Updated: Jun 23, 2021
The villagers of Dhanlekha village in Tripura are mostly dependent on the forest for their day-to-day needs. In the month of May and June, when bamboo begins to sprout, many villagers collect them and sell them to traders. Other villagers work in their fields or are daily labourers. The COVID-19 pandemic has witnessed a break in trade and daily wage work meaning that many families are without proper food. On May 26, Adivasi Lives Matter along with Youth For Integration (YFI) Trust distributed 150 food kits to those who needed it the most. The kits which are supposed to last each family 15 days and were provided by ResponseNet.
Speaking to ALM, Savate Kaipeng of the Kaipeng Youth Association who is a resident of Dhanlekha said there are many more families that require food. Dhanlekha has a population of 3000 people consisting primarily of three tribes, namely Kaipeng, Molsom, and Debbarma. Almost all families have been hit hard by the second wave of COVID-19. Whereas it is uncertain whether anyone is Covid positive as people don’t get tested, what is evident is that the house income has been reduced to a trickle. “Most people here sell vegetables that they collect from the forest. Now that market timings have been reduced, trade has come to a stand still. There are 700 families living here with almost no source of income,” Savate said.
Till now ALM and YFI Trust they have covered 10 places under the relief programme - Sambhucharan para, Gabordi under Sepahijala district, Udayjamadhar para under Sepahijala district, Takarjala market nearby tehsil office, Sathaiham para under North Tripura, Khamtingbari, Lembucherra, Hezamara under West Tripura, Korbuk, Tuidu Dhanlekha Bazar Gram Panchayet under Gomati district, and Birendra Debbarma para in Manu block under Dhalai district. The communities which received the food kits belonged to Tripura, Reang, Jamatia, Molsom, Kaipeng, Kalai, Bongcher, Chakma, and Hrangkhawl. Initially ALM’s objective was to reach out to Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups but ground realities proved that many families of other tribes also require food assistance. The food supply consists of basic items like rice, potato, cooking oil, daal, soap, chillies, and sugar.
Gobinda Debbarma and Kumari Debbarma from Birendra Debbarma para, Chawmanu are two people who received kits on May 24. In a telephonic interview they said that ration is available in the markets and ration shops but the lockdown keeps them shut most of the day. As public transport has come to a standstill, it has become difficult for them to travel anywhere to procure food. They wished for more such relief work in the future as many other families still struggle to make ends meet.
Note: Adivasi Lives Matter shall be presenting regular updates of our relief work during the pandemic.