The opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) on Monday proposed to implement what it termed a 'protein ration' programme for the Adivasi population of Attappady whose health concerns have resurfaced with multiple infant deaths recently.
Leader of the Opposition in Kerala Assembly, V D Satheesan, announced the proposal after visiting the tribal area on Monday. The Congress leader said protein-rich food like egg and milk should be provided to the tribal people through ration shops.
“We are proposing to the government to start a protein ration programme for the tribal people. It should be implemented at least for a short period and in the long term they should be equipped to produce such protein-rich foods in their own settlements,” Satheesan said, while inaugurating a protest meet organised by the Congress-led front against the government apathy towards the Adivasis of Attappady.
Satheesan addressed the gathering as he concluded his visit to the tribal settlements of Attappady where infant deaths were reported recently. He visited the families at Veettiyoor and Padavayal tribal settlements. He met a couple at Veettiyoor and another at Padavayal who have lost their infants.
He also interacted with the doctors of the Government Tribal Speciality Hospital, Kottathara, the lone advanced medical facility for the entire Attappady region.
The idea of the protein ration was pitched by Communist Marxist Party leader C P John, who was part of the UDF delegation that visited Attappady, during the meeting with the doctors.
“Our public distribution system has not addressed protein deficiency yet. Protein ration is something that has to be implemented across the state. However, right now it is high time the government implemented it in Attappady because we have official data that 190 of the 492 pregnant women of Attappady are in the high-risk category. Infant deaths could be brought down by a huge extend if the pregnant women are provided adequate protein-rich food. Infant deaths of Attappady are more of a nutrient crisis than a medical issue,” John, a former member of the State Planning Board, explained to Onmanorama.
During their interaction with the delegation, the doctors of Kottathara hospital said many pregnant tribal women had told them that they did not eat eggs or drink milk as they were not available.
“It shows there are no cultural barriers that prevent the tribal women from having egg or milk,” John said.
Serious govt lapses: Satheesan
Satheesan said serious lapses on the government's side have escalated the health crisis of Attappady. He claimed the discontinuation of several programmes initiated by the UDF government has contributed significantly to the current issues. “When a series of infant deaths were reported from Attappady during 2013-14, the then chief minister Oommen Chandy had started several programmes after visiting the region and convening a mini-Cabinet here. Those programmes had made significant results and we were able to bring down infant mortality rate in Attappady to that of the state level. Now it has gone up drastically,” he said.
The infant mortality rate in the state is 6 while it is 13 in the entire Attappady region. The figure stands at a shocking 34 among the Adivasi population in the region.
Satheesan said the nutrient rehabilitation programme and Janani Janmaraksha scheme have to be implemented without fail. The first one is meant to increase the weight of a newborn to 2.5 kg by keeping them at the hospital, and the Janani Janmaraksha scheme gives Rs 3,000 per month to tribal women from their third month of pregnancy for the next 12 months for buying nutrient-rich food. “What's the point in paying the arrears to the mothers after their babies are dead,” the Congress leader asked.