Aug 29: The Andaman & Nicobar Administration has informed that it is alert to the safety of its tribes especially Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). In a report submitted to Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Administration has informed that a number of steps have been taken proactively for the safety and protection of the tribes from mid March, 2020 onwards even before any case of COVID-19 was reported in the islands. There are six notified scheduled tribes in A&N islands. Except Nicobarese, rest of the 05 tribe viz., Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Sentinelese Onge and Shompen are recognized as PVTGs.
The Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Shri Arjun Munda in a Tweet has said that the Andaman & Nicobar Administration is alert to safety of its tribe, especially the Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) through Integrated Tribal Development Authority and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs is 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 PVTGs, whereas, the Dy. Commissioner, Nicobars District through Integrated Tribal Development Authority (ITDA) is 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 Jarawa tribe. Field functionaries have been regularly advised to interact with 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 own language. The movement of AAJVS and other line departments’ personnel to the tribal settlements is 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.
Further, all the field functionaries are being periodically tested for COVID-19. Jarawa have been provided with tools and steel rods etc for making arrows to keep them engaged. Patrolling on the west coast has been intensified by AAJVS, Police and Forest Departments. Fisheries department has also sensitized fishermen not to interact with Jarawa. 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 is being carried out by AAJVS staff. Though all Great Andamanese were shifted to Strait Island in April, 2020 after conducting COVID-19 test but many of the Great Andamanese are in govt. jobs and are living in Port Blair. So many families have returned to Port Blair in the month of June, 2020 after declaration of unlock. In view of surge in COVID19 cases in August, 2020, the Andamanese tribe were again advised to shift to their settlement at Strait Island.
While conducting the COVID-19 test, some Andamanese tribal have been tested positive with mild symptoms or asymptomatic, out of which, 03 tribal have been recovered and remaining are in GB Pant Hospital as an abundant precautions or in home isolation. Most of the tribal except family members of tribal tested positive have been shifted back to Strait Island. All the active cases are in good health and under close observation. Further, with the emergence of COVID-19 positive cases amongst 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. The A&N Administration reiterates its commitment to protect Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) and their safety is of paramount importance. It will leave no stone unturned to protect this heritage of humanity.