During our interactions with Mani and Joby, we realised that the locals strongly believed that the current situation of the tribes can be attributed to government’s ‘proactive’ measures with respect to strengthening their socio-economic situation. According to them, the tribesmen have become extremely lazy today and thrive on freebies for progress. This struck us as odd. With malnutrition and infant deaths on the rise, the Attapadi tribal belt has been pleading with the officials for years to provide them with an efficient health care plan and a comprehensive rehabilitation package.
If the schemes introduced by the authorities have had a detrimental effect on the lifestyle of the tribal communities, then why hasn’t the government altered its tactics? Why continue propagating a system that thrives on an inefficient model? Both Joby and Mani felt that those in power do not wish for the tribals to lead better lives in order to ensure that funds keep pooling in from time to time. Moreover, the communities are willing to project themselves in a pitiful situation thereby indicating that they are still in desperate need of help so that they continue receiving facilities from the government.
Although the complexity of tribal dynamics requires one to eliminate all conventional urban rules and regulations with respect to cultural or social order, the peculiar observations in Attapadi Hills baffled us to no end. “These tribes are judged as primitive or backward by the so-called ‘civilised’ folks,” said Mani who further added that most of them suffer from an inferiority complex. Racism and ethnic intolerance are still quite rampant in these areas. They are also met with judgement and preconceived notions. There’s a clear distinction between settlers and tribes; one that envelopes all socio-cultural and economic barriers.
However, we realised that the situation was much more complicated than it seemed. And, it’s imperative that we considered all sides of the story. Despite ample funds being pooled in and numerous organisations running schemes for tribes in the area, their plight hasn’t improved nor changed over the years. We now began to wonder if their helplessness was misconstrued as laziness.
Joby recalled an interesting incident wherein an NGO proposed to build toilets for every household in one particular hamlet. Most of the houses declined the offer. To a tribal family, the thought of placing a latrine within the perimeter of a bedroom or kitchen was unthinkable. They believed it was an unhygienic practice to use an enclosed space with stored water instead of open fields. In the end, only seven houses agreed to dig pits in their backyard to install toilets. The urban notion of what constitutes a hygienic practice is often considered a taboo within the tribal customs. An incomplete understanding of their cultural norms and beliefs has often led to the implementation of meaningless programmes that have yielded no results whatsoever. Moreover, in this particular case, inadequate research on the availability of water resulted in the project being a complete failure.
The conversation then steered towards the history of Attapadi. This region is dominated by three tribes – Irula, Mudugar and Kurumba. As customary, the tribes reside in hamlet structures. Their ancestors lived deep in the jungles and had extensive knowledge on its flora and fauna. They lived in harmony with the forests, rivers and mountains. They all practised shifting cultivation and were extraordinary farmers. However, with the loss of arable land, farming has taken a back seat today. While some can’t grow their own food, others do not wish to. Nonetheless, they still hope that help comes their way so that they continue to survive one day at a time…
Project ‘Rest of My family‘ is an attempt to connect back, re-discover our relationship with and understand our responsibility towards the larger family that we are a part of — the rest of our human family. Hence, it is titled Rest Of My Family.
Through #RestofMyFamily, we will focus on highlighting social issues and human interest stories, documenting the triumphs of the ordinary man despite all the hardships they face constantly, and help these stories reach a larger audience and wherever necessary extend support to the individuals and communities that we write about. We hope to make a direct impact to the lives of those people we meet and find suffering due to various social issues; to connect the ones who need help to the ones who can help….
Find more about the campaign here: http://igg.me/at/restofmyfamily/x/539502