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Andaman & Nicobar administration alert to safety of vulnerable tribal groups against COVID pandemic
New Delhi, August 30, 2020
The Andaman & Nicobar administration has said that it has taken several steps to ensure the safety of the particularly vulnerable tribal groups in the islands against the COVID pandemic.
In a report submitted to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Administration has informed that the measures were initiated from mid-March onwards even before any case of COVID-19 was reported in the islands.
Of the six notified scheduled tribes in the A&N islands, except for the Nicobarese, the remaining five, the Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Sentinelese Onge and Shompen are recognized as particularly vulnerable tribal groups.
Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Arjun Munda said on Twitter that the Andaman & Nicobar Administration, through the Integrated Tribal Development Authority and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, remained in constant touch with the officials of A&N Administration in this regard.
The Andaman Adim Janjati Vikas Samiti (AAJVS), a registered society, is monitoring and overseeing the welfare and protection of the particularly vulnerable tribes. Dy. Commissioner, Nicobar District, through the Integrated Tribal Development Authority (ITDA) was taking care of the welfare and wellbeing of Nicobarese tribe. The Administration had earlier shifted the Great Andamanese and Jarawa to the Strait Island and West Coast of Jarawa reserve, respectively, to avoid any contact with the outsiders.
The number of convoys has been restricted for the safety of the Jarawa tribe. Field functionaries have been regularly advised to interact with the tribals with face mask, gloves and from a distance. The tribals have been sensitized by field staff about COVID-19 and precautions with pictures/videos in their language.
The movement of AAJVS and other line departments’ personnel to the tribal settlements was being allowed only after proper COVID testing. The officials posted at tribal settlements have been advised not to move outside the tribal settlement and interact with the outsiders.
All the field functionaries were being periodically tested for COVID-19. The Jarawa has been provided with tools and steel rods for making arrows to keep them engaged. Patrolling on the west coast has been intensified by AAJVS, Police and Forest Departments.
The fisheries department has also sensitized fishermen not to interact with the Jarawa. The Jarawa have been advised to stay in smaller groups to avoid any possible spread in an event of COVID-19 outbreak. Intensive monitoring of Jarawa movement in Yeaterji, BamboofTikrey, Phooltala, Santipur and KataiDera was being carried out by AAJVS staff.
Though all Great Andamanese were shifted to Strait Island in April after conducting COVID-19 test, several of them are in government jobs and living in Port Blair. Many families have returned to Port Blair in June when the unlock process began.
However, following the surge in COVID19 cases in August, the Andamanese tribe were again advised to shift to their settlement at Strait Island.
While conducting the COVID-19 test, some Andamanese tribals have been tested positive with mild symptoms or asymptomatic, out of which three have recovered and the remaining were in GB Pant Hospital as a precautionary measure or home isolation. Most of the tribal except family members of tribals tested positive have been shifted back to Strait Island.
All the active cases were in good health and under close observation. Further, with the emergence of COVID-19 positive cases among the Great Andamanese, the Administration has taken some samples of Onge tribal from Dugong Creek and all tested negative. Further, the Administration has decided to conduct random testing of Jarawa tribal shortly.