U’khand: Tribals in Pithoragarh flee into forest to escape COVID-19 test
Pithoragarh (Uttarakhand): Residents of a tribal village here ran to a nearby forest when a team of district health workers came to their doorsteps recently to test them for COVID-19.
Kuta Chaurani village is inhabited by Banrawats – an endangered tribe.
The shy tribals fled to the adjoining forest on getting information about the arrival of a Covid testing team in their village on Friday, Didihat SDM KN Goswami said on Sunday.
“While we could test residents of Aultari and Jamtari villages, those living in Kuta Chaurani fled to the forest, the SDM said.
The Banrawat community was declared a primitive tribe on the verge of extinction by the Government of India in 1967.
“Over 500 members of this highly endangered tribe are living in eight localities of Didihat sub division. We had sent our corona testing team to Aultari, Jamtari and Kuta Chaurani villages to test them. A total of 191 members of the community from Aultari and Jamtari came forward to undergo the test but residents of Kuta Chaurani fled to the forests to avoid tests,” Goswami said.
“The villagers were afraid that the swab strip taken for the test would infect them,” the SDM said.
Jagat Singhingh Rajwar, an elderly member of the community from Kuta Chaurani village, said the swab tester could cause further infection to them.
“We are ready to go for a health check, take medicines but do not agree to let the strip enter our body, ” Rajwar said.
According to the SDM, his team has persuaded some literate members of the community to create awareness among the locals about the necessity of the tests.
“We will make another attempt to test them in two-three days,” Goswami said.
Sanju Pant, coordinator of Didihat youth society, said corona kits have been distributed among some members of the community after taking them into confidence.
The administration has also been informed about the poor conditions in which the members of the endangered tribal community are forced to live with no work for them due to the coronavirus lockdown, Pant said.
“We have requested the administration to distribute consumer goods other than food material to the community members,” he said.
The SDM said packets of spices, edible oil and other essential items besides food packets have been distributed among them for free.
According to Didihat youth society sources, the community is facing dire shortage of essential goods as there is no earning for them due to the lockdown.
“If their plight is not addressed, they might face hunger and death,” Pant said.
SDM Didihat said he has written to the block development officer of Didihat and the district development officer of Pithoragarh to give members of the community work under the MGNREGA.
“We will not let the community face hunger. We maintain a vigil on them through our revenue officials lest they should face any shortage of food,” he said.