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Struggle for survival intensifies for tribal families in Maharashtra’s Palghar

In April 2020, 2,186 children in Palghar fell under the moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) category. In June 2020, that number marginally went up to 2,225. In Jawhar taluka, it increased from 600 to 682 in two months – a rise of 13.6%

Editor’s note: This article is the second of a multi-part series which examines how the COVID-19 lockdown has impacted one of the most backward districts in Maharashtra and the most disadvantaged section of the society living on the outskirts of Mumbai. >Read Part I here

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Suresh Kawa, 31, stops just short of using the word “burden” for his nine-year-old son. No father would do that.

“But we toiled to arrange meals for two people earlier,” he says. “We now have to do it for three. It is particularly difficult in the middle of a lockdown.”

Suresh’s son, Sainath, studies in a tribal residential school in Maharashtra’s Palghar district. Usually, he only spends summer and Diwali vacations at home. However, the residential schools for tribal students in Maharashtra are shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Sainath is back with his parents indefinitely.

“His meals were taken care of at the residential school,” says Suresh, sitting outside his one-room hut. “The struggle for survival has intensified with his return. I feel guilty accepting that.”

Living in Taralpada, one of the poorest tribal hamlets in Palghar’s Jawhar taluka, survival has never been easy for Suresh, who belongs to the K Thakar community. He cultivates rice during monsoons on a two-acre plot to feed his family and himself.

Suresh with his son Sainath, who studies in a tribal residential school in Maharashtra’s Palghar district. Due to COVID-19, Sainath is back living with his family. Parth MN More

Suresh with his son Sainath, who studies in a tribal residential school in Maharashtra’s Palghar district. Due to COVID-19, Sainath is back living with his family. Parth MN

With the lack of any irrigation facilities, the family can only rely on rainwater for farming. Since they don’t grow winter crops, Suresh migrates for work after Diwali once the rice is harvested. And returns only around June. This is a practice almost every Adivasi family in Palghar…

Parth MN

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