Sunday, April 23, 2017

Attapadi – An open wound

During my visit to other states, when people come to know that I am from Kerala they always say a couple of good things about my state. I really liked it. After all who don’t want to hear good words about the native state.

Kerala rightly deserved the position. It is true that we have a habit of endorsing and celebrating bandhs hartals, industrial and political strikes, creating an industrial environment which might frighten even the most adventurous investor who wants to set up something in Kerala. We also send huge workforce abroad to the gulf and other countries. But Kerala also stands first in Human Development Index, highest in literacy, highest in life expectancy, lowest in infant mortality etc. On average a person in Kerala lives 8 years longer compared to India average. Kerala is also the only state in India where females outnumber males.

Defying all these statistics stands a tribal block in Palakkad district of Kerala called Attapadi.
Unlike socio-economic statistics of rest of Kerala; which can be compared to developed European countries, statistics of Attapadi is comparable to Sudan and other African countries and India’s most backward tribal districts. At least Sudan and other African countries can blame civil wars and insurgency for their backwardness. Tribal belts of Jharkhand, Orissa, and Chhattisgarh can blame everything on Maoism. But political parties and administration of Kerala don’t even have anyone else to blame. There is no civil war in Attapadi; no one is firing at government personals using their AK 47s. As a matter of fact, those poor tribal don’t even have three good meals a day.

See the statistics, Attapadi’s infant mortality rate is 66; Sudan is slightly ahead with 66.7 (for Kerala the number is just 6). Infant Mortality rate means how many kids dies for every 1000 newborns. As per India Spend report, the life expectancy of average Malayali has increased from 62 years in 1970-75 to 74.9 years in 2011. However, in Attapadi the life expectancy of an Adivasi came down from 70 years in 1975 to 59 in 2010. Remember that average life span of Adivasis in India is 64 years. The main characteristics of this place are low birth-weight, severe malnutrition, high infant mortality rates, severe vitamin and iron deficiency in pregnant ladies.

In the juicy political climate of Kerala, where governments were always run by centre-left and leftist parties, Attapady’s tragedy hardly reaches legislative assemblies. How much more has to die before these issues become the headlines? I wish the administration opened their eyes and see.

Now when someone says something nice about Kerala to me; more than happiness it is the guilt about state’s attitude towards Attapadi and other tribal belts in Wayanad and Idukki which comes to my mind. My head is not going to rise in pride but fell in shame.


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