Tribal communities join battle against coronavirus

New Delhi: Stringent instructions on social distancing and personal hygiene amidst coronavirus outbreak have extended its roots into forest-dwelling tribal communities, where people are now learning to keep themselves safe from the deadly virus.

Livelihood of people belonging to Jharkhand’s Baiga and Birhor tribal communities depends upon hunting and selling partridges and rabbits, but it came to a grinding halt after a three-week lockdown was imposed in the country to contain the viral disease.

The communities are, nonetheless, pouring in collective efforts to fight the pandemic.

“It is pertinent to make these communities aware of the deadly disease as they are not in touch with the outside world,” said Sneh Raj, treasurer of Indian Red Cross Society’s Jharkhand branch.

Baiga and Birhors live in Sale and Goa villages of Chatra district of Jharkhand. Both the communities were initially reluctant to let the volunteers inside their village. “They became aggressive and thought that we had barged into their villages to infect them.”

Sneh added that the Red Cross is providing both the communities with food as their livelihood has been affected by the unprecedented lockdown.

The treasurer added, “Besides providing them food, we have taught them the importance of social distancing and wearing masks. They were given soaps and instructed how to wash their hands thoroughly. It took us three-four days but they finally understood the relevance.”

He further said that the Baiga community became so aware that when one of their villagers came from Mumbai, they isolated him and asked him to wear a mask.

“Four huts have also been made into a quarantine facility. Man who has come from Mumbai is quarantined there. He is diligently following the rules,” he said.

Likewise, the livelihood of West Bengal’s Sabar tribal community which depended on selling handicrafts also faced the wrath of sudden shutdown. The tribal group too has a minimal contact with the mainstream.

“We have taught them the relevance of social distancing and personal hygiene. They are also being provided food as their livelihood has come to a standstill,” said Hirak Kumar Sao, General Secretary of Indian Red Cross Society’s West Bengal branch.

He, however, rued that social distancing is not possible among such a community as they live in small shanties. “How will people who do not have sufficient water to drink, will wash their hands with soaps?” he asked.

The tribal communities are, nonetheless, facing the difficulties and fighting the deadly disease head-on. With this, the country seems to be completely ready to combat the viral pandemic and protect all its citizens on a war-footing.

 

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