Connect with us


Why Kerala’s development story doesn’t reach Attapady’s tribals



tribal Attapady

Maruthi and her husband Vellangiri are still mourning for their infant son who lived only for four-and-a-half-hours after birth in 2014. Maruthi, who continued working as a daily wage labourer into her third trimester, had grown steadily weak during pregnancy. There wasn’t enough food at home, the drinking water was contaminated and sanitation non-existent in her village.

This story is not set in a backward Indian state forever stuck at the bottom of the country’s development chart. Maruthi’s home is in Kerala, a state that, in March 2017, reported India’s lowest infant mortality rate–six per 1,000 children under the age of one, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16. This is on par with the rate in the US.

Why was Maruthi’s child among the rare cases of infant death in Kerala? Her misfortune is that she lives in Attapady, a tribal block in Palakkad district of north Kerala. Attapady’s infant mortality is 66, closer to that of conflict- and famine-ridden South Sudan (66.7), and way higher than India’s national average of 40. Its maternal mortality rate is 26–which is less than the state average.

Attapady is like an island of backwardness in a state known for its progressive social and development indicators. Kerala’s human development index (0.79), resulting from improvements in the fields of sanitation, health, education and poverty reduction, is the highest in India. It tops the female literacy graph in India (91.98%) and has the highest life expectancy in the country too (74.9 years; 72 for men and 77.8 for women). It is the only state with a sex ratio that favours women (1,084 women for every 1,000 men).

Attapady’s hamlets, however, cannot access the public systems that make these figures possible because of ineffective state interventions. The living conditions of Kerala’s adivasis are on par with those in backward states such as Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand, according to Census 2011. Unplanned disbursal of resources in India’s tribal regions has meant that over the last 35 years, the Rs 2.8 lakh crore ($42.6 billion) set aside by the government as special funds to improve the lives of scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) was simply not spent, as IndiaSpend found through an investigation in September 2016.

Kerala tops in life expectancy, but its tribals are dying young

Vellangiri said he lost his child because he could not afford better medical help. “We went to a private hospital to do several medical checkups and were asked to go to Thrissur Medical College because Maruthi was growing weaker. We didn’t have the money to travel and went to the Palakkad government hospital instead to get the delivery treatments,” said Vellangiri.

Attapady lies in a mountain valley between two ranges of the Western Ghats. Adivasis constitute 34% of its total population. A majority of the land area is used for agriculture and is rich with forests and water bodies.

This belt has been dealing with high infant mortality rates, severe malnutrition, premature births and low birth-weight for a decade now. All districts with heavy tribal populations–Wayanad, Idukki and Palakkad–show development indicators way below the state average.

While life expectancy of the average Malayali has been rising over the years–it went from 62 years in 1970-75 to 74.9 years in 2011, a study by AIIMS shows the reverse in Attapady: The average life expectancy of an adivasi here has fallen from 70 years in 1975 to 66 in 2002 and came further down to 59 in 2010. The lifespan of the average adivasi in the country is 64 years.

According to the Iqbal Committee Report (2013), in Attapady, the average infant weighed around 600-800 gram. The mothers were anaemic and lacked the nutrition needed to deliver a healthy baby. Most children here were affected by intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) and 47 infants had died here in 2012-13.

desktop (1)

Source: Census 2011, World Bank 2015, All India Institute of Medical Science, 2010

State average for homes with toilets is 95%, but in tribal belt it is 49%

Kerala’s tribal population, 44.3%, lives below poverty line, according to the ministry of tribal affairs figures (2013). The state’s average for homes with toilets is 95.4% but 49% of its tribal homes do not have toilets–the national average is 60.4%. Half the state’s tribal population does not have access to clean drinking water while the state average for the same is 33.5%.

Low mortality here coexists with high incidence of morbidity–number of persons reporting ailments in rural Kerala is 255 (per 1,000) and urban Kerala is 240 (per 1,000) whereas the all India average was 88 and 99 for rural and urban areas, respectively, in 2004.

“Lack of facilities like toilets and clean drinking water are a big concern for us because they lead to our community’s declining health,” said Manikantan, a daily wage worker.

Mechanisms of delivery of state programmes for health, nutrition and sanitation are ineffective in Attapady, said experts. “The health and nutritional status of tribal women and infants here is a problem. The state has failed to create an effective mechanism to deal with it,” said Rajendra Prasad, president of Thambu, Centre for Tribal Education, Development and Research in Attapady. “We need sincere execution of government schemes and constant checks on and review of the operations of the departments connected to the health and well-being of Attapady’s children.”


Children eat their meal at an anganwadi (courtyard shelter) in Attapady. The block has an infant mortality rate of 66 deaths per 1,000 live births–comparable to conflict- and famine-ridden South Sudan–due to severe malnutrition and low birth-weight.

Valli, malnourished and anaemic, lost her child after birth due to low birth-weight. She recalled being asked to take vitamins and iron tablets because she was not fit enough for a pregnancy. The pregnancy kit that she received from the anganwadi (courtyard shelter) and the state’s unique Kudumbashree project ensured only milk and one meal a day.

“In 2012-13, the tribal block witnessed 51 infant deaths. According to the UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) report (2012-13), Rs 12.55 crore have been sanctioned for various health programmes in Attapady but what got actually spent was Rs 35 lakh,” reported Gothrabhumi, a monthly magazine published by Thambu.

From good to bad to worse: Change hasn’t worked well for Attapady

Attapady’s troubles, according to its tribal chiefs, are relatively new. “We never had issues of infant deaths and low immunity earlier. It is the change in our food habits and consumption patterns that is affecting us. We once cultivated our own food–ragi, chama (bajra), millet and maize–and ate wild greens and meat. The decline in forest cover and natural resources has had a terrible impact on our living conditions,” said Palaniyappan, a tribal chief.

Palaniyappan also pointed out that funds and schemes for generating employment and improving food availability have to be more sharply focussed.

“There isn’t enough employment for us and we don’t have any resources or assets. We are forced to take up the jobs given by the panchayat without which it is difficult for every family in the ooru (hamlet) to have a life,” said Selvi, a daily wage worker with MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) since 2010.


Selvi, a daily wage worker under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, with her husband. “We are forced to take up the jobs given by the panchayat without which it is difficult for every family in the ooru (hamlet) to have a life,” Selvi said.

Attapady has seen an increase in the percentage of women persondays to total persondays in MGNREGA–from 61% in 2006-07 to 84% in 2014-15–according to the block panchayat report. But the women say they cannot depend long-term on this employment.

“Schemes such as ICDS (integrated child development services), PDS (public distribution system) and programmes like Community Kitchen that aims to fight malnutrition can only be temporary solutions. Our inability to adapt to modern systems of cultivation and consumption are a problem, we are forced to take ration from PDS and sometimes we don’t like the rice that is supplied through ration shops,” said Lakshmi, who teaches at an anganwadi in Attapady.

M Kunhaman, a social scientist and a professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Tuljapur, believes that there is need for local involvement in the planning and execution of welfare initiatives. “The tribal communities who have better  knowledge about their situation should be made to safeguard their interest through their systems. There is a need for a policy intervention which is done through affirmative action to protect the interests of the tribal community,” he wrote in his book, Development of Tribal Economy.


86% NCR residents cite lack of severe punishment for sexual harassment: Study

For the survey, 5,221 responses were collected from Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida to understand the factors and possible remedies of sexual harassment against women and girls in public places.



sexual harassment

New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) Lack of severe punishment is considered as the most rampant cause of sexual harassment by 86 per cent respondents in the NCR region, as per as study.

The study, done by Indian Institute for Integrated Women and Child Development (ISI-WCD) and released by the Women and Child Development Ministry, was one of 18 projects the ministry had sponsored, between 2015-17, in areas like economic empowerment of women, skill development, child trafficking, nutrition management and others.

For the survey, 5,221 responses were collected from Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida to understand the factors and possible remedies of sexual harassment against women and girls in public places.

According to the survey, 84 per cent of the responsdents think that availability of pornographic materials on mobile phone is also a cause of sexual harassment in NCR region while 83 per cent believes it is because of easy access to social media site Facebook or the internet.

“Revealing dresses of women has been seen as the reason for sexual assault by 53 per cent, 35 per cent and 37 per cent by residents of Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida respectively while informal behaviour of women has also been seen as the reason by 49 per cent, 30 per cent and 70 per cent from the three locations respectively,” the study notes.

The study also revealed that 35 per cent of men and 50 per cent women have perceived sexual aggression in men as responsible for sexual harassment of women.

It is also found that 70 per cent of the respondents have said to face sexual abuse from work partners or colleagues, 63 per cent from office seniors, 48 per cent from friends and 38 per cent from teachers.

According to the study, 87 per cent respondents agreed that women suffer from verbal abuse, 88 per cent have suffered from physical abuse and 94 per cent stated that they are being stared at.

On enhancing safety for women in public places, 96 per cent respondents suggested that crowded buses or stations should be under constant camera surveillance, 93 per cent wanted public places well lit, 90 per cent prefers frequent police patrolling, 94 per cent said legal punishments should be made harsher while 92 per cent said judicial disposals should be made quicker.

Continue Reading


Is UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath losing his sheen?




By Mohit Dubey

Lucknow, April 10 (IANS) Is Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath — in power for just over a year — fast losing his lustre?

Many here feel so..

A litany of complaints about his public conduct, his behaviour with colleagues as well as common people is fast eroding the aura he had built up as the five-time Lok Sabha MP from Gorakhpur who was catapulted to the Chief Minister’s office of a socially diverse and politically volatile state of 220 million people.

Last week, 24-year-old Ayush Bansal shocked many when he broke down in front of media in Gorakhpur and disclosed how the monk-turned-Chief Minister mocked him during a “junta darbaar” where he had gone to complain about a land-grab case in which independent legislator from Nautanwa, Amanmani Tripathi, was involved.

He also accused the Chief Minister of calling him “awaraa” (wayward) and pushing him while throwing his file in the air. “Maharaj ji angrily snapped at me and said my work will never be done and that I should get out of his sight,” Bansal told IANS.

While officials got down to damage control and said the matter was being looked into, the fact that Adityanath behaved in a manner unbecoming of a Chief Minister was neither contradicted by officials nor denied by the ruling party.

Barely had the din over this episode died down when two MPs of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) complained of similar behaviour. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP MP from Robertsganj Chhote Lal Kharwar, accused Adityanath of “scolding him and asking him to get out”. The MP said he was deeply pained at the behaviour of the Chief Minister as he tried to draw his attention to issues faced by the party faithful.

“Never did the local administration listen to my plants and when I went to meet the Chief Minister twice over many issues, ‘unhone mujhe daantkar bhaga diya‘ (he scolded me and chased me away),” the lawmaker said in his letter.

The BJP leader has also shot off a letter to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, seeking help. Lal also says that definite proof of wrong-doing and corruption presented by him went unheard and unaddressed.

What is surprising is that all this happened to a man who is the state president of the BJP’s SC/ST Morcha.

While Modi is learnt to have assured Lal of action, there are other similar murmurs about Adityanath’s rough behaviour. Etawah MP Ashok Dohre has also written to Modi accusing the state police of lodging fake cases against SCs and STs during the Bharat Bandh. When asked why he did not petition the Chief Minister, Dohre said he considered Modi his leader, and thus petitioned him.

Alarmed by the sudden “unease” among the party’s lawmakers, Amit Shah summoned Yogi to New Delhi over the weekend and is learnt to have asked him to mend his ways. Adityanth also met Modi. Interestingly, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, who party insiders admit doesn’t see eye to eye with Yogi, was also called to Delhi at the same time.

Ironically, till not long ago, the 45-year-old Chief Minister was being venerated by the party faithful as a man next only to Modi. Insiders, however, now admit that not only has Adityanath failed to show his “pakad” (hold) on the party, but is also “awkwardly arrogant in his public conduct”, and not very able in his administration.

“He may be a busy man, so have been his predecessors… he remains inaccessible and uses foul and unacceptable language at times,” conceded a senior minister who did not wish to be named. Though stopping short of calling the Chief Minister arrogant, he suggested that “Yogi-ji is better advised to be more courteous and improve his time management”.

A senior party functionary too noted “the changing ways of Maharaj-ji”, though he felt “mood swings and the tongue-lashings could be because he has to handle a big state like Uttar Pradesh”.

A senior bureaucrat also alleged that the Chief Minister often “goes off the handle” and could be very acerbic in his dealing with officials.

The Chief Minister’s loyalists, however, point out that he does not like people to hang around him and wants officials to deliver fast and work within the system that has been set up. When there is any breach, he loses his temper, a close aide told IANS.

His failure to deliver on his promise to get all pot-holed roads fixed by a given deadline last year; the rollback — under pressure — in privatisation of the power sector in five cities; the poor showing in the Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha by-polls and reports that he and his deputy, Keshav Prasad Maurya, don’t get along well have already rung alarm bells in the establishment, sources said.


Continue Reading


Can you have your privacy and eat it too?

The shift in the privacy burden, and it is a heavy burden to bear, onto those we entrust with our data to do right with it, is what is hoped will be key to ensuring much of this.




When Aristotle seminally made a distinction between the polis and the oikos, laying the early foundations of the confidential zone, he did so around clear societal demarcations and a very different understanding of what was private, and what privacy needed protection from.

In an era of automated public and private spheres mediated by all-powerful, all-pervasive online intermediaries, these boundaries have dangerously blurred, and the fallout of this is visible for all to see.

A number of the technologies that we spent the best part of the last decade celebrating have fallen from grace, and more watershed moments than one would have liked have heralded renewed demands for privacy in a new avatar — that what is proverbially whispered into the palm of your hand isn’t proclaimed from the vast house-tops of cyberspace, to your detriment and in ways you cannot even foresee.

In this environment, privacy takes on a whole new meaning and context, and is not just about preserving a sacred mental and physical space, but also informational control. As Danah Boyd recently proffered, beyond simply restricting access, privacy today is about strategically controlling the availability of one’s information in different social contexts, as well as its interpretation and reach.

But how do we balance this with, going back to Aristotle, our inherent disposition to be social animals? Can we continue doing so online and expect a fair privacy bargain in the process?

The privacy paradox — our claim to hold privacy as a high virtue, yet part with our information for a voucher code, Farm Coins, or free Wi-Fi — is very real. The blame for this, however, does not, try as the tech giants might, lie squarely on users, who have every right to be spooked by Cambridge Analytica, Strava or Netflix’s “creepy” tweets — and others that did and didn’t make it to the headlines.

The internet was born as a free and open space for people, who have instead been thrust into walled gardens, unwittingly and systematically misled, monetised, and offered unfair, sometimes dire, choices online. A recalibration then, was long overdue.

For big tech, balancing meaningful privacy and control with business models inherently at cross purposes with the Net’s ethos, is going to be an uphill task. Built around the data-for-ads value exchange, cutting off, controlling or reshaping the supply of that data has direct consequences for businesses, as Facebook, Acxiom and other stock prices reliant on maintaining that status quo have recently shown.

Also challenging is the manner in which the current ecosystem has technologically been constructed. The Move-Fast-and-Break-Things dicta translate into systems designed to incentivise (over)sharing and then vacuum up, analyse and disseminate data, primarily so that it can be monetised with tremendous speed and accuracy.

Imbuing these systems with respect for user-agency, contextual integrity and accounting for meaningful privacy in networked environments — where you may choose to be a social media hermit but turn up regularly on your friend’s (public) Instagram — is going to require going back to the drawing board on several fronts.

As rights go, the solution to addressing this doesn’t lie in simply providing greater individual ownership and control over and consent for using data, although these are key constituents of the privacy toolkit. Preserving privacy includes balancing the data-for-services barter so it is no longer askew. Knowing what you’re signing up for doesn’t make up for being given a raw deal you have no choice but to agree to.

An important premise of right to privacy being inviolable is that choices inconsistent with these rights cannot be presented to begin with, and they cannot simply be circumvented by burying things in fine print and engineering consent.

With comprehensive new data protection regulation flowing from such rights in place and on the anvil in many parts of the world (including in India), carefully accounting for a majority of these issues, the hope this time is that the law will not have to continue to keep playing catch-up, reactively bandaging our privacy wounds one at a time.

Rather, the idea is to send users out into the web forearmed with comprehensive rights, meaningfully in control of their data, and shielded by privacy — by design and default. The shift in the privacy burden, and it is a heavy burden to bear, onto those we entrust with our data to do right with it, is what is hoped will be key to ensuring much of this.

Beyond this, it is also time we as users meaningfully utilised the increased agency we’re being offered. Perfunctorily taking steps like deleting Facebook or slapping a webcam cover on your laptop are, while not entirely meaningless, largely placebos and can leave our understanding of, and response to, privacy stunted, keeping us vulnerable to being gamed in newer ways yet again.

Our informational privacy demands and deserves more of our time and attention, and proactively developing an objective, more nuanced understanding of our personal data, its use and our rights over it is an important obligation we must all fulfil. Our collective action in doing so, backed by powerful rights balancing the scales online, may just let us, at least in part, have our privacy and eat it too.

By : Arnav Joshi

(Arnav Joshi is a technology lawyer, data ethics researcher and Data and Society master’s candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He can be reached via twitter @boom_lawyered)

Continue Reading

Most Popular