Rest Of My Family Travel Diary: Day 25 (part 4)

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“Every year on Onam, a kit of pulses, rice and other edibles along with a fresh set of clothes is gifted to the tribes. What more can the government do?” asked Sadiq as he requested his attendant to fetch him some water.

He explained in hushed tones that the ambivalent attitude of authorities in power has only exacerbated the already broken socio-economic conditions of tribes in Attapadi. Rather than making decisions from their plush offices, it is crucial that they have a sound understanding of the ground-level reality before imposing any rehabilitative measures. Such impolitic policies will only serve as impediments to progress in tribal welfare. Perhaps, shifting primary focus from overcoming challenges and obstacles with respect to policy development to understanding the nature of problems afflicting the tribal settlements today is the key to resolving the problems here.

A few years ago, the cultural minister of Kerala blamed alcoholism for the exponential rise in infant deaths within the Adivasi belt. With alcohol being banned in the town for decades, illicit liquor trade has gained momentum within the hamlets over the years. In 2014, World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that almost 50% of the alcohol consumed in India is untaxed and unaccounted for. It even asserted that measures such as prohibition has led to excessive and unnecessary restrictions that has caused a large number of consumers to turn to illegal trade and black-market liquor.

In Attapadi, such constraints have only given rise to bootlegging and corruption since the prices of alcohol soared to greater heights. “Ironically, this is one of the biggest problems we have to deal with in a ‘dry’ town. Reducing access to alcohol has only resulted in locals resorting to unauthorised means to obtain them. Of course, we are trying our best to spread awareness on the perils of consumption. But, it is a gradual process. Tamil Nadu banned lottery and Attapadi banned alcohol. So, people from Tamil Nadu come to Attapadi to buy lottery tickets and people from Attapadi go to Tamil Nadu to procure alcohol,” explained Sharaf.

Substance abuse and addictive behaviour are much more deep-rooted in our society. Eradication of these issues may be impossible to achieve through legal bans. For, they will always be a distributor willing to supply at a price. Undoubtedly, this has had a debilitating effect on the economic condition of tribal communities grappling with extreme poverty.

We asked both Sadiq and Sharaf if alcoholism has aggravated other issues like domestic abuse or violence against children and women. Apparently, there have been numerous instances of wives and toddlers being beaten up in the hamlets. However, with timely interventions, it has led to more and more people raising their voice against the issue and seeking justice.

If history is any indication, enforcement of such prohibitory laws have failed time and again in eliminating any social problems whatsoever. So, why resort to such measures at all? We couldn’t understand the government’s agenda behind facilitating ineffective schemes knowing fully well that they wouldn’t achieve any results.

According to Sadiq, there are three major groups functioning in the town – those working with the government, those who are trying to aid the social, economic and cultural uplifting of tribal population and those receiving help from all sectors. “A combination of several factors has led to the complex situation we find ourselves in today. The inefficient structure of ITDP coupled with tribal extension officers being overburdened all the time could be attributed to our failure. Moreover, the lack of monetary help and poor infrastructure have also played a vital role in the downfall of these schemes,” explained Sadiq who further added that it is pivotal they reflect on what they have done so far. For, he fears that if this situation persists and spreads to the rest of the country, the tribes will soon become a liability to the government.

(to be continued…)

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

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