Ethnic and Linguistic Minority

Tripura: ASHA Workers get Hope to ReangTibals Dying of Malaria

Saadia Azim

"Asha means hope", says the twenty nine year old SarodhanMalsom, describing her work as the Accredited Social Health Activist ( ASHA) in remote Dhanchora village ofAmbassablock of Dhalaidistrict where more than fifty eight people have died due to the recent outbreak of Malaria. Sarodhangoes around walking from home to home every day looking for malaria patients. At the same time she advises people to keep their surroundings clean, fight the outbreak and get them tested in case of any suspicion for the disease. She collects blood, tests the infection immediately in the diagnostic kits provided by the district health authorities and finally prescribes medicines for emergency cases.

Dhanchoravillage had five deaths in the last month due to malaria. During her daily rounds Sarodan finds a patient too sick with the most severe strains of the parasite in his blood. She arranges to shift him to the public health camp organized by the hospital. To others who also had tested positive for mild strains she provides the first dose of the medicine before facilitating their visit the nearby health camp for chloroquin and primaquinoral tablets.

"She is our hope", "I had been detected with both the strains of the deadly disease but she gave me another life", says frail JugunReang a forty- year old just recovered from the epidemic that hit Dhalai district a month ago.

Sarodhan is a mother of two and has attended her children also suffering from malaria before going around villages attending to patients. She is a trained ASHAworking with the district hospital for the last seven years. With the yearly outbreak of malaria in the state she doubles up as a help for the multi-purpose workers (MPWs) who attend to health issues in the remote villages.

Sarodhan like many other Reang, Tripura and Malsom tribe girls happen to be now running the health services in remote tribal villages of Tripura. The communities considered primitive people group (PPG), remain excluded and backward living in extreme poverty and deprivation.

Just like SarodhanUmmariumReang has also been on an emergency call to the ASHA health center attending to people queued to get their blood tested. She tests patients for malarial parasite through a diagnostic kit provided by the district hospital. A prick in the middle finger of the patient takes out a few drops of bloodthat she puts in the kit diligently, adding a testing medicine and then within seconds the results are out. Two of the patients were detected positive for malaria infected with the deadly parasites(Plasmodium falciparum and plasmodium vivax)whereas three others were mildly infected with just one strain of the parasite. The tested slides are then kept carefully tied with a band to be handed over to the district health officials. Each slide will fetch her fifteen rupees whereas if it is a malarial positive slide it would provide her rupees ninety. Till now she has been able to collect more than seventy slides some positive and some negative. "But I will get reimbursed only next year in February" we usually get paid during the end of the financial year." NyantaraDebram a mother of three has been an ASHA worker for the last nine years. Her two sons were born at home and she was almost dying during her child births. But it was her own personal experiences that motivated her to be a health activist. "The hospitals are so far off. We are paid only rupees six hundred as incentives if we are able to get the two ante-natal check-ups for the mothers and ensure child births and immunization for the babies in hospitals", explains Nyantara.

With almost no public transport facilities available in remote villages it is nearly impossible to complete institutionalized child birth process in these villages. Many of the ASHA workers just exist on papers as many of them cannot complete their tasks.SanaliReang is just twenty year old from the Reang community said to be one of the most primitive tribes of Tripura. She could not finish her sixth grade only because there were no schools in the proximity of her village near Gandhachara block. She joined as an ASHA worker after one of the girls left feeling demotivated. "Actually she could not complete even one cycle of institutionalized deliveries. Also it takes so much time for the reimbursements that we end up paying from our own pockets", she adds.

TharanaReang was born two years back in the middle of the night at home. "We could not arrange for conveyance. Usually we hire auto rickshaw that comes to take the pregnant women to hospital. They charge about five hundred rupees. It is too much. The villagers cannot afford. Even though allowances for the pregnant women cover the cost but it actually takes long before the reimbursement, says ShayamReang, Sanali's husband.

Still, it's sheer motivation that keeps the Asha workers going."At a time when the public health services are almost on collapse in the state, the voluntary services by these village women serve as the only support system", accepts ChandrakantaMalsom, the project officer of World Vision, the NGO working for the uplift of the tribalsin the remote hilly region of the state. The organization is supplying insecticideimpregnated mosquito nets to families to fight malaria. It is the ASHA workers who facilitate distribution and use of the nets in the villages that is now turned to be the epicenter for Malaria.

Vector borne diseases are very common in the land locked state Tripura sharing the major border with Bangladesh. The terrain being hilly and far- fetched makes it all the more unreachable for many. In addition low literacy rate and severely malnourished families make the districts extremely backward and under developed. The onus is on the ASHA workers who despite the hardships of living in disease prone areas facilitate the health services.

PhulaitiReang another Asha lady from the Reang communitycould not even motivate people of Dharampara in Khowai district home to the Tripuris, Malsom and Reangtribals, to go to the nearby public health center. "Children did test positive for malaria. I did almost beg to the villagers but initially most of the people of my community do not understand the gravity of the situation. This is the time for jhum (shifting) cultivation and people almost live for months in the fields. They would not want to leave work and go for treatment. They live in the makeshift huts in the field very susceptible to mosquito bites", Phulaiti explains.

"That is the reason people depend more on quacks and perform their traditional pujas than visit the far off hospitals", adds Dr. Anup Das of the Ganganagar Health Center. "It is difficult to mobilize patients in the hospital and so we have to depend on local ASHA workers". But KroinuMog, another ASHA worker adds, "If the ASHA workers can reach the remotest of the villages why can't others?"

Posted on August 02, 2014


Linguistic Demography of India

Language is the only tool of culture, connectivity and identity. It is a powerful master trait for group identity and age old cultures. Therefore, language is essential for the survival of cultural communities.

Languages are also an important part of any educational curriculum. The Constitution of Indiarecognizes 22 major languages that are spoken by a large majority of the Indians. But there are hundreds of other languages and dialects that are spoken by the people in rural/tribal and far- fetched areas of the country. Also there are languages that connect people from the same caste, creed, background and region.

The spirit of "Indian Secularism" is the recognition and preservation of the different groups of people, with their diverse languages, ethnicity and beliefs. Article 29 and 30 of the Indian Constitution seek to preserve the differences that exist among the communities making India a pluralistic society, but at the same time, uniting them to form one strong nation.

The languages spoken in South-Asian Region belong to at least four major language families:
  1. Indo-European (most of which i.e. 74.24 percent speakers belong to its sub-branchIndo-Aryan)
  2. Dravidian (with 23.86 percent speakers)
  3. Austro-Asiatic (1.16% speakers )
  4. Sino-Tibetian (0.62% speakers)

These figures have been endorsed by both successive censusreports in India and the "Ethanologue" (Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a web-based publication that contains statistics for 7,105 languages and dialects in the 17th edition, released in 2013)

The, biggest chunkof languages and mother tongues belongtoIndo-Aryan sub-family of Indo-Europeanlanguages. Among the modern Indo-Aryanlanguages, Hindi and Bangla happen to bethe most well-known and widely spoken languages in India.

The westerndialect of the Hindi language is a midland Indo-Aryan language,spoken in the Gangetic plain and in the regionimmediately to its north and south. Aroundit, on three sides are Punjabi, Gujarati andRajasthani.

The Eastern dialect of the Hindi language is spoken inOudh and to its South. In the outer layer, there are languages such as Kashmiri, Lahnda,Sindhi, Gujarati, Marathi spoken in the northern and Western regions whereas Oriya, Maithili, Bengaliand Assamese are spoken in the East.

The Indian Constitution does notdefine or use the word minor or minoritylanguages, (although there is a mention oflinguistic minority), as per Census of India–1961, different categories of languagesdocumented in the country are listed below:

As against this, 1990-91 Census lists 216 mothertongues with a total number of speakers 10,000 or more at all India level, grouped into114 languages of which 22 mentioned in the Constitution are called scheduled languages.

The distribution of these languages is at oncediverse, complex and unequal.
Status of Linguistic Minorities in the Indian States

S.No. Name of the State/UT Main Language Minority Language
1. Arunachal Pradesh Hindi, Assamese, Adi, Apatani, Bhoti, Champati and Nishi State Government claims that there no language has been recognised as a minority language
2. Andaman & Nicobar Hindi Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Nicobari, Kurukh/Oraon
3. Assam Assamese Bengali, Sadri, Hindi, Manipuri, Mishing, Karbi, Garo, Bodo, Nepali, Hmar
4. Andhra Pradesh Telugu Urdu, Hindi, Oriya
5. Orissa Oriya Urdu, Hindi, Oriya, Tamil, Kannad, Marathi
6. U.P Hindi Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi
7. Uttarakhand Hindi Urdu, Punjabi, Nepali
8. Karnataka Kannad Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Tulu, Lamani, Hindi, Konkani and Gujarati
9. Kerala Malayalam Tamil, Kannad, Konkani
10. Gujarat Gujarati Hindi, Marathi, Sindhi, Urdu, Telugu, Malayalam, Oriya, Tamil
11. Goa Konkani Marathi, Hindi, Kannad, Urdu, Malayalam
12. Chhattisgarh Hindi Bengali, Oriya, Telugu, Marathi, Gondi, Kurukh, Halabi, Urdu
13. Jammu and Kashmir Dogri, Kashmiri Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Ladakhi, Balti
14. Jharkhand Hindi Bengali, Urdu, Santhali, Kharia, Mundari, Ho, Kurukh, Oriya, Kurmali, Khortha
15. Tamil Nadu Tamil Telugu, Kannad, Urdu, Malayalam, Hindi, Gujarati
16. Tripura Bengali Hindi, Kokborok, Chakma, Mogh, Halam, Manipuri, Vishnu Priya Manipuri
17. West Bengal Bengali Hindi, Santhali, Urdu, Nepali, Oriya, Telugu
18. Punjab Punjabi, Hindi Urdu
19. Bihar Hindi Urdu, Bengali
20. M.P Hindi Bhili/Bhilodi,Gondi,Marathi, Urdu, Oriya
21. Manipur Manipuri Thado, Paite, Tongkhul, Hmar, Mizo, Hindi, Nepali, Mao, Kuki, Bengali
22. Maharashtra Marathi Urdu, Hindi, Gujarati, Kannad, Telugu, Bhili, Khandeshi
23. Mizoram Mizo Bengali, Tripuri, Nepali, Hindi, Hmar, Pawai, Chakma
24. Meghalaya Garo, Khasi Assamese, Bengali, Hindi, Hajong, Nepali, Koch, Rabha, Sinteng
25. Rajasthan Hindi Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Gujarati, Bhili/Bhilodi
26. Sikkim Nepali Lepcha,Limbu,Bhotia,Hindi, Sherpa, Tamang, Newari, Gureng
27. Haryana Hindi Punjabi and Urdu
28. Himachal Pradesh Hindi Lahuli, Bhoti, Punjabi, Kinnauri
29. Chandigarh Hindi Punjabi
30. Daman & Diu Gujarati Hindi, Marathi
31. Dadra & Nagar . Haveli Gujrati, Konkani Hindi, Marathi
32. Delhi Hindi Punjabi, Urdu, Sindhi, Telugu, Tamil, Bengali
33. Nagaland Ao Angami, Kuki, Lotha, Sema, Chokri, Konya
34. Pudducherry Tamil, Hindi Malayalam, French, Arabic, Telugu, Sanskrit
35. Lakshadweep Malayalam, Mahl  
Source: 42nd Report of the Commissioner Linguistic Minorities (2003-2004)

Some States irrespective of their sizes havemore languages than others.Eg: The seven sisters of North EastIndia. In fact all theStates of India have linguistic minoritiesand all languages are minority languagesin some States or the other andare of different typesand according to the degrees of theirimportance.

The Census of 1990-91 has limited itself toonly those languages and/or variants that are spoken by 10000 or more in India and thus,has left out many languages and its variants out of reckoning. There are some languagesthat are spoken by small number of speakers and for them this is the only language theyknow. Since, Article 350 A of the Constitution does not distinguish between the languagesspoken by less than 10000 persons and more than 10000 persons, the decision of the Censusto retain 10000 speakers as the benchmark is a deviation from the Constitution.
Forexample, in Minicoy Island of Lakshdweep,almost all persons speak Mahal though theentire population of Minicoy Island is lessthan 10000 or so are the number of speakers. Mahal, though distinct from all otherlanguages in the region, does not find amention in the Census report.

Linguistic Profile of the States andUnion Territories – Important Statistics
The Indian Union consists of 29 Statesand 7 Union Territories with a population of approximately more than 1.25 billion (Census 2011). Language Census has been a part of Indian Census and Census 1991and lists 216 mother tongues with a total number of speakers of 10000 or more at all India levelgrouped into 114 languages. The question of Re-Organization of States of the Indian Unionon linguistic basis led to the appointment of States' Reorganization Commission. Based on the report of thisCommission, a number of unilingual Stateswere formed in the year 1956. It seems themain motivating force behind this schemeof re-distribution of States' territories wasthe idea of reducing the number of linguisticminorities by bringing people together whospeak a common language. However, thereorganization of States on linguistic basiscould not solve all the problems of linguisticminorities simply because different States arebasically multi-lingual.

View a list of Noticeable Languages of India

Posted on May 16, 2014

--- The Indian Minority