Some days ago, I posted about the Jarawas. And I said that the local administration in the Andamans is venal, that its public stance about leaving the Jarawas alone is a lie, and that the tribals are in huge trouble. (readthis, this and this). Well, here is a story from the latest issue of “The Light of Andamans” (Issue 22, 20 May 2006) to buttress all that I said. More will follow.
By Staff Reporter
The Andaman Adimjan Jati Vikas Samiti and the Directorate of Tribal Welfare seldom miss a chance to put its foot in its mouth. Jarawas were suffering from measles and getting admitted into the hospital in droves. There was panic all over. The Directorate of Health Services deputed a team of doctors to Middle Strait and Kadamtala for an on the spot investigation, treatment and for taking preventive actions. National and International press was plastered with the Jarawa affliction.
But, for reasons best known to AAJVS and DTW, they were engaged in some other sinister move to shift the Jarawas from Middle Strait to Tirur. Vehicles were engaged, labour hired and trucks carrying 45 of the tribesmen reached Tirur village one evening during the last month end. The villagers however did not swallow the pill. They stopped the truck and did not allow the Jarawas to get down. When asked who had directed them to Tirur, the Jarawas said “Ghoshal”. The villagers asked the incharge to call Mr. Ghoshal. The Pradhan of the Panchayat Mr. Mahadev Majhi too was not in the locality at the time.
By the time Mr. Ghoshal reached there, Mr. Majhi too had arrived. A prolonged discussion ensued between them. The villager itself was suffering from measles and the Pradhan did not want to complicate the matter further. Secondly, the villagers of Temple Myo, Herbertabad and Tirur were fed up with Jarawas intruding their home and hearth every now and then. They did not want another battalion of Jarawas trooping into their gardens, plantations and homes at will.
“There were five people on the roll of AAJVS working at Tirur. But I never saw more than one at any given time. Are they working in your homes?” he had asked Mr. Ghoshal. Mr Ghoshal’s reply was that the workers were paid on the basis of attendance rolls submitted by the Police. The Policeman standing nearby didn’t like it kindly. “You pay them even before we submit the attendance rolls” he retorted. “What about supply of banana to the Jarawas every week?” Mr. Mahadev Majhi fired the next salvo. “I never saw or heard of any banana supply in the past year and a half” he continued. Mr. Ghoshal had nothing better to do than fumble for words.
Talking to The Light of Andamans” Mr. Majhi confided that it was a big racket. The Jarawas were exploited to the hilt by the AAJVS and the Department of Tribal Welfare. Nobody was interested in the welfare of the Jarawas or any other tribe. ‘They appoint people from far off places to work at Tirur. They never turn up and yet get paid. Why not appoint unemployed boys from the same Panchayat? We too can keep a watch in that case” he fumed. “Banana! Why can’t they buy from our people who suffer at the hands of the Jarawas? Because then the racket would be busted” he concluded. Mr. Mahadev Majhi was exploding with fury.