Updated: May 22, 2021 9:41:34 pm
Amidst a surge in cases of COVID-19 among the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), activists from the state approached Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for his intervention in the matter. So far nearly 120 cases have been reported from the tribes, of which 80 cases have been reported from Dongria Kondh tribes residing in the Niyamgiri hills of Rayagada district.
Noting that these communities are vulnerable to being severely affected by the COVID-19 virus, the activists, through a letter, have urged Patnaik to take adequate community measures for the welfare of the community members. “Home quarantine as a Covid protocol being suggested by the government in other places will not work within Adivasi communities because of different ideas about privacy and isolation in Adivasi cultures. Home quarantine measures within Adivasi areas is not the right way to contain the spread of the virus or in breaking the chain of pandemic,” the letter read.
In their nine-point suggestion to the state government the activists have emphasised that “different quarantine centres exclusively for Adivasi people should be established and have separate centres for suspected and confirmed Covid cases funded by the public exchequer near (within 2 kms) Dongria and Bonda settlements/villages.” They have also suggested using the saline swirl and gargle method of testing for greater acceptability as apprehensions about getting tested have been a major hurdle for the health department in these regions. Suggestions also include distribution of adequate 3 layered masks and other necessary items.
“All PHCs located in Adivasi areas should be upgraded on a war footing and equipped with sufficient medical equipment, medicines, personnel and necessary infrastructure. Government must ensure deliberation of powers to the Sarpanchs and Ward members for creating containment zones and monitoring the entry and exit of outsiders,” the letter read.
“The government officials entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out Covid measures in these areas must undergo Covid testing and carry their Covid-ve reports along with them while operating in these areas,” they further proposed.
The signatories of the letter include Lingaraj Azad and other members of the Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti, Prafulla Samantara, Social activist and environmentalist, Biswapriya Kanungo, Advocate and human rights activist, amongst others.
The concerns arise as the PTVGs are considered to be vulnerable with poor level of immunity due to lack of nourishment and a secluded way of life. Odisha has 13 PVTG tribes residing in nearly 1429 villages of the state.
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