A video of parents and relatives rushing through the terrain with the body of a little girl in Vellore on Sunday has been going viral on social media. The girl identified as Thanuksha, aged 1.5 years old, daughter of daily wage labourers Viji and Priya, had been sleeping outside her home in Alleri tribal village, Vellore, when a cobra bit her. She was immediately rushed to a hospital in Vellore by her parents and relatives, but died on the way.
After the police were informed about the incident, they sent an ambulance, and the child’s body was taken for postmortem. The body was later handed over to her family, and her parents took the child’s body home in an ambulance. However, since the hilly terrain to their village was impassable, the ambulance dropped them 10 kilometres away from their destination. The parents had to carry the child’s body uphill.
Tribal Child Dies From Snake Bite
The girl’s mother and grandmother, who carried the body, were crying inconsolably and were seen wailing over the body whenever they paused to rest during their strenuous journey.
While the villagers claimed that the family had to walk 10 kilometres, Vellore district collector P. Kumaravel Pandian told Times Of India that it was six kilometres. He added that the authorities were in the process of laying roads, which would approximately cost Rs. 5 crore, and were consulting with the forest department. Some sources, meanwhile, claimed that the child’s parents chose to walk instead of taking the child’s body on a two-wheeler for the sake of "gaining attention."
The repeated incidents of tribal people losing their lives are alarming. It makes us question if they are excluded while the rest of society is progressing. If the hilly terrain from the village to the hospital had proper roads, perhaps the child wouldn’t have lost her life. Will putting up new roadways now bring back the lost lives?
One of the main issues that tribal people face is a lack of access to healthcare. While we are relishing several accomplishments, including having the country’s first tribal president, Draupadi Murmu, shouldn’t equitable health care be made accessible for tribal communities at large? 8.9 percent of India’s population consists of tribal communities, which is a significant number. However, they remain one of the most neglected and deprived communities, especially in terms of access to health care.
A report by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs points out that tribal areas have a 44 percent mortality rate, which is higher than the national average. Additionally, the infant mortality rate is 63 percent higher. This called for immediate attention from authorities to provide accessible healthcare and empower tribals with knowledge related to health and wellbeing.
It's a long and tedious process, as a lot of factors go into empowering the tribal community. From providing necessary infrastructure, accessible health care, adequate medical professionals and facilities, road connectivity, transportation, awareness programmes, etc., Since all this would require a huge amount of funding, it would be a complex process, but it also happens to be the need of the hour.
While the rest of the country is moving forward, isn’t it the social responsibility of both the public and private sectors to step in and lay out plans to ensure the well-being of the tribal community as well? Given that they too are citizens of India who are bestowed constitutionally fundamental rights, shouldn’t healthcare plans be inclusive of them as well? How many more lives should be lost before society works towards establishing equitable healthcare access?
Views expressed by the author are their own. Image from Edexlive