Impacts of COVID-19 in Tribal Belts of Yavatmal District

Social and Economic Impacts of COVID-19 in Tribal Belts of Yavatmal District

While providing relief rations to single women farmers in rural districts of Maharashtra through a network of farmers movements, we asked activists on the field how people in their region were feeling the impacts of the coronavirus crisis.  

Yogini Dholke from SRUJAN discusses the impacts to livelihood, accessibility of other health care including mental health care, access to rations especially for people without ration cards, and the need for awareness materials in local languages, such as Kolami which is spoken by communities of Yavatmal. 

SRUJAN works amongst tribal communities in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra. It’s almost a week after the lockdown and now the harsh reality of the situation begins to hit the under privileged in an unprecedented way. Post corona virus outbreak and lock down, situation of Kolam (Particularly vulnerable tribal group – PVTG) people begins to look grim. These are some of the problems faced by the community.

  • Gram panchayats in tribal belt of Yavatmal district are sparsely populated and spread geographically. People from Kolam community live in hamlets spread in interior region away from the main village (GP). They are actually a bit distance away from the hustle bustle of block head quarters and dream away from district and state headquarters.
  • The news about CORONA VIRUS spread in India hits them nothing more than some distant war being waged by some government and the PM is requesting them to be indoors so that all remain safe from the attacks. What is CORONA VIRUS attack, what happens if any one gets infected, how to address in such situation comes to them through TV news, WhatsApp messages and police people who do visit the villages to keep an eye on whether people are remaining inside and quarantined or not. But they hardly understand the messages because they are unable to comprehend the audio and video information being circulated in mainstream Marathi.
  • Translating all the messages in Kolami is the need of the hour. Translating the same in Kolami language and dubbing video clips in Kolami languages will be worthwhile. This material could be circulated through memory chips in villages without mobile connectivity, while in those villages mobile connectivity is there it could be spread through social media particularly through WhatsApp.
  • More than 90% of the people here are involved in subsistence farming and food gathering from nearby forest area. Most of the farmers practice rain fed farming. This time of the year women go to nearby irrigated farms (affluent farmers) as daily wage labour. As there is strict vigilance on people’s movement women are finding it difficult to move out of their houses and the land owners have also suspended all the cleaning and clearing activities on the farm.
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  • Single women take home relief rations in Yavatmal District.

    There are more than 500 vulnerable families- these include extremely poor families without food nor cash, single women farmers, widow farmers, physically handicapped single women and families of people with mental illness who need immediate support for survival. Ensuring availability of food grains and other essential life sustaining items by government machinery to those who do not have Ration card or Aadhar card is another challenge. It is our estimate that about 8 to 10% of the people in Kolam region are out of the Ration Card ambit.

Read also: Provide Free Rations, Demand Maharashtra People’s Movements

  • Government has streamlined its food distribution through (Public distribution Schemes) PDS, it will take another week to reach the food grains in villages in Kelapur and Zhari Jamni block of Yavatmal district. Essentials supplies required are oil, salt, spices and some vegetables like onions, potato, garlic, ginger, green chillies and soaps and sanitisers.
  • Collection of Mahua flowers has already begun in Yavatmal district. It’s an activity that is spread out in fields and forest. Promotion of Mahua Collection and similar other NTFP collection (Tendu Leaves) will be worthwhile. Announcing a decent/ sensible minimum support price will encourage the people to get engage constructively while maintain social distancing methods. Currently MSP for mahua flowers in 18 Rs whereas market price is 40 Rs. State should announce MSP for mahua at par with market price and ensure that payment is done immediately. SRUJAN has an experience of setting up Mahua banks at the village level involving SHGs, promoting such activity in current situation will help to engage people productively.
  • SRUJAN works in Wani block with children of migrant labourers working in coal loading docks. There are more than 100 families working on the coal docks. SRUJAN runs a day care centre for children in the age group of 1 year to 7 year for around 50 children. Due to lock down children have to stay back home but the hygiene and sanitation status is extremely poor. Most of the time children must be playing on coal heaps inhaling coal dust. Due to lock down the coal dock work has been suspended.
  • SRUJAN works with families with persons with mental illness. Medicines for such patients are available only at district head quarter, Yavatmal. Due to restrictions on movements- non availability of transportation, patient is unable to get regular check-ups, medicines and counselling for the patients. There is 300+ patients in Zhari Jamni block and 500+ patients in Kelapur block. Most of the patients are with severe depression, 4% schizophrenia, 2% bipolar. There is urgent need of home visits by trained medic personnel’s, medicines and counselling.
  • Youths who have migrated to towns in search of wages are returning to there villages, they are likely carriers of COVID 19. It will be worth while to educate village leaders and sensitise them to assist family members to understand the need to quarantine people coming home. Protocols of home quarantine will have to be shared with family members at the earliest. Community spaces like Chavadi and Schools could be used for such purpose.

Yogini Dolke

Director, SRUJAN

With AID support, SOPPECOM provided relief rations in 11 districts of rural Maharashtra and SRUJAN ensured that those rations reached single-women headed households in need in Yavatmal District.

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