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திங்கள், ஆகஸ்ட் 22, 2011

Tsunami brings change in the lives of Irulas in Cuddalore District

CUDDALORE: 

           After the tragic tsunami in 2004, Irula tribesmen, the traditionally nomadic snake-catching community of Tamil Nadu in the Kalaignar Nagar and MGR Nagar villages of Cuddalore district, are now flourishing under the care of CARE, a Delhi-based NGO, which began working with them for their relief and rehabilitation.

             Seven years since the disaster snatched away much of their belongings, the tribesmen have now found a new livelihood in crab farming. In addition to it, they now have concrete houses with electricity, constructed by CARE. Interestingly, all the pattas of the land are registered in the names of the Irula women. D Veerappan, leader of the Irula community in the area, said, “In those days, we lived in small huts built with palm leaves. Even three families shared one hut, which was only a few feet in height. During rainy days, we suffered a lot. But now, we have proper concrete houses that consist of bedrooms, kitchens and toilets. We are using the terrace to dry fish.”

          Irulas in this vicinity are running their own pond-based mud crab farm with the assistance of CARE. While much of their produce is consumed by Chennai and other neighbouring markets, some of it is being exported. Where illiteracy had plagued the community, which even had trouble understanding numbers and calculations, CARE’s ‘Education for Livelihood’ programme has given them a new lease of life. The NGO educated them about their livelihood and health risks through folk songs, puppet shows, street plays and short films. It also held exhibitions on insurance schemes in their locality for on-the-spot enrollments.

R Devaprakash, Project director of CARE-INDIA, said, 

                “Almost all the residents in 24 villages in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam districts have been fully insured. With the help of local partners, we made it possible. Our NGO is also taking this programme to the other unreachable communities. We negotiated with insurance companies to bring out policies that are affordable for the disadvantaged communities,” he added.

            CARE has also taken steps to ensure that women here are empowered and self-reliant. The NGO took steps to start cashew processing units at four locations. All the units are primarily run by dalits, Irula women and widows. These units have been registered as companies and the women handle them as their own businesses.

              The NGO also helped them open bank accounts to facilitate pensions, benefits from the governments and provide a sense of social security. It has also been facilitating the process of tracking people and playing a balancing role between insurers, banking representatives and the communities. The NGO is also working towards taking the government schemes to the people and educating them on these.

D Uthra, an Irula woman, said, 

             “I heard that it was Gandhi who brought freedom to India. But for us, it was the tsunami that brought freedom from decades of slavery. Now, all the children of the Irula community are going to school. Seven of our youngsters are studying in colleges. These changes happened only after the tsunami and because of the NGO working here.” 







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