Govt giving special attention to COVID-19 cases among tribal communities: Arjun Munda

New Delhi, May 15 (PTI) Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda on Friday said his ministry has been giving special attention to coronavirus positive cases detected among the tribal population and necessary steps are being taken to stave off its spread in indigenous communities.

The minister said migrants form a large part of India's tribal population and these people have been returning to their villages due to the lockdown.

According to estimates, around 55 per cent of the 10.4 crore tribal population live outside tribal blocks.

'According to data available with us, there is a negligible number of coronavirus positive cases in tribal areas. However, we have been giving special attention to the cases detected so far. States and Union territories are regularly monitoring these cases,' Munda told reporters during an online launch of a digital training programme for tribal youths.

The government has been working on empowering ASHA and anganwadi workers at the grassroots and this will help keep the number of cases stagnant. 'We have stopped the entry of traders from urban areas into tribal haats (markets). ASHA workers have been creating awareness among particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) about cleanliness, sanitisation and physical distancing,” he said.

The minister said he himself has had meeting with chief ministers and ministers of states through video conference on the issue.

'Around 2,000 tribal students have returned to their villages in Meghalaya, while 15,000 students have returned to Nagaland … tribal migrants have also been coming back. We have been emphasizing on the duties of states and local administration to deal with it properly,” he said.

The coronavirus-induced lockdown has forced tribal migrants working in various parts of the country to return to their blocks and villages.

Experts fear that the reverse migration can have a devastating effect on indigenous communities as tribal migrants can possibly be carrying the coronavirus and the health infrastructure in tribal blocks is weak.

Munda also launched the “GOAL (Going Online As Leaders)” programme of the ministry in partnership with Facebook.

The programme is designed to provide mentorship to tribal youths through digital mediums.

“Digital literacy has gained importance in view of challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The GOAL programme has come at the right time to provide a platform to tribal youths and women to move ahead in life,” he said.

The programme intends to upskill and empower 5,000 tribal youths to harness the full potential of digital platforms and tools to learn new ways of doing business, explore and connect with domestic and international markets.

Munda said that the programme has been designed with a long term vision to develop the potential of tribal youths and women to help them acquire skills and knowledge through mentorship in various sectors including horticulture, food processing, bee keeping, tribal art and culture, medicinal herbs, entrepreneurship among others. PTI GVS ANB ANB