Malayalee, (Mala means Hills and yalee means rulers) rules of Hills is one of the primitive tribes in India living in Jawadhu and Kalryan Hills of Tamil Nadu. At Keel Cheppli, we can find stone houses, constructed 5000 years before. Jawadhu Hills is spreaded over Vellore District and Tiruvannamalai District. Around 80 thousand population live in Jawadhu block. Out of this 98% are from Tribal community and 2% are from other caste, predominantly Dalits and Vanniyars. The hill is around 2315 to 3000 feet higher from sea level. This Jawadhu hills is popular for Sandalwood, Teakwood and Rosewood and different herbal species. Elephants, forest buffalows, monkeys, foxes and deers are availably in plenty as forest animals. These are three bus routes, one from Vellore ,one from Alangayam and another from Tiruvannamalai. From the main road, one has to walk for 3 kms to 10 kms to reach the hamlets. There are 11 panchayats and 229 hamlets with in the radius of 150 square kilometers.
The mean age at marriage for boys is 15 age and for the girls is age 13. Premarital sex, elopement, plurality of sex, extra marital sex are commonly accepted, which leads to number of social and health problems. Around 70% Tribals are illiterates marriage are strictly from their tribal community. If any marriages taken place with other caste, they will be immediately excommunicated and they will be treated as social outlaws. The religion is Hindu and any conversion is strictly prohibited, if anybody is converted to other religion, they will be immediately excommunicated. People will not go to those homes even for births and deaths.
The children have to walk for around 5 kms to reach the elementary school. Because of this, school enrollment is not much and the drop out from the schools are very high. Very few children are going to school beyond 8th standard. Female education is neglected. Even few people who are educated are unemployed in the hills and so others get no motivation for their studies.
Around 80% of the tribal people are living below to poverty line. Agriculture is their major occupation. Rain water cultivation is possible. There is no check dams and so water is a major problem during summer. The rain water is not harvested due to the land shape. So, six months, they stay in a tribal area and for other six months they migrate to Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh States for their livelihood. Because of their migration, the families are disintegrated.
Money lenders are coming from Vellore, Tirupathy and from Tiruvannamalai and lend money on exorbitant rate of interest. Illicit arrack manufacturing is their at home level. More than 80% of the Adults are the liquor addicts and exhaust all money on the consumption of liquor. This is one of the attributing factors of tribal poverty.
More than 70% of the Adult men and women have venereal diseases. Reproductive tract infection is one of the major health problems for women. 80% of the children are malnutritious. Infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate is around 5 times higher than the national average. The traditional faith healers are playing an important roles. Their health seeking behaviours and health practices are harmful. Government has acknowledged this health problem and started some health project. But it was failed due to non-availability of qualified doctors in primary health centres. Almost 100% women are anemic. Anemia among pregnant women and home delivery are the major reasons for the increased mortality of infants and mothers.
Communicable diseases like diarrhea, Jaundice, typhoid, venereal diseases, sexual diseases, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS etc., are mostly due to the unawareness on the preventive measures and poor hygiene and sanitation. This can be controlled and prevented by proper health education. Recent study conducted by Christian Medical College, Vellore indicates that around 30% the adult populations in the age group of 35+ have diabetes. This is mostly due to alcoholism and lack of physical work. Around 70% of the new born babies have the birth weight less than 2.5 kg. More than 80% of the pregnant women do not have the weight increase of minimum 10 kg during their full term pregnancy. Immunization coverage is around 50% only among mothers and under 5 age children.
Suicides rate has been increased drastically for the last one decade is mostly due to poverty induced hunger, unemployment, increased alcoholism, family disorganization and migration.
Thick forest trees were cut down by the politicians with the help of local tribals. People do not have much awareness on tree plantation and cut the trees for firewood purposes. Alternative energy use is not known to them.
Human rights violation
Grave human rights violation exists among the Tribal community. Tribal people are not aware of the following Acts.
- Prevention of atrocities against SC/ST.
- Rights to get information under information Act.
- Minimum wage Act.
- Child labour prevention Act.
- Abuse of women at the working spot.
- Domestic / social offence against women.
- Freedom of expression / freedom of religion.
- Right to education, right to livelihood and minimum needs attainment.
- Acts on environment and forest development.
As the people are in media dark, there is a need to create legal awareness. In view of the above problems, there is a specific need to improve the peoples living standard and quality of life.
Overall goal of the project is to increase the socio-economic – health – environmental status of Tribal community in Jawadhu Hills. To achieve this goal, there is a need for comprehensive Tribal health and development programmes, which has to be implemented at least for a decade (10 years).