For long the victims of poverty, hunger and institutional neglect, the dwindling tribe of Pahari Korbas now has another menace to contend with -- cholera. A severe outbreak of the disease is threatening their populations inhabiting the villages of Chhattisgarh's Jaspur district. Even as the disease continues to claim lives -- some estimates put the number of dead at over 30 -- the administrative set-up has shown no urgency in dealing with the crisis.
R N Verma, the chief medical officer of Jaspur, acknowledged the incidence: "This is the first time that such a large number of Pahari Korbas have died." The lack of medical facilities and poor reporting of the outbreak by field officials are said to have greatly aggravated the situation.
As is usual, officials fixed the blame for the tribals' poor health and diminishing numbers on their own habits, claiming that they eat half-cooked food and drink impure water. B S Anant, the district collector, maintained that the rice "distributed among them is bartered for liquor".
Though the Chhattisgarh government asserted that it had spent Rs 7.31 crore on the welfare of these people since 1998 under a centrally sponsored scheme, the tribals' population has remained static in the district.
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