New Delhi: India has the second-largest tribal population in the world. As per the Census 2011, the tribal population constitutes about 8.9 per cent of the total population in India. The tribal people throughout the country have rich traditions, cultures, and heritage with unique lifestyles and customs. Given that the tribal population makes up a significant part of the country, it becomes important to focus on their health and ensure access to health care services, and Apollo Hospitals has been doing its part.
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Speaking to the NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India team, Upasana Kamineni Konidela, Founder of URLife and Vice Chairperson of CSR at Apollo Hospitals, spoke about the importance of providing healthcare benefits to the tribal community for India’s progress as a healthier nation and Apollo’s contribution to the vision. She also laid emphasis on providing education to the tribals to understand the community better and include them in the country’s growth.
NDTV: Could you tell us the work Apollo has been doing with the Chenchu tribe in Telangana?
Upasana Kamineni Konidela: We are trying to create a holistic programme that is scalable throughout India for the communities to live in partnership with the planet. So, I think that is an important aspect one needs to focus on. Once you give the community financial stability, build trust with them, understand what their needs are, and bring wellness into their lives, then automatically their health will improve. We have seen that giving the tribal people a bit of education and empowering them has a significant impact on their health. So that is what we are doing in a nutshell with respect to ‘total health’ for the Amrabad forest reserve. I am very proud to say that with this project, we have given the women of the region a sense of livelihood, a sense of ownership. As a by-product, the tiger population has actually grown in the reserve.
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NDTV: How important is it for India to include the tribal community in our society, especially when we talk about the concept ‘Leave No One Behind”?
Upasana Kamineni Konidela: It is foolish not to make the tribal community a part of our society because they are the ones who are closest to nature. If we cannot understand them and work with them, our barrier with nature will never be fulfilled. So, what we need to do is to understand them and their way of life, teach them important things so that they can also know how to balance the human-wildlife conflict. If they have that basic education, we will surely have a stable planet and future. It is critical to consider tribal welfare and to respect it as much as possible.
NDTV: How have the Arrjava warriors from Aragonda helped upskilling the tribal women and others working as frontline healthcare workers?
Upasana Kamineni Konidela: The government does a lot in terms of upskilling people, and the coronavirus outbreak is a prime example. But it is also important to understand that there are a lot of schemes that people don’t know about. So, our main job with the Arrjava warriors is to empower the people working as ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, with education on healthcare, hygiene, and how to preserve the planet. Once we put all these aspects together, we will see the community becoming more educated than what it was earlier. We want these people to become the champions of their communities so that they can thrive. I believe Arrjava warriors would be a great help in the country’s growth as a healthier nation.
NDTV: How important is the government-private partnership to address the challenges faced by the tribal community in order to achieve the ethos of ‘people, planet, and partnerships’?
Upasana Kamineni Konidela: To achieve this ethos, the government and corporations have to get involved. The government and private entities must get involved in volunteer programmes and try to help the tribal community. What they need is more of our time and our skills. So even teaching them social media skills will go a long way. This is what we also look forward to doing in terms of partnerships. Besides, we will also get to learn a lot from them about how they live and respect nature. The learning and teaching partnership is very important.
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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.