Port Blair, Aug. 4: As many as five staff of the Andaman Aadim Janjati Vikas Samiti (AAJVS) who are posted in the Jarawa Tribal Reserve to look after the welfare of the tribe have been tested COVID-19 positive. The staffs include the Driver of the Executive Secretary of AAJVS.

Many of these staff hail from areas like Soal Bay, Bambooflat and Hope Town, which are witnessing a surge in the corona cases. With the staffs of AAJVS testing positive to the virus, there seems to be a serious trouble to the vulnerable Tribal Community, the Jarawa. ‘

Sources indicate that the Secretary, Tribal Welfare, Andaman & Nicobar Administration has cleared that the Field Office of AAJVS inside the Tribal Reserve have been locked and will be opened only after sanitization.

However it is not sure whether asymptomatic workers have been in touch with the vulnerable tribe before getting tested positive.

The Jarawa have been living in the tropical rainforests of the Andaman Islands for up to 60,000 years. The islands, in the Bay of Bengal, were colonised by the British in the mid-nineteenth century before they became a part of India.

The 500 odd - strong Jarawa, along with the other Andaman tribes the Sentinelese, the Onge and the Great Andamanese, were the sole inhabitants of the Andaman Islands until the British and then the Indians arrived. Their ancestors are thought to have been part of the first successful migrations out of Africa.

The Jarawa resisted contact with the growing numbers of Indian settlers on their islands until 1998. Now, they are under serious threat. Poachers have been camping for days at a time in their forest, hunting the animals they depend on and bringing disease, violence and exploitation. To add to the situation, the vulnerable tribes have now been exposed to the deadly COVID-19.