116 died in two years due to Alcohol abuse among Tribals in Attapadi (Kerala)

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“A survey conducted in the 196 tribal hamlets of Attapadi found that 116 tribal men, including youths, have died of alcohol related diseases during the last two years. “The survey, conducted by Kudumbashree Mission under the National Rural Livelihood Mission of the union ministry of rural development, also found that those who died of excessive use of alcohol were between the most productive age group of 18-45.  The use of liquor has also resulted in a number of suicides among youngsters in the Attapadi tribal belt,“ said coordinator of the national livelihood mission, Seema Bhaskar. The nodal officer of tribal health and superintendent of government tribal specialty hospital at Kottathara in Attapadi Dr R Prebhudas said a screening done on tribal patients found that around 350 of them were suffering from various types of mental disorders mainly due to the use of liquor and drugs. He said that there were a large number of mental patients among the tribal population in Attapadi.

The superintendent of Swamy Vivekanda Medical Mission in Agali Dr V Narayanan said that since 2010 the hospital has been running a de-addiction centre. “The youngest patient now undergoing treatment in our centre is a 15 year-old-student,“ he said adding that alcoholism was widespread among the tribal population. Meanwhile, the satyagraha started by `Thaikula Sanghom’, a tribal women group with their units in all the 196 tribal hamlets of Attapadi is continuing at the inter-state Anakatty border. The agitation started on February 17 demanding the closure of bars and liquor shops in Tamil Nadu area and action to stop the flow of illicit liquor in Attapadi tribal areas.” [Feb 28 2016, The Times of India (Kochi)]

The peculiar case of Attapadi

“Attapadi has a tribal population of around 30,000, mainly belonging to the Kurumba, Muduga and Irula tribes.   The last few years has seen a lot of reportage on infant deaths and malnutrition in children and adults. These reports have in turn forced the government to provide a slew of measures for the tribal. A central government scheme provides ragi (a highly nutritious millet), while the state government runs a community kitchen that provides dinner to the tribes.

Made a non-liquor zone in 1996 by the then Chief Minister AK Antony, in 2002 former President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam lead the Attappadi Declaration, calling the area as ‘liquor and drug free zone’. “Let us take a pledge today to abolish use of liquor and Ganja cultivation that is rampant in this most-backward tribal belt”, announced President Kalam, administering an oath to a large gathering of tribals.   Thirteen years later, Attapadi remains liquor-free on paper, but has five alcohol de-addiction centres for a total population of 70,000. Awareness programmes over the years seem to have had little effect. The non-availability of liquor has not reduced alcoholism, all men have to do is cross over to the neighbouring towns of Mannarkkad (Kerala) and Anaikatti (TN) for a peg or two.

The Kerala government has embarked on its mission to phase out alcohol. But the Attapadi story is a stark reminder that enforcing prohibition without motivating people to dump the bottle can prove to be costly.” [The News Minute, June 20, 2015]

Tamilnadu liquor floods alcohol-free zone in Kerala: Tribals protest against TASMAC

“Tribal communities from Attapadi in Kerala have been staging a protest from February 17 at Annaikatti in Coimbatore asking the Tamil Nadu government to close down the TASMAC shops. Though it was made a liquor free zone, that has not stopped liquor from freely flowing in the area or made people abstain. For fourteen years now, tribal community people have been travelling from Attapadi to Annaikatti just to get liquor from the TASMAC shops in Tamil Nadu.

During the protest at Annaikatti in Coimbatore, Murgesan, a tribal from Attapadi said, “In the past two years, more than 145 people have died in our village. We have been protesting from February 17, 2016, and in the last 13 days, seven people have died due to liquor consumption.”

Both Kerala and Tamil Nadu governments have not taken acted on their pleas. “We spoke to the collector on Monday and they came to Annaikatti at 4 pm and promised to shift these shops. We won’t stop this protest till we see a government order regarding this issue.

He added, “Women are becoming widows and even children who go to schools have started drinking who live in the Attapadi forest.” [The News Minute, March 1, 2016]

 Image Courtesy: The News Minute

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Editorial Team of Adivasi Resurgence.

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