Taking serious note of reports of spreading COVID infection among Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) who are on the verge of extinction, the National Human Rights Commission has issued an advisory to ensure the protection of human rights of such marginalized groups. As per the 2011 census, the population of these 75 PVTGs is less than one lakh.

The NHRC, in a letter through its Secretary-General, 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 (UTs), has asked for the implementation of its recommendations in the advisory and sought action taken reports within four weeks.

Apatani tribal women
Apatani tribal women - Representational imageWikimedia Commons

75 tribes in India are struggling against extinction

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.

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 the 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 advisory reads.

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States, UTs asked to submit monthly report about these PVTGs

It is clearly mentioned in the advisory that 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.

Recommendations by NHRC to protect tribes from extinction during COVID

  • Frequent RT-PCR testing drive to be conducted at the 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 a population of less than 50 thousand within 60 days by sending mobile medical teams.
  • Ensure a 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 the maintenance of proper hygiene and sanitation in the residential vicinity of PVTGs by the staff deputed shall be ensured.
  • 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.