Tribals are one of the few human species that live closest to nature. They rely on resources provided by forests and make a living out of it. Visakhapatnam in particular has the highest number of tribals that make up 14.4% of Andhra Pradesh’s population. These people have long since migrated from Odisha to agency areas in Visakhapatnam. Forest agriculture is their main source of income and hence growth of paddy, millets, turmeric, maize and many other crops are prevalent.
Out of 43 mandals in Visakhapatnam district, there are 11 which come under the agency areas where these tribes live. 33 communities were identified by the government of AP as tribals with 12 of them sectioned into PVTG’s. PVTG stands for ‘Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group’ for they were still hunters and gatherers during the classification time, while other groups moved on to agricultural practices.
Kondh, Kondareddi, Chenchu and Gadaba tribes are among the PVTG category with Kondhs being majority in number spread across some 200 villages along Chintapalli and G Madugula mandal. Post Independence, these primitive people shifted from forests in Odisha to agency parts of Visakhapatnam, reasons being the construction of Hirakud dam along with support for cement factories and power projects that led to forced migration. Though their native language is Kuyyi, which very closely resembles Oriya, with time they have learnt to speak and comprehend Telugu.
Coming to other details, many villages had no recognition till 1991, until the then Narsipatnam Sub-Collector brought them into Census. Prior to this, these villagers only considered the Forest Department to be government since the officials used to raid them for trespassing forest land and collect bribes in the form of chicken and money.
Although there have been some Acts brought in support of these communities, there seems to be no welfare towards them. The 10 year old Forest Rights Act, 2006 is a good example. Also to further strengthen the claim Girijan Welfare Boards of Andhra Pradesh have released some statistics updated till November 2016 describing how out of 1,50,488 individual claims, only 7500 have been given pattas, and 1216 out of 4410 collective claims received pattas across the state.
In terms of forest infrastructure, the government has neglected the construction of small check dams across streamlets along Padderu, with their concern being major irrigation dams and structures. The consequences being lack of proper irrigation provisions, forcing people living there to rely only on rain fed water. To further worsen these conditions, the major dam projects referred in this passage, if constructed, will wash off hundreds of tribal villages while also isolating thousands of acres of forest land. A member of the tribe, Killo Nageswara Rao reportedly said they had completed the 100 work days per family by early November. But considering his scheduled caste background, he complained for not being given 150 work days as per the Act for SC, ST community reservations. Even the residents of Tamarapalle village in Chintapalli mandal expressed the complications they faced during the last financial year due to lack of implementation of MGNREGA.
The MGNREGA also called Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is a labor law as well as a social security measure of India to implement the ‘Right to Work’ rule. The Act aims at providing 100 day work wage employment for every family which fulfills the requirement credential.
Families categorised under this Act receive the perks only if they’re married. However there have been many complaints on failure in issue of job cards to newly married couples by still considering them members of the parent family, thereby provoking the expansion of overall income for supporting the additional member in the family. The Kondh tribes presented some record copies where it clearly revealed on how payment is done for only 100 days despite them working for more than the given time. Technical fault was a reply they received from officials that clearly knew these tribals wouldn’t understand such terms.
In March 2016 solar panels were allotted to Vasamamidi village in G Madugula Mandal allowing it to light up for the first time. This good event didn’t last long though. The solar panels stopped working. Instead of addressing this issue, the officials wanted to strike off the village from their check list for display of 100% electrification facility in Andhra Pradesh. The 300 villagers from 60 households travel one kilometer to reach Jarai, a nearby village for charging their mobile phones. The tribals have never used a fan or basic household appliances due to lack of electricity. Their men tried taking this issue to Visakhapatnam Dist headquarters, all in vain. One needs to trek for 10 km to reach this village from Tamarapalle for there is absence of proper roads for connecting purposes.
“Situations here are so bad, even old people are forced to walk 15 km to collect their 1000 INR pension”, Gimmela Apparao reportedly said. “Things get even worse during rainy season as Pedderu river overflows, disabling villagers to go anywhere”, his wife added. Apparently she has no clue of her age, nor do the other villagers.
Many petitions were sent to Narsipatnam Sub Collector, in vain again. This being a major violation to Supreme Court orders, the people are trying to petition the Supreme Court Chief Justice for resolving these issues.
These villages are so unfortunate, there is no facility in particular they can talk about, let alone Ration depots. These depots are again not located close and located in Guduthuru and Jajulapalem, again only for 3-4 days a month. “Even after multiple demands, memorandum and petitions to the government officials to keep the depot open for at least 20 days, there was no change,” PS Ajay Kumar (APVVU activist) expressed. The major concern is in the design of these policies which don’t differentiate between plain and hilly areas therefore leading to mismanagement.
PVTG’s were supposed to get 35 kilos of rice, as per 2003 Supreme Court Judgment, irrespective of the number of members in their family. Poor tribals again faced problems in this regard. They were neither provided 35 kg rice/wheat nor enough kerosene.
Through all these statements, one can clearly understand how lacking the government is functioning towards these communities. If continued, a very major part of the population will either come upon roads or turn into something dangerously unpredictable.