New Delhi: The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has sent a notice to the Odisha government on the spread of Covid-19 among primitive tribal groups in the state.
In a letter, dated 11 September, the panel has asked the Odisha government to submit a report within two weeks on the situation and mitigation strategies adopted by the state to curb the spread of the infection.
A report published by the Hindustan Times said five members of the Didayi tribe and 41 members of the Bonda tribe tested Covid-19 positive in August. Both of these tribes are part of the 13 particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTG) residing in the hills of Malkangiri village in Odisha.
A senior official with the commission said, “We have taken suo moto cognisance of the matter based on newspaper reports and have sent a notice to the state government asking them to send us a report on their actions. We have given them two weeks to respond.”
According to the HT report, the first Covid case in the PVTGs was detected in the Khairput block of Malkangiri district, where over 12,000 Bonda tribals stay. Although their movement has been restricted, the spread of Covid-19 poses a threat to their existence.
A previous assessment of Odisha tribes working in Kerala found that they were ignorant about the symptoms and spread of the disease and did not know about the necessary preventive steps.
Bonda and Didayi tribe
The Bondas are an Austroasiatic tribe and are believed to be a part of the first wave of migrants who moved out of Africa and into Asia 60,000 years ago. This tribe is considered to be the first forest dwelling tribe.
The Didayis are a Proto-Australoid tribe — ancient hunter-gatherer people who descended from the first major wave of anatomically modern humans to leave Africa around 50,000 years ago. They, too, reside in the hills of the Malkangiri district.
Earlier, the commission had also sent a notice to the Andaman and Nicobar state administration asking for an action report regarding the spread of Covid-19 among 10 members of the dwindling Great Andamanese tribe on the tiny Strait Island. Officials say that they are yet to get a report from the state officials.