New Delhi, June 4: The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC India has issued an Advisory to ensure protection of human rights of 75 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), keeping in view the media reports about the spread of Covid-19 infection among several of them. As per the Census 2011 their population is less than one lakh.
The Commission, in a letter through its Secretary General, Mr. Bimbadhar Pradhan to the Secretaries of the Union Ministries of Tribal Affairs and Health & Family Welfare Union Ministries/Departments, Chief Secretaries of States and Administrators of Union Territories, has asked for the implementation of its recommendations in the Advisory and sought action taken reports within four weeks.
Among about 104 million Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the country, there are 75 such groups, who are further marginalized and identified as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groupe (PVTGs) by the Government of India. This is based on the existence of pre-agriculture level of technology, relative physical isolation, stagnant population, extremely low literacy, and a subsistence level of economy.
Issuing the Advisory, the Commission has observed that many of the PVTGs have already been struggling against extinction and, if COVlD-19 infects them, they will not be able to survive, which will be a great loss for the humanity and diversity of the human race. It is in this prevailing context of pandemic, it is imperative to issue an advisory for the protection of holistic human rights of the PVTGs and also keeping their deep-rooted health and socio-economic inequities and their naturally isolated habitation spread across inaccessible, far flung, hilly and forested areas in view.
The Secretary, Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, and the Chief Secretaries/ Administrators of the States and UTS shall submit monthly reports to the NHRC till the end of the COVID-19 with respect to the measures taken for implementation of this advisory. In this regard, the District Magistrate (DM) shall be designated as the Nodal Officer for the implementation of this Advisory. The DMs shall also get this Advisory translated into the local language/dialect of the PVTGs and ensure its dissemination among them.
Some of the important recommendations, among others, are as follows:
Frequent RT-PCR testing drive be conducted at doorstep while ensuring prompt delivery of reports with priority to be given to the PVTGs addressing the concern of their persistent digital divide.
Ensure vaccination of all the PVTGs having population less than 50 thousand within 60 days by sending mobile medical teams;
Ensure supply of Covid-19 medical kit to the PVTGs, which should be followed by consistent awareness generation campaigns across residential vicinities of PVTGs in the local dialect; use of drones to render essential medical kit can also be promoted to avoid human contact;
Regular check on maintenance of proper hygiene and sanitation in the residential vicinity of PVTGs by the staff deputed shall be ensured;
Ensure deployment of dedicated team of doctors/nurses/paramedic staffs in nearby PVTGs vicinities;
Ensure that all expenses for treatment of Covid-19 patients belonging to the PVTGs are borne by the concerned State Government/UTs;
Introduce strict guidelines for entry and exit of outsiders where feasible in the core areas as well as in adjacent areas inhabited by the PVTGs;
Ensure sensitization, pandemic awareness and consistent follow up by involving tribal heads/ educated PVTG youths/ old PVTGs women/ ASHA/frontline workers/NGOs working in PVTGs vicinities /volunteers;
Ensure doorstep delivery of free dry rations/food basket among the PVTGs households keeping in mind the concerns of the safety protocols, isolated natural containment zones and grass root level exploitation being faced by PVTGs;
Ensure implementation of all such food/ration-based schemes (Central Sector Schemes/Centrally Sponsored Schemes/ State Government Schemes) while keeping biometric authentication in halt/suspended mode;
Ensure monthly cash entitlement and pension distribution through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) equivalent to payments made under the MNREGA as an income guarantee assistance for loss of income during the pandemic;
Uninterrupted transfer of scholarships(pre and post Matriculation) to youth of the PVTGs amid Covid-19 be ensured including stationary etc;
A special 24 X 7 helpline in district control room be created by the concerned state government/district administration/Panchayat dedicated exclusively for addressing covid-19 related concerns of the PVTGs.