Activist Abhay Bang on Saturday wrote to Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, stating that two years after submission of the report on tribal health by an expert committee headed by him, the government was yet to take any action.
“On the eve of the World Indigenous People’s Day on August 9, the Government of India has been reminded to initiate action to protect lives and health of 110 million tribal people living in India,” Bang said in a press note on Saturday.
Bang, who runs an NGO ‘Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health’ near Gadchiroli, was the chairman of the Expert Committee on Tribal Health, which had submitted its report to the government two years ago. Two central ministries – the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Tribal Affairs – had jointly appointed the expert committee under Bang, who is a well-known public health pioneer working for 35 years in Gadchiroli.
“The committee of 12 experts, after four and a half years of work, had submitted its report to the government on August 9, 2018. Both the ministries had welcomed the report, promised action. Two years have passed. Nothing has been done,” Bang said.
The committee, in its report ‘Tribal Health in India: Bridging the Gap and Roadmap for the Future’, has concluded that tribal people’s health status is worst in India, the healthcare system in tribal areas has a design mismatch, and it is a ‘low input, low output, low quality and low morale’ system.
The committee also identified 10 specific health problems in tribal areas and suggested appropriate solutions. Most importantly, the committee recommended formulation of a Tribal Health Action Plan, and annual allocation of Rs 2 ,500 per tribal person or total Rs 27,500 crore for tribal health, to be spent by the Union and states, together. The NITI Aayog had also recommended the Ministry of Health to initiate action based on the report, he said.
“During these two years, an estimated 1.5 million tribal people have died. While other problems like malaria, malnutrition, pneumonia, diarrhea, tuberculosis and snakebites continue to take lives of the tribal people, the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic may create havoc as the tribal people might be particularly vulnerable due to lack of healthcare,” Bang wrote to Dr Harsh Vardhan, who responded to the letter, saying, “Due action will be initiated.”
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