Attapadi tribals' deprivation rocks Kerala assembly

Thiruvananthapuram, June 10 (IANS) Chief Minister Oommen Chandy Monday assured the Kerala assembly that his government would work for uplifting the tribal community in Attapadi in Palakkad district.

"Please let us not blame each other... What happened in recent times in Attapadi should be an eye-opener for all of us. This should never have happened in our state. We will all join hands and see that they are given proper education, launch an effective anti-liquor campaign, and give them health, shelter and food," Chandy said.

The chief minister was speaking in response to the leave sought for an adjournment motion moved by former CPI-M Minister A.K. Balan, who pointed out that 52 new-born infants had died in Attapadi tribal areas in Palakkad district in the past 18 months.

Balan said a news report in May contended that infants were dying as they were born to malnourished mothers in this region.

"We raised the issue two times in the last year in the assembly, and Minister for Welfare of Tribes P.K. Jayalekshmi had said that no such incidents have been brought before her department. Only after a newspaper reported this did the state government wake up," Balan said.

In Attapadi in Palakkad district of the state, about 400 km from the state capital, of the 70,000 population, 30,000 are tribals.

"The issue is that liquor and drugs are available there and the people have to be weaned off these addictions. We have to target the young generation, and we will build as many hostels for them as needed to provide them good education. We have created 75 new posts in the health department there and the centre has already started providing ragi (a highly nutritious millet) besides launching a Rs.100 crore programme for the uplift of tribal women. A special task force of the centre will oversee the programmes there," Chandy said.

Even as Chandy agreed to take this issue up for discussion on any other day during the current assembly session, Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan expressed unhappiness that the matter was not immediately taken up for discussion and led a walk-out by the the entire opposition.

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