A struggle for food in the woods

A struggle for food in the woods

Come rainy season, the original inhabitants of the forests in the district are an isolated lot. The biggest problem they face is in gathering food for the almost six months in a year, June to November, when it rains in this predominantly Malnad district of Kodagu.

The Jenu Kurubas, Yeravas, Soligas and Kudiyas are among the tribal communities that have made the forests here their home from time immemorial.

With not enough stock of raw materials to cook their daily food, many of the tribal people, especially women and children, become malnourished and anaemic. There have been deaths as a result on many occasions. 

It was keeping this in mind that the social welfare department started providing food grains to the forest dwellers, to be used during the wet months, in 2011. Each family of the forest dwellers is provided 15 kg of rice or ragi, two kg of tur dal, two kg of jaggery, one litre of cooking oil, one kg of Bengal Gram and 30 eggs. 

But what creates problems for the district administration every year, more so this time, is that the tribals are not decided on their choice of food grain till almost the last minute. While sometimes they seek rice, they prefer wheat at other times. Therefore, the scheme, which normally begins in June, has not taken off even in July this year.

A total of 7,500 families benefit from this scheme every year. This comes to 11.25 quintals of rice or ragi each month. It is indeed a humongous task for the authorities to arrange for food grains of such huge quantity.

In the first year of the scheme, the beneficiaries sought rice and got it. In the subsequent year 2012, their demand was for ragi and it was granted. The district administration had decided to supply ragi in February-March this year. But some families preferred rice instead of ragi.

Deputy Commissioner (DC) N V Prasad then directed the anganwadi workers that they conduct a survey and report what each of the families wants.

A majority of the families chose rice. Even before the officials could decide on what food grain to supply and call for tenders, the urban local body polls and Assembly elections put paid to the efforts.

With the elections over, the confusion over the preference of food grains has hit the implementation of the scheme, overseen by the co-ordinating officer of the comprehensive tribal development project. The deputy commissioner heads the implementation committee at the district level.

Deputy Commissioner Prasad said he had brought the new demand of the tribals to the notice of the government and the future step would follow its directions.

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