26th August 2013
As part of our awareness raising programme in Phase Two we have been attempting to reach out to a somewhat isolated, resettled tribal community (Hada) situated on the outskirts of Neralekuppe known as B Colony.
This area has been settled for around 125 years, in comparison to the main town which began its life in 1947. There are around 45 homes and approximately 150 people living there. In hope of establishing stronger links with this community we conducted a number of interviews with key individuals, including the tribal leader and kindergarten teacher, which have revealed some interesting insights into life within a Hada.
After an initial visit to B Colony when conducting Household Surveys the contrast between the community here and in the central town was immediately apparent. Knowledge of basic health and sanitation is minimal and education is given a low priority. The community is surrounded by forests and inhabitants fear going out at night because of dangerous animals such as tigers and elephants. They have built an elephant ditch to protect their homes. The majority of families are landless and gain their income through casual labour offered on a daily basis. This extends from working in local tobacco fields to travelling 50km to the tea and coffee plantations in Kodagu. People will typically earn between 150 – 200 rupees for a day’s labour (around £2). With an unreliable income pattern that extends from casual labour, these people tend to have little planned beyond their next meal. Their focus lies very much in the present. Alcohol and tobacco consumption is high. Tobacco is the main crop within Neralekuppe and people have little, or no, knowledge of its impact.
Volunteers interviewing a B Colony resident
There are a number of Hada, like this, in the surrounding area which the Indian Government is hoping to integrate with the surrounding community. The government provides these Hada with various forms of support in order to help facilitate this. These mechanisms have been implemented with varying success.
The tribal leader told us of how the local Taluk has introduced the Dhedu. This is an institution of leaders from many of the surrounding Hada which meet once every 15 days. The government offers these people training in how to grow suitable crops, such as sweetcorn, and provides them with materials, such as pesticide and seed, so that they can grow these within the local area. This is something which has been received positively by the tribal community, as it is aligned to their current priorities.
However, other attempts to improve the livelihood of the families within B Colony have not had the same success. The vast majority of the children from the community do not go to school. Instead they help substitute their family income by working in the surrounding fields. A kindergarten was established by the Social Welfare Institute around a year ago with the aim of providing a basic level of education to children aged 1 – 5. The government provides this kindergarten with food and materials for learning. Unfortunately this kindergarten does not open regularly. Upon speaking to the kindergarten teacher, we were informed that the children from this area simply didn’t attend classes and so there was no point in opening.
The government also provides some health support to the people of B Colony. We were informed that a vehicle is sent from the nearest hospital every Friday to help assist with any ailments. The villagers also have access to the Primary Health Centre found in the main part of Neralekuppe. Yet despite this, the tribal leader remarked that many did not use these facilities unless it became absolutely necessary. The people of B Colony felt more comfortable administering their traditional natural remedies as they were scared of the medicine and injections offered. He insisted that he would only go to the hospital if he faced a serious illness and there had been no improvement after 3 days.
The local Taluk provide assistance and advice on savings and have helped the local people to set up savings accounts. These have been set up in children’s names in order to encourage the community to look towards the future. The tribal leader saw this as a positive thing which would be useful for any unforeseen emergencies but informed us that as income was irregular, people were only able to save every 6 months.
Our exploration within B Colony has revealed a challenging social landscape. It is evident that this is a community with a number of core issues which we hope to target in the coming weeks. In particular we hope to raise awareness of the importance of education and improve knowledge of basic health and sanitation. It is clear that a bottom up approach will be vital when addressing this community. It is evident that inhabitants are somewhat reluctant to trust institutions that have been imposed using a top down approach (such as health care and education). It is important that they understand exactly why these issues are important and that they feel involved in developing their own community. It is only through active participation and community involvement that progress can be made.