Most children belonging to the 400 tribal families in the foothills of the Vindhyas in Uttar Pradesh’s Banda district have a prominent rib cage or a heavily protruding belly — both signs of severe malnutrition.
Children don’t go to the nearby school — because it never opens. This means that the mid-day meal is out of the question, and most children, like their parents and grandparents, will be illiterate adults.
The tribal settlements have an anganwadi (child care centre) that’s always shut, and the nearest community health centre is 18 km away.
The adults have two occupations –– picking up wood or collecting mahua flowers from the forests or from the highway.
The Mavesi and Gaund tribes living in a cluster of seven settlements — Gobri, Alamganj, Chaudhari Ka Purwa, Karmadadhi, Bajrangpur, Gubrampur and Udhao Ka Purwa — have a diet largely comprising mahua flowers. The two tribes are not listed in the state’s SC list.
They bring the flowers home, dry them in the sun and store them. They then eat them whole or mixed with rice or wheat gruel — if such a luxury is available.
Dr S.K. Ranjan, a homeopath from Bundelkhand Gana Parishad, said most tribal children below 10 suffer from scurvy and anemia. “In extreme cases, when mothers don’t have something substantial to give their children or when children refuse to eat the same food, the mothers rub tobacco in the children’s gums to make them sleep,” Ranjan said.
Government schemes such as the mid-day meals, Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan, Integrated Child Development Scheme, old-age pension and Janani Suraksha Yojna (for pregnant women) are unheard of in this part of Uttar Pradesh.
District magistrate Ranjan Kumar said if government schemes were not being implemented properly, action would be taken against errant officials. “The quota from the central government is limited, so (below poverty line) cards cannot be
State Minister for Rural Development Daddu Prasad, who was in Banda town on Sunday and hails from the area, said he would talk to the district magistrate about the problems of the tribals during his next visit here in the first week of May.
Tracking Hunger is an HT initiative to investigate and report the struggle to rid India of hunger.