Date: 27th March 2020
The Honorable Chief Minister,
Government of Maharashtra
Subject: Regarding the safety of nomadic tribal communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In light of the scenario resulting from the current global pandemic, Honorable Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi have taken decisions which have been welcomed and followed by people. According to the orders given by the government, people are not to leave their homes. Most people are faithfully following these instructions, but while that is happening, people from nomadic communities, the ones who are without homes, the ones who travel from village to village for shelter and work every day to fill their stomach are still roaming about with no shelter in sight. All villages are under lockdown and people from outside are being refused entry. At such a time, which village will come to their rescue?
This is the question that people belonging to nomadic tribes are currently facing. Many villages have refused them entry, roads have been blocked in several places, they aren’t allowed to even wait near some villages, while others have closed their doors to them entirely. Because of this, the nomadic community is facing the danger of death due to starvation. These people don’t have any documents or ration cards, so we request the government to please take measures to ensure that they are provided with ration without necessitating ration cards.
Similarly, given the current scenario, we urge the government to urgently instruct the Sarpanch of villages that the nomads who have set up their temporary houses near their villages be allowed to live there. There should also be provision for ration, medicines, and other health services for them in these villages. We also appeal to the government to take responsibility for their safety. The responsibility of their safety rests on all of us as they are also as much citizens of this country as us. They also have the right to life, and we appeal to the government to uphold this right.
People belonging to nomadic tribes come in large numbers to peripheries of cities like Pune and Mumbai, or to the nearby villages, where there is a large number of cases of people affected by the Coronavirus. They live without any permanent shelter in such places and hence, there is a high possibility of them contracting the disease. In such a situation, there must be provisions for their shelter immediately. If the government does decide to visit door to door to test for Covid-19, then we strongly feel that special efforts are needed to ensure that such measures reach those belonging to nomadic tribes.
In Karjat, a case of police brutality towards a person from Mendhpal community has come to light. We understand that the police are taking action on people who are roaming outside, but they must be sensitive while dealing with people who do not have homes. In fact, they must aid them, especially families belonging to nomadic communities, in accessing essential services and facilities in such a time of crisis. In many places, because of scarcity of fodder, the animals belonging to nomadic communities that rear them are facing death because of starvation. These animals are their only source of livelihood, so it is very important that they be provided with fodder wherever they are.
We urge the Honorable Chief Minister to urgently make note of the above. We strongly appeal that he must save Nomadic citizens, who form 15% of the population of Maharashtra, from death due to starvation and lack of shelter. This is our sincere request.
Anand Kokre, Mendhpal Hakka Andolan, 878897032
Deepa Pawar, NT/DNT Activist, 9773366000
Arati Kade, Student, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, 8698066778
[via Arati Kade]
Pictures courtesy: Mangal Kokare