The missing link: Out of coverage area, Nagada does not respond

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Nagada remains a utopia, Period. Unlike most tribal dominated pockets of the state, Nagada is just two kilometres from mobile connectivity zone. Tucked into the dense forests is a place called Naliadaba, with just four households that borders as cut-off point on the hills, separating Nagada from the rest of the world. The network snaps dot near the Naliadaba milestone, so does all communication.

A tribal dominated area in Jajpur district of Odisha, Nagada with three of its clusters – Upara Nagada, Majhi Nagada and Tala Nagada, situated in close proximity to each other, is inhabited by around 350 persons in 62 houses. A year back, the place became the cynosure world over for wrong reasons – poverty coupled with malnourishment – but government steps which were fast and feisty could not moot a solution to the anathema. Nagada Juangas still languish in misery.

 


Amidst plenty there’s only one thing lacking – a strong will to bring change to a place that is dominated by people resistant to change. The missing link, fallout of lack of awareness, could have easily been plugged with identification of change agents who could win the trust of the 350-odd population. Official teams often visit the place as visitors and return after the usual 4-5 hours. No effort was made to study the mind of these gullible people who live off, for and by trust. Never did a change agent try to stay put with the families for a day or two to be one with them and win their trust – which could have snowballed the plans of the government successfully in connecting Nagada to the mainstream.

Instead of devoting more attention to huge infrastructural changes, ideally, even a mobile tower to connect the cut off area to the nearest hospital would have changed things sooner. Though every Wednesday, mobile health teams visit all the three Nagadas that does not protect them from falling ill any other day or being bitten by poisonous snakes or animals. Emergency redressal of health problems thus remains unattended as villagers don’t have an option to be carried in an ambulance. Repercussions – women deliver at home, not administered vaccines and so are the infants who rather get branded with hot iron for  ‘cure’ besides deaths due to lack of treatment.

Don’t get surprised, every house has at least two mobile phones which serve only as means of entertainment. Hindi film songs echo from every corner and children keep glued to it without attending classes. Electricity cables are also being put in place but for now solar electricity helps them to charge their handsets.

A startling fact is the population of children in the three hamlets far exceeds the grown-ups. Men give in to ‘Handia’, a locally made fermented intoxicating drink, throughout the day and enjoy lying down on any pavement. They don’t work in fields and neither do they have inclination to work for any government schemes. So families make do with salt and rice. Potato is available but not many spend on buying it all days a week. Women on the other hand, are left to fend for themselves with most of them, teenaged, taking care of more than five kids. Neither do they have any control nor do men allow them to exercise restraint on child births. Though aware of family planning measures including operations, most shudder at the thought of even a needle piercing their body.

Two-year-old Manasi whose face bore the appalling picture of abject malnutrition of Nagada died last month

With hardly any notion about hygiene and sanitation, the families share bed with stray dogs and even sleep in the same mosquito nets near chicken coops.  Water points installed in the three Nagadas keep on flowing without being used by villagers. Water filters supplied by government are found strewn with mud and most houses store eggs inside it! The dairy products and vegetables reaped are sold in the nearby market once a week and that feed the men with their daily dose of ‘Handia’.

Now, do these not ring a bell? An alarm to just let know that Nagada is not malnourished but malfunctional due to a rigid mindset –  of the tribes residing there and the government planners, the NGOs, the civil society activists. Successive governments have done little over the years. When they were caught on the wrong foot, they looked for quick fixes and their strategy failed them. Other than the local legislator, not many have thought of visiting the place and spending a day or a night with the Juangas. Lets accept, what the Juangas of Nagada need is someone who they can call their own to trust and follow. Once this trust process begins, the road to mainstream for these cut off people will get lit up in myriad ways.

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