The few villages in Adilabad district that remain difficult to access even now are the ones that give a ray of hope where health is concerned in the agency areas here. Much of tribal traditions with respect to agriculture and food habits can be seen in original form in these habitations as they were left untouched by developments elsewhere.
Seasonal and viral diseases account for death of scores of tribal people in this district every year. Anaemia, especially among young women and children, has been identified as the root cause of such deaths.
Only 1 in 300
The Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), Utnoor, had conducted a survey on incidence of anaemia among tribal people inhabiting a dozen remote villages on the route to Jodeghat in Kerameri mandal. Of the nearly 300 persons subjected to tests, only one was found anaemic and the reason was not far to look for.
The villagers in Jodeghat, Patnapur, Babejhari, Shivguda, Chalbadi among others carried on with traditional desi crops while the rest of the agency migrated to commercial hybrid crops. Neither Bt cotton nor fertilizers and pesticides found their way into these villages owing to problems of logistics.
Local varieties of food grains like jowar (sorghum), maize, beans, green gram and a host of oil foods continue to be cultivated here. These provide for the nutrition that the tribal bodies require.
Rice, which was a luxury for the poor tribal people, became their staple diet after N.T. Rama Rao introduced the Rs. 2 a kg rice scheme. It replaced all the rich and varied food including a variety of tubers found in the jungles.
“Our people took to rice but shun the rich in nutrition starch which contains all the water soluble vitamins. The decrease in vitamin intake has decreased resistance among them,” says Thodsam Chandu, a Gond doctor who is Additional District Medical and Health Officer in the agency.
Dr. Chandu says tribal children can be made aware of various traditional vegetables if backyard gardening is introduced in ashram schools and other hostels. Old crops should also be brought back into cultivation as a permanent measure of food security in these parts, he adds.