By M.K. Mohanraj
Mandya: As the State reels under the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic, around 150 tribal families in Muthathi forest area of Malvalli taluk in Mandya district are in deep distress.
Even as many villages in the district are gripped by the deadly pandemic, the remote village of Muthathi near Halagur in Malavalli taluk has thus far ensured that it is Corona free. However, the tribals of this village are fighting for two square meals a day in the absence of any source of income due to COVID-induced lockdown.
Muthathi Soliga tribal hamlet is located amidst the thick Muthathi forests located about 25 kms from Halagur and 100 kms from Mandya. Appart from Soligas, the village is inhabited by Girijans, Adivasis, Kadugolla and other tribal sects.
The lockdown has blocked all means of transport, both public and private, to tourist hotspot of Muthathi, which comes under Byadarahalli Gram Panchayat of Halagur hobli in Malavalli taluk.
The tribals here have to go to nearby places such as Halagur, Malavalli and Kanakapura in search of work and labour to eke out a living. Due to complete lockdown, these tribal people lost their income means and are virtually locked up in this remote area amid the forest. Also, neither the Government nor NGOs have come forward to provide food and other essentials to these hapless tribal families.
The problem is all the more compounded for them as they have to travel at least 15 kms to get foodgrains under PDS (Public Distribution System) at Fair Price Shop. With lockdown in force, buses have stopped plying to Muthathi, which has deprived the tribals of their only means of transport from their remote village. The tribals claim that subsidised foodgrains provided under the PDS is not sufficient for their daily needs.
Ravi, a member of Muthathi Gram Panchayat said that there are about 140 Soliga tribal families in Muthathi village. The people in this hamlet are not vaccinated yet as the village has no transport facilities. Pointing out that Muthathi is one of the top tourist spots in Mandya district, Ravi said that the Health authorities must take steps for vaccinating the tribals.
Noting that the Police and Forest Department officials have ensured that there is no public movement to Muthathi in the wake of lockdown, he said that the Gram Panchayt will take necessary measures for distribution of food kits soon.
Mahadevu, a villager of Muthathi, said that almost all villagers have lost their jobs or labour due to lockdown.
Maintaining that they have to travel 25 kms daily to find any work, he said that the Forest Department has restricted their movement as the village comes under forest area.
Alleging that no politician seems to be interested in addressing their issues, Mahadevu said that the nearest Fair Price Shop is 15 kms away from the village. As there is no transport facility, the authorities must take steps for delivering ration to the tribals at their doorstep, he said and asserted with a sense of authority that the village has not reported even a single Corona case so far.
He further said that the Government must come to their aid as they are finding it very difficult to eke out a living in the absence of any work or other sources of income.