–3, conducted by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in 2005-06. NFHS-4 data on Kerala tribals is not yet available in public domain. 
According SPSTI, IMR in STs was 62.1, as compared to 66.4 in scheduled castes. The State-wise IMR Estimates (based on 2001 census) show that IMR for Kerala tribals at 60 as compared to national average IMR of 84 for STs.
Even HLC has relied on outdated NFHS-3 and Census 2001 data to focus on tribal IMR and other health indicators. HCL felt that IMR and child mortality rates for tribals were “most likely to be underestimates.” 
HLC has thus recommended that “one percent of the total budget for the Scheduled Tribe population (TSP) should be allocated to the generation of reliable, timely, and relevant segregated data on Scheduled Tribes population, from the local to national level. This will provide the crucial instrument – the facts – necessary to guide program managers, policy makers and the Scheduled Tribe population itself.”
Neither PM nor #PoMoneModi brigade nor Kerala CM felt the acute need for reliable, timely data on tribals in their battle for brownie points.
Lack of latest and credible data becomes evident from the official report on ‘brainstorming consultations on convergence of resources for tribal development’ organized by Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MTA) on 13th December 2014. 
In the report, S.B. Agnihotri, Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, makes a strong case for tracking each and every infant mortality among tribals to understand the causes of death and thus plan specific remedies to reduce IMR. 
The Report quotes him as saying “even if we consider IMR to be 80 per 1000 children born, we are looking at 80x200, i.e. 16000 deaths every month through the country. Tracking 16,000 deaths is more effective than trying to track 24 lakh births.”
The report quotes an unnamed participant as stating tracking 98 deaths vis-à-vis 1000 births is easier.”
The crucial point to note here is that one official meeting has recorded two IMR guesstimates for India that are higher than 72 for Somalia! This figure was released in March 2014 in the report on the Somaliland Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS). It was carried out in 2011 by Somali Government in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The non-existence of timely and reliable data on national IMR and tribal IMR for each State suggests #PoMoneModi is nothing but political cacophony.  
Prime Minister or his advisors might well have relied on an authoritative 2008 study/book titled ‘Tribal Health and Medicine in Kerala’ by N. Viswanathan Nair. Dr. Nair is former Director of State Government’s Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development Studies of Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (KIRTADS).  This study gives bone-chilling IMR data for Kerala tribals. Though this data is outdated, it might rationalize Mr. Modi’s comment. It is, however, for PM’s office to disclose source of such data that led him to compare plight of Kerala tribals with that of Somali people. 
A major finding of Dr. Nair’s study is that IMR of Kerala tribals vary from one economic category to another. This fact should have acted as restrain for self-styled champions of Malayalee pride from hurling slurs on PM.   
At the election rally, Mr. Modi was only raking up the larger issue of neglect of tribals by State Government. A lot has been said and reported on this subject by experts for years.  Why this wealth of unpleasant information did not hurt Malayalee pride all these years? Why this did rouse in campaigners the desire to fight for tribals is difficult to understand?
Research studies on plight of tribals in Kerala available in cyberspace are enough to hurt pride of any Indian, if not give sleepless nights to Kerala CM. Here is a sample that should serve as a wake-up call for Mr. Chandy.
Start with Kerala Home Department-commissioned study titled ‘Impact of Janamaithri Suraksha (community policing) Project on the Safety/Security of the Tribal People in Kerala’. It was prepared by Kochi-based The Research Institute, Rajagiri College of Social Sciences in March 2015. 
The study observes: “The situations of children in many of the tribal colonies are found to be very pathetic. They have been facing problems like; poverty, malnutrition, school dropouts, mental and physical illness, etc.”
Listing a few case stories, the study says: “A Janamaithri officer from Kozhikode district narrated a heartening story of a group of tribal children aged 1-12 years gathered in a colony premise without adequate food and cloths. It was so dismal to note that they were eating mud out of sheer hunger. The health condition of the children was very feeble too.”
It adds: “Many studies show that, even after sixty years of formation of the state, tribals continue as one of the most marginalized community within the state, the post globalized developmental projects and developmental dreams of the state has again made the deprivation of the tribals of Kerala and the developmental divide has increased between the tribal and non-tribal in the state.”
The study has put on record the fact that the pitiable situation of the scheduled tribes has been cashed in on by Left Wing Extremists (LWEs). 
Similar observation about tribals has been made in a paper titled ‘Morbidity Pattern of Tribes in Kerala’ published by IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science in April 2016. 
Noting that “conditions of tribes in Kerala are distressing,” the Paper says: “They are caught in the vicious circle of poverty coupled with malnutrition, morbidity and mortality. A study conducted on the basis of Multidimensional poverty index by( Richard Scaria et al 2013) in Attapady Palakkad among Irular, Mudugar and Kurumbar tribes show that majority of tribes lies in the category of severe poverty i.e., tribes in Attappady are affected in more than 50% deprivation indicators.”
The Paper adds: “More over pregnant women and lactating mothers were found to be suffering from chronic malnutrition and anemia leading to high infant mortality rates (Dr Iqbal et al 2013).”
According to a CAG report on Kerala’s  General and Social Sector presented to state assembly during June 2014, “A survey covering the children in the age group of zero to 72 months in four Grama Panchayaths 43 was conducted (2012-13) by District Administration (under UNICEF assistance). Data collected and analysed by survey on 1,855 births in four selected Grama Panchayaths revealed that the infant mortality rate was as high as 41.47 among tribal population. In these circumstances, maintenance of separate database for the tribal population is necessary for the appropriate and timely intervention by the Health department.”
The report also cites 13-year delay in setting up a residential school for tribals after the grant of Government approval.  This forced students to study in a school that operated from the cattle shed of defunct Pookode dairy project!
CAG also noted that State Government sanctioned (January 2010) acquisition of 1,000 acres of land for the resettlement of landless tribals and released Rs 50 crore (2011-12) to the Tribal Resettlement and Development Mission (TRDM) Wayanad for this purpose. But, the amount is still kept unutilised (September 2013) and no
progress was achieved in the acquisition of suitable land for distribution among tribal people.”
A survey conducted by the Kerala Institute of Local Administration in association with the Scheduled Tribe Welfare Department showed that 49 per cent tribal houses lack toilets. As many as 24,289 families do not hold ration cards. More than 55 per cent live in dilapidated houses. In all, 39,850 houses do not have kitchen. Half of the population is deprived of pure drinking water and 1252 tribal hamlets are not electrified. More than 1300 tribal settlements face threat from wild animals, according to a story published in The Hindu in December 2011.
The narrative on Kerala tribals can’t be made wholesome without factoring a few newspaper headlines. Here is a sample: 1) ‘Rs 1,347cr spent on tribal welfare but results missing’. This was headline for Thissur datelined story that appeared in Times of India on 24th July 2015. 2) ‘Leech Fields -Social indices topper Kerala just can’t stop the baby deaths in its malnutrition-hit tribal Attapady belt’. This was the headline for an exhaustive report with shocking images of plight of tribals that appeared in Outlook Magazine dated 29 July 2013. 3) ‘Criminal neglect takes toll on Attappady tribes’. This was the headline for a story on 30 infant deaths that appeared in Down to Earth magazine in July 2013.
CM’s office can access more such stories and studies from cyberspace to put in place a credible delivery mechanism for tribal welfare schemes. 
Turn now to the need for a wake-up call for Mr. Modi. He owes an apology to tribals for his Government’s failure to unveil national tribal policy, whose first draft was unveiled by UPA Government in August 2006!
He also needs to explain two-year delay in making public HLC report and the Government’s decisions on its recommendations.
Above all, both UPA and NDA should tender a joint apology to the nation for holding back annual reports of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST).
Established under the Article 338A of the Constitution in 2004, NCST is mandated to present its annual report to the President. In the annual report, NCST recommends steps that should be taken by the Centre and/or States for effective implementation of the safeguards.
NCST website says that the Commission has withheld publication of its annual reports for six consecutive years ending 2012-13 pending their disclosure to Parliament. NCST finalized its report for 2013-14 on 13th April 2016 for presentation to President only last month. 
The Government is duty-bound to place in both houses of the Parliament NCST’s annual reports along with a Memorandum explaining the action taken or proposed to be taken on the recommendations relating to the Centre.
Let Parliament consider all pending reports on tribals and lay an Agenda for Growth of all Tribals in the forthcoming monsoon session.
 
Published by http://nareshminochapolity.blogspot.in on 15th May 2016  
 
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