The Korku the Remnants
The Amaravati and the Korkus in Maharashtra came into the world's media spotlight in 1992. The BBC went into the interior villages, and reported that children belonging to Korku tribe were starving as the outside world looked on in amazement. The causes include ignorance, ill-health, irresponsibility, and exploitation. Help came in the form of food packets and medicines through the World Health Organisation. In addition, many voluntary organizations stepped into the field. Today these incidents have been forgotten.
From Nagpur, it takes seven hours to reach the Chikaldara hills. Melghat Tiger Reserve and Project Tiger are two of the welcoming bill board signs. Sources say there were 88 tigers in 1992 in this tiger reserve. Awagad is one of the Korku villages situated in the vicinity of Chikaldara, 33 km from Semoda on the Dharni - Paratwada road. To 'serve' the people here, forest, education and health departments vie with one another.
The Korkus who are also known as Vanavasi (meaning forest dwellers) work for the forest department. When they are employed, they are expected to fetch a bunch of firewood for use in the hearth of forest officials. If the coolies work for two days, they fetch Rs. 14 per day, provided they thumb sign a voucher stating that three days wages have been given to them. Once the officer has left, one day's wage has to be returned to the forest guard. If the same Korku happens to chop a bamboo for building his hut, he will be fined Rs. 20 by the aforesaid forest official.
If the Korku manages to offer a chicken or a bottle of country liquor, he may be exempted from paying the fine. Every year during the harvest, each Korku family has to supply 5 kilos of Jawari (grains in this region) to the forest guards - another example of exploitation.
The Korku in Awagad live in darkness, in the absence of electricity. Many years ago, the electrical supply had been extended to the village. In 5 houses, electric wiring was finished. But due to the objection of the forest department, the lines were never activated, saying that the line might touch a tree.
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How they trek to procure kerosene or how they lit the village..
How the Korkus make their houses…
The acute shortage of water in summer and the solution offered to them…..
How pupils up to fourth standard are taught in a school with two classrooms…..
The unfair deal of ration shops for basic provisions….
The sick public health centres and the paid visits by regional medical practitioners..
Bridges and roads which exists on paper and washes away in rains…
How the uncomplaining lifestyle of Korkus helps them meet both ends meet….
I visited this place in 1993. In the last 15 years the condition of the Korkus certainly must have changed – for better or worse. But the scourge of malnutrition frequently plagues these hills. In 1992 about a thousand children died of malnutrition. In the year 2001, the Outlook Magazine reported 1,400 deaths in the region.
Read the complete story of Korkus in A Peep into the Tribalscape