Friday August 17, 2018

Diseased, Ignored and Suffering Silently : A look into the Health Status of Adivasi Women in Jharkhand

Despite establishment of Primary Healthcare Centres (PHC) in tribal areas, quality healthcare is still a dream for India’s tribal population.

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health status of Adivasi women
One of the poorest and most marginalized communities in India, the tribal population continues to fight extreme levels of health deprivation, with women and children being most vulnerable. Wikimedia
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New Delhi, November 2, 2017 : In his address to the nation on Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about his resolve to build a Divya and Bhavya Bharat by creating opportunities for the youth and women and focusing on inclusive development, with safe housing and food security for the poor.

But has Modi ji forgotten about the depleting health status of the people in the south eastern part of the country, particularly the Adivasi populations?

Stemming from a region where people struggle to avail basic necessities how does Modi ji expect the youth to create jobs, when they are not even literate and healthy in the first place?

The health status of Adivasi women and communities in India is in need of special attention. One of the poorest and most marginalized communities in India, the tribal population continues to fight extreme levels of health deprivation, with women and children being most vulnerable.

Health Status of Adivasi Women

Due to rampant poverty, affording fruits and milk for sustenance is an issue affecting the health status of Adivasi women and communities. Additionally, most of the food is served to the male members, who are the bread-earners. As a result, the women have to survive on paani-bhaat (a dish made of stale or leftover rice and water) and saag made from drumstick leaves.

health status of Adivasi women
Health of a man is given more priority than the health of a woman in India’s tribal communities. Wikimedia

With little to no choice to avail other food items, they fail to meet adequate nutritional requirement for their bodies.

According to Archana Kisku, a General Nursing Midwife (GNM) at the Community Health Centre at Dumka district in Jharkhand, even water intake among Adivasi women is lower than what is required which makes them anemic.

“Most of the health centres at the block level in the state do not have blood banks and therefore these women have to be referred somewhere else,” Archana told ANI.

Multiple studies on the maternal health and health status of Adivasi women show poor nutritional status that continues to worsen, along with high rates or morbidity and mortality. Furthermore, tribal states of India record lower utilization of antenatal and postnatal services which can be attributed to illiteracy, monetary reasons, non-availability of services and even deep rooted cultural beliefs.

If you believe these conditions prevail only in Jharkhand, you are wrong. According to a study published in 2016, it was revealed that 80 per cent of the tribal women in Maharashtra’s Melghat area weighed less than 50 kg. ‘Starvation deaths’ continue to affect the health status of Adivasi women, with cases being reported even in advanced states like Kerala.

Thus, it must be realized that malnutrition and anemia are major problems affecting the health status of Adivasi women, irrespective of the area they reside in. However, it must also be noted that the problem is worse in states like Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh.

Health Problems Faced By Adivasi Population

While malnutrition and anemia continue to be the most reported cases, tribal populations are also faced with several endemic infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and diarrhea, resulting in untimely deaths. According to a report published in The Hindu in 2016, the Sahariya tribe of Madhya Pradesh was reported to have the highest rates of tuberculosis in India.

Reasons for Poor Health Status of Adivasi Women

The main factors responsible for deteriorating health conditions of India’s Adivasi population can be attributed to

  • Questionable living conditions
  • ignorance
  • lack of health education and literacy in general
  • absence or inaccessible healthcare facilities

The Adivasis are traditionally hunter-gatherers and depend upon the rich forests for their daily source of nutrients. Shifting to government schemes, like the Public Distribution System (PDS) takes them away from their natural state of being, replacing their diverse dietary food consumption in a forest to more restricted packages provided by the government.

Additionally, displacement from their traditional living conditions in forests puts them in a difficult situation, as the Adivasi’s struggle to survive on more ‘urban’ lands.

A major transition in livelihood affects the health status of Adivasi women and men, which then takes a toll.

Adivasi Women During Pregnancy and Childbirth

In an interview to ANI, Archana said, “Adivasi women don’t eat nutritious food during pregnancy and also don’t take iron pills on a regular basis because it is a myth amongst them that they will have problems at the time of delivery of the child due to the pill”.

Nearly 50 per cent of tribal women are known to have haemoglobin deficiency.

The pregnant women in Jharkhand’s Dumka district are found to have only 8 grams of, while 11-14 grams is found in a normal human body. This creates obstructions in childbirth.

Adivasi households are known to rear pigs and goats which diminishes their calcium requirement. Additionally, the womenfolk indulge in labor work and fetch water from far off distances which often result in miscarriages.

health status of Adivasi women
An Adivasi woman with her child. Wikimedia

Adivasi Women and Anemia

As per figures from the National Family Health Survey 2015-2016, 71.5 per cent children between the ages of 6 to 59 months in rural areas of Jharkhand were found to be anemic. Furthermore, it was revealed that 67.3 per cent women within the age bracket 15-49 suffered from anemia.

Shockingly, this figure rose to a staggering 85 per cent in case of Adivasi women.

Nutrition, especially of the women, is of least importance in Adivasi communities, which when combined with poverty, lack of awareness and accessibility, create innumerable problems and negatively affect the health status of Adivasi women.

Anemic women naturally cannot be expected to have healthy children, which is why a negatively spiraling trend can be observed in India’s tribal population’s health.

Adivasi Women and Malnutrition

According to Dr Jugal Kishore, Director of Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi, malnutrition is a major cause of deaths in India. He observes that one in every three women in India suffer from anemia. The case is worse in Jharkhand where three out of four women are anemic.

As the Adivasi women continue to be anemic, their children are also malnourished.

In a conversation with ANI, State Adviser of the Supreme Court in Jharkhand, Balram revealed the piteous state of pregnant women and nursing mothers who are unable to get adequate nutrition.

He pointed out that these women are unable to receive due benefits of government schemes due to their improper implementation. “Food Safety regulations are being overlooked. In Anganwadi centres there is no proper record maintained of how the health of children suffering from malnutrition is monitored,” he said.

Culture Has A Role To Play Too

Adivasi women continue to depend on midwives to do their deliveries, instead of going to health centres or hospitals. It is also a common belief that consumption of iron or pills would hamper the health status of Adivasi women and their children.

Due to the customs and traditions being passed on over generations, some Adivasi women do not breastfeed their new born after birth, which gravely affects the health of the mother and child alike.

Many such cultural practices also support the proliferation of malnutrition among the Adivasi populations.

State of Public Healthcare Facilities

Despite establishment of Primary Healthcare Centres (PHC) in tribal areas, quality healthcare is still a dream for India’s tribal population.

These PHC are often at a dearth of doctors and trained paremedics. The non-availability of essential drugs, and proper infrastructure further worsen the case.

health status of Adivasi women
A frail looking Adivasi woman with her child. Wikimedia

Lack of knowledge and transportation in Adivasi regions is a huge drawback and travelling on foot to the PHC is a restraint for the tribal population which further hinders quality healthcare delivery.

Illiteracy is also a major factor for absence of good healthcare, as Adivasis’ fail to realize the need for healthcare and rights for care-seeking.

Even though the Adivasi community of India is deep rooted in traditions and superstitions, they have relatively accepted modern medicine in the last few years. But access to good health care continues to be a major issue of concern.

What Is The State Doing Regarding The Health Status Of Adivasi Women?

Jharkhand Welfare Minister Dr Lewis Marandi asserted that the state government is constantly making efforts to eradicate malnutrition and anemia, as per ANI report.

For the same, malnutrition centres have been opened in various districts of Jharkhand and the government is additionally providing supplementary nutritious food to children between the age of 6 to 72 months at meager costs.

Dr Kishore believes these supplementary food packages are also being sent for pregnant women, but they are not reaching the intended targets in rural and Adivasi areas.

The Road Ahead

As noted by the United Nations Children Fund, India has the highest tally of malnourished children in India. In this regard, in their efforts of remove malnutrition, the central government plans to introduce schemes guaranteeing increased amount of nutritional supplements to pregnant women and lactating mothers.

The State government has also been instructed to improve and closely monitor the functioning of PHC. Recently, the state government in Chhatisgarh extended livelihood opportunities to Adivasi women by training them to drive e-rickshaws, which are also expected to serve as ambulances in case of emergencies.

Similar initiative must be taken in Jharkhand and other states with Adivasi populations to bring the tribal communities to the mainstream.

However, what is crucial at the moment is for the government to spread awareness about the health of women, which must be given equal attention as the health of men in the Adivasi communities. At the same time, it is important to break the superstitions operational around the health status of Adivasi women.

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Why I Refuse to be ‘MODI’fied?

Hindu Right goons have accosted couples on Valentine's Day and beaten them up claiming the festival was a degenerate adoption from the West

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This article is about "Why I refuse to be 'MODI'fied?"

By Tania Bhattacharya

Tania
Ms Tania Bhattacharya

Narendra Modi does not represent classical Hinduism. But few Hindus are open to realizing this. Here is an inventory of points, to expand on my premise. Indeed, if Hindus are to emulate the policies of the Hindu Right Wing, we will move closer to
the Abrahamic ideology.

Modi is ethnocentric (meaning Indocentric), a vegetarian extremist promoting teetotalism, anti-LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgender), can’t distinguish between traditional western culture and neoliberal westernization, has colluded in the mass murder of innocent Gujarati Muslims (not Islamic terrorists, mind you) and openly courts the bourgeoisie, while promoting complete privatization. To complete the picture, Modi, the RSS and the rest of the Hindu right wing, covertly encourage casteism and linguistic jingoism.

But in conjunction with denouncing Modi, the half-informed Marxists and the pseudo-
liberal bogey, also decry Hinduism. As if Modi’s views, are Hinduism’s faults! This is why a re-assessment of historical Hinduism is the need of the hour, so that the image of Hinduism – South Asia’s classical identity – may be rescued.

1) For the past 2000 years, Hindus have accommodated: Armenians, Zoroastrians,
Greeks, Jews, Black Africans called Siddis, Chinese and Tibetans on their soil, not
once asking any of these communities to renege on their religions. Persecuting any
of India’s religious minorities, goes against the grain of Hindu religious thought. Sure,
there have been frictions between Hinduism and the Indic religion of Buddhism at
intermittent periods of India’s bygone history, but this friction cannot be possibly
compared to the scale and ferocity of monotheism’s religious crusades.

Representational image.
Representational image.

Hinduism allows its adherents to remain atheistic. It has evolved the ‘Charvaka’ and
‘Sankhya’ schools of philosophy, which reject divinity and concentrate on atheistic materialism.

Even though Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the best-known proselytizing faiths;
Buddhism is not innocent of proselytization, either. Few Hindus want to admit, that in
endowing East Asia with Buddhism, which carried over Hindu ideas and cultural
nuances to that part of the world; Buddhism quietly subordinated and decimated the
indigenous, ethnic religions of East Asia, such as: Muism, Bonism, Tengrism,
Shenism and Satsana Phi. Only Shintoism, Japan’s indigenous, polytheistic identity,
could hold on stubbornly.

Hinduism’s all-encompassing outlook at other faiths, stands in opposition to the
dogmatic and insular approach of the Hindu Right towards India’s religious
minorities, which include Muslims and Christians.

2) Never has Hinduism – or for that matter any other polytheistic, indigenous religion
– discriminated against the LGBT. India’s anti-LGBT laws were promulgated in mid-
19th century, Christian England and were imported into India, via the British. It is
disturbing, how Hindus like Modi and his clique, have embraced the monotheistic
prejudice against the LGBT, while at the same time, projecting themselves as the
defenders of Hinduism.

The Indian epic Mahabharat, contains two characters named Shikhandi, and Aravan.
Both Shikhandi and Aravan, are transgenders. There is a temple dedicated to
Aravan named the Koothandavar Temple. It is located inside the Indian state of
Tamil Nadu. Every year, an 18-day festival to commemorate the transgender status
of Aravan, is organized there. Pagan philosophy of which Hinduism is a branch, has
had a long tradition of recognizing alternative sexuality in the form of the LGBT.

When the Hindu Right beginning with the RSS, denounces intimacy between
members of the LGBT community as being unnatural and offensive, we become a
mirror image of the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,
which condemn the LGBT community as being sinful.

Representational image.
Representational image.

3)Hindu Right goons have accosted couples on Valentine’s Day and beaten them up
claiming the festival was a degenerate adoption from the West. They are ignorant of
the fact, that Valentine’s Day has its roots, in the ancient, pagan Roman celebration
of ‘Lupercalia’, which was a commemoration of love and fertility, that was held
between the 13th and the 15th of February. Christianity, merely plagiarized the
festivals of the pre-Christian people.

http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day
While original Abrahamic philosophy (and not its modern, watered down version)
looks askance at the intermingling of unmarried boys and girls, Classical Paganism
takes the opposing view. In the Polytheistic Greco-Roman observance, three days,
the 13, the 14 th , and the 15 th of February, were set aside for celebrating love, fertility,
and the socializing of the sexes, which involved paying obeisance to the Roman
wolf-goddess Lupa, who was said to have suckled Remus and Romulus, the twin
brothers who had founded Rome.

The Indian treatise Kamasutra deals with sexuality and so does the temple art of
Khajuraho. Thus, by shunning Hinduism’s long tradition of recognizing and feting
human sexuality, and by victimizing couples on Valentine’s Day, the Hindu Right has
amply displayed its slide towards Abrahamic segregation of the sexes.

4)Indocentrism is as faulty as Eurocentrism and Afrocentrism. Indocentric Hindus
are in effect, reacting to European racism, with counter-racism. 19th century
European ethnologists had forwarded ideas which proposed that non-European
people are inferior to Europeans. In the 20th century, such racist ideas were
overturned with the discovery of ancient civilizations all over the world, which pointed
at sophisticated ways of thinking, outside of the European orbit. India’s ‘Indus Valley
Civilization’ and the Native Americans’ ‘Tenochtitlan’, were just two of the ancient
non-European seats of civilization, that were unearthed. Since then, history has been
revised several times, with non-European cultures and their achievements hogging
most of the spotlight. However, the memory of European colonialism, has also had a
neurotic, and narcissistic effect on the majority of Hindus. Such Hindus have
elbowed aside all the fine classical achievements of Europe and other non-Hindu,
Polytheistic, Classical civilizations and have projected Hinduism as the creative
source of all other forms of Polytheism. It would have been hilarious, if it wasn’t so
demeaning and offensive. Does it ever occur to Indocentric Hindus, how disrespectful this is, to our polytheistic sisters and brothers in other parts of the world? European, Middle Eastern, Sub-Saharan African and West Asian polytheism, are being revived at present. How do the Indocentric Hindus reckon, our pagan fellow travellers will treat our affront to their dignity?

The ‘Indian Origin Of The Aryans’, is the pet theory of Indocentric Hindus. They put
their faith in the idea, that the Aryans originated out of India. There are serious
problems with this theory. The region which produces a race, will exhibit the
maximum diversity present in that race. If India was indeed the birthplace of the
Caucasian race, then all varieties of Caucasians would have been represented in the
population of India. But is that the case? Certainly not! Scholars have already
located the birthplace of the Caucasian race. It is the steppes of the Ukraine-Russian
flatlands. About two decades back, the Indian media had reported the finds of a
submerged metropolis off the coast of Gujarat, that was touted as being ‘Dwarka’,
the city associated with Lord Krishna. There is a thesis doing the rounds, which
supposes, that the Indus Valley Civilization, was in reality the ‘Saraswati Civilization’
of the Vedas. But both these theories have a serious flaw. Adherents of these two
theories, hold, that the North Indian Caucasians and the Dravidians of Southern
India, are essentially of the same genetic stock. Such purloining of genetic and
anthropological data, at the hands of Hindus, of all people, is unbecoming. It has
been well established through mtDNA (Mitochondrial DNA) testing, that North
Indians share 3/4ths of their genes with Afghans, West Asians, and Europeans,
especially the people of the Mediterranean. North Indians also bear Greek and
German blood, as in the days of yore, many pagan Greeks, following Alexander’s
invasion of India; and a good number of pagan Huns, had formed colonies in north
India, married north Indian women and settled down to build families. mtDNA
analysis has similarly established, that South Indians (and Sri Lankans), share their
genes with Australian Aborigines. Australian Aborigines, the Dravi