High Time for the Andaman Authorities to Formulate Clear Policy to Protect Andaman Tribes From the Pandemic

Port Blair, June 28: In order to meet the local demands, the Convoy on the Andaman Trunk Road (ATR) starting from Jirkatan to Middle Strait has been increased from one to two now with the Unlock Phase – I being implemented. Commencing with the unlock phase-I announced by the government, flights and ships carrying passengers and cargo has also been allowed in the islands, which collectively has been posing serious risks to the endangered Jarawa community of the Andaman Islands.

The hunting and gathering community Ang, popularly known as the Jarawa continue to move from one region to another, thereby increasing the probabilities of outside contact, making it a risky affair for the hunter gatherers.

Evidences have indicated that the Ang has been in touch with the poachers and fishermen. Since the fringes of the Jarawa Tribal Reserve (JTR) is attached to the settlement villages, probabilities of the Ang entering villages such as Manpur, Herbertabad, Collinpur, Temple Myo and Tirur has always been high.

With the present situation of the Ang and the ever increasing number of COVID-19 Cases in the Andaman Islands, the chances of infection among the tribe as on date has undoubtedly increased. While the A&N Administration has been implementing confusing SOPs to contain the pandemic in the islands, it is very unlikely that there is a serious thought given to protect the 500 odd Ang from extinction. According to sources, there has been no clear policy decision taken by the A&N Administration to protect the endangered tribes of Andaman Islands from COVID-19 pandemic, whose existence ways back to 60,000 years.

The need today is to formulate a strong policy for the aboriginal tribes at war-footing, which should consider strict vigil over movements and functions of the people living in the villages attached to the JTR and the fishing community who tend to enter the reserve. As a matter of fact, restrictions on vehicles on the ATR should be a priority while extending more ships for sea travel to the settlers.

The recent COVID-19 case at Mayabunder has already set the alarm bells ringing and calls for strict checking of cases before they are allowed to travel on this stretch of ATR that cuts through the Jarawa Tribal Reserve. A small mistake or ignorance can turn to be the end of the endangered tribal community of Andaman Islands.