Rural Development

The tribal community live in villages called ‘ooru’. The ooru is a traditional ecosystem with living arrangements, interdependent living styles and self sustaining economy. The very old, very young and the very ill, all were taken care by the community by mutual agreement and consent. There is a hierarchy of authorities to run the affairs of the village. The ‘Mooppan’ is the village head, the ‘vandari’ is the executive in charge, the ‘kuruthala’ is the treasurer and ‘mannukkaran” is the person in charge of farming activities. There was a village ‘vaidyan’ who looked after the health of the village.

From a self sustaining village with earnings and food stores from agriculture and forest produce, the tribal village in Attappady has taken a deep down slide to be a picture of poverty and suffering, dependent on government subsidies and loan from money lenders. Agricultural activity is minimal to nil in tribal villages, though there are individual exceptions. Many of the land holding farmers are unable to do farming due to numerous reasons, like, lack of water for irrigation, loss of crops due to attacks by wild animals or drought, heavy rains or winds etc and poor financial returns from products. Group farming by the whole village has become a story of the past. Very few tribal farmers avail of government subsidies and schemes for agriculture.

The assets of the tribal population are restricted to cattle and goats.

Income for the family comes from manual labour for construction work or MNREGS. Lack of any alternative source of income has forced many of the male folk to leave for distant places in search of work. It is normal to find only women and children in some villages because of this phenomenon.

Alcoholism is a social evil that has engulfed the tribal villages of Attappady like a monster. Whatever income that is being earned is spent away for alcohol. The women are left to fend for themselves and the meet expenses of raising the children due to the neglect by alcoholic husbands.

The tribal villages of Attappady need regeneration. The village life has to be restructured on traditional lines while aiming for economic prosperity, educational upliftment, robust health, secure surroundings, cultural rejuvenation and clean environment.

Swami Vivekananda Medical Mission started its rural development initiatives 8 years back with the beginning of a Village Health Worker programme. Volunteers from the villages with school education are trained and appointed as health workers. They are trained to give first aid, create awareness on sanitation and health problems, organize medical camps and motivate people with illnesses to seek medical help. They meet every month at the base hospital for a review of activities and to plan ahead. Village health workers are present in about 75 villages now.

With the initiative from the village health workers, Village Development committees have been formed in many villages. The committees conduct sanitation drives, organize awareness meetings and submit representations to local representatives for resolving their basic needs. Village Development Committes are active in 40 villages now.We have organized training programmes for office bearers of Village Development committees in 12th April 2012 and 21st November 2013.

On 15th August 2013, a rural development project for 17 villages of Sholayur Panchayat named “Thanal” was launched with help of an organization of NRIs, Indian Council of Science Technology and Environment (ICSTE, Dubai). Participatory rural Appraisal (PRA) was conducted in all 17 villages followed by complete socioeconomic survey. Farmers meetings were held in 14 villages. The farmers were given assistance in receiving agricultural subsidy from the government and starting farming activity. Later on the project slowed down due to lack of funds.

In the year 2016-17, we are planning to take this movement forward. The plan is to make the committees more active and hold monthly meetings. The members will be trained to identify crucial problems of the villages and identify lasting solutions for them. The mission will work jointly with the committees for the development of selected villages into model tribal hamlets with identifiable model parameters of sustainable development. We aim to involve interested institutions and organisations to help the villagers in their path to development.

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