The economic downturn as a fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and its cascading impact has affected the tribal people in Mysuru district most of whom are unemployed since the last few months.
Though the nutrition aspect has been taken care of through the distribution of ration under various Central and State government schemes, labour opportunities have diminished due to slowdown in economic activity.
While it is mandatory for the authorities to ensure that they are given employment for at least 100 days in an year under the MGNREGA, not many are benefiting, according to M.B. Prabhu, a tribal rights activist functioning from Veeranahosahalli in Hunsur. “There are hundreds of Jenu Kurubas, Betta Kurubas, Soligas and Yeravas without jobs in Hunsur, Periyapatana, H.D. Kote belt’’, he added.
A majority of them used to be employed in the plantation sector in Kodagu. But the region is under distress due to the pandemic and the repeated floods that hit the district for three consecutive years.
’Earlier, the labour contractors used to transport tribals from Veeranhosahalli and surrounding villages to coffee plantations in Kodagu and this was a major source of livelihood for the tribal community. But the fear of the pandemic has put an end to the free movement of labour and has rendered the tribals unemployed’’, said Mr. Prabhu.
Though the local agricultural activity has provided employment and helped a section of the tribals to sustain themselves for a few weeks, the plantations in Kodagu were the main source of employment for the community and that has been affected this year, said S. Sreekanth of Development through Education, an NGO fighting for tribal rights.
“Plantations in Kodagu used to provide sustenance from December to April/May but the lockdown this year dashed all the prospects’’, he added.
Bulk of job creation under MGNREGA is for desilting of lakes and water bodies during summer. But all the waterbodies were full during summer early this year due to heavy rains last year and hence no work could be taken up.
In case of tribals who tilled their land and cultivated maize, none of them received remunerative rates as the crop was sold to middlemen for half the market rates in the absence of any institutional mechanism to procure the crop from them directly, said Mr. Prabhu.
Though DEED used to provide skill development like carpentry, tailoring, driving to the tribals, it was disbanded this year due to the pandemic and the next batch of tribals will be trained only during summer once the situation eases, said Mr. Sreekanth.