Laws hinder tribals’ access to jobs, skills Economic empowerment can subsequently reduce malnutrition in Melghat

The couple was in the city where they were felicitated by medicos for their contribution towards providing health care, introducing modern agriculture among other facilities to the tribals of this region. FPJ spoke with Dr Ravindra Kolhe  on the occasion.

Q: In spite of several measures and funds provided by the government why does malnutrition still exist in Melghat?
A: Malnutrition is a multi factorial problem. Economical factor is one aspect. Poverty can be eliminated if government schemes are properly implemented. This is a slow process. The second aspect is generating awareness regarding banking services. People borrow money from money-lenders, if better banking facilities are offered to them, they will be able to save their money.
The third aspect is if communication, transport, medical care, electricity, education, village panchayat system, small and agro-based industries, agricultural practices and techniques are developed effectively we can reduce malnutrition. Natural calamities – sufferings are more post natural calamities due to poverty.
Q: Please comment on the laws which restrict development of people
A: Indian Forest Act-1860 does not allow roads to be constructed, power supply generation, construction of dam or even supply of drinking water is not supported. Also, the Tiger project restricts agricultural and economic development. Pending relocation of villages also restricts development.  Due to all these factors, malnutrition will take a long time to be eliminated.
Q: What measures should be taken to promote agriculture in this region?
A: People need proper guidance regarding techniques like shed net, back house, poultry and small scale agro based industries from production to marketing level. Limiting factor at present is unavailability of electricity. As a result, ample water is available but cannot be pumped to use. Solar pump project is recently focused by the govt, but it only covers 5% of Melghat. 95% of Melghat, thought difficult to approach is not covered under this project.
Q: What kind of jobs can be created in this region?
A: If power is provided for agriculture, many jobs could be created through development of agriculture. Agro and forest-based industries if implemented with the present schemes in an uncorrupt way, Melghat will turn into heaven because people are hardworking, honest though uneducated.
Q: How can we promote education in this area?
A: Mostly technical education like ITI and veterinary, agriculture universities and schools need to be empowered in this area. Though uneducated, the people of Melghat have high level of intellectual development. An illiterate person is intelligent enough to understand all mechanisms of automobiles and identify faults in the vehicle, so the intelligence required to do such jobs is within him but this man cannot get a job or start his own workshop as it does have a certificate to prove his qualities.
Q: Can you highlight the condition of women in this area?
A: Crime rate is very low in this region. There is no female foeticide, dowry system followed here. People don’t lock their homes. People marry by their choice. Pre-marital pregnancy is socially accepted and it is not difficult for her to get married. Abortion rates are very less. Women can move at any time of the day or night without worrying about their safety. This is the state in the tribal majority areas. Safety becomes a concern in areas with mixed population.
Q: Tribals are not able to get jobs in cities as they don’t have a support system
A: Through temporary shelters or short stay homes like hostels we can support someone who wants to come to cities to look for jobs. Also, a lot of people have skills but can’t get jobs because they don’t have a degree or are not even 4th standard pass. Some laws should be modified to help them get jobs, like driving licenses are given only if the person is 7th standard pass.