Coronavirus fails to scare tribals

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As COVID-19 cases crossed the 200 mark in India and people in urban areas are living in fear of the pandemic, tribals of Odisha are blissfully unaffected by it

BHUBANESWAR: At a time when the world is reeling under the threat of the deadly coronavirus that has spread from Wuhan in China to other parts of the world including India, tribals of Odisha do not seem to be much affected by the spread of the disease. They go about their regular lives with complete faith in the fact that their Buru Bonga (God) will save them from the epidemic.

Sita Singh a tribal woman labourer of Salabani in Nilgiri Block of Balasore district in Odisha says, “We are not afraid of the disease. We have heard about the pandemic named coronavirus which is snuffing out lives in other countries and in urban areas of our country. We are hard-working people and spend our time in the fields. We will be able to ward off the disease by the grace of our Bonga (God).”

The fact that the fear of the pandemic has little effect on the tribals can be clearly understood while interacting with the Bhumij tribes of Nilgiri of Balasore including a numbers of tribal leaders and social activists involved in tribal development  and welfare.

Bhuban Singh, a tribal honcho said, “The tribals do not fear COVID-19 as much as the urban population. Thus, our day-to-day lives have had little change after coronavirus entered India. We are well aware about the pandemic through mass media. The tribal people of the area are going about their lives as usual. There has been no drastic change. They are working at the fields and are not exercising social distancing.”

Kabita Singh, a tribal woman of Dambarughati said, “We are aware of the global pandemic through television and newspapers. It is a disease that has been brought to the country by urban people and is affecting the urban masses. We worship Buru Bonga (hill/mountain God), Bir Bomga (forest God) and Sing Bonga (Sun God). Most of our food like pita alu (bitter potatoes), nimakadhi (buds of Azadirachta indica), taka vendi (shower ladies finger) and other tubers and vegetables help us beat diseases.  Non-vegetarian food items like red ant, soft water fresh fish and dry fish and Genda (snail) are nutritious and have medicinal values and helps improve immunity.”

Bijay Kumar Acharya, chairperson of Bana Dhulira Phula – a social activist who works with the tribals— said that the tribal lifestyle is eco-friendly. “They do keep an eye on sanitation and hygienic practices. Usually, all of them wash their hands and feet before entering their homes. They keep their houses  and surroundings clean. Most of food consumed by the tribals is free from chemicals and pesticides and has nutritional and medicinal value.”

Geetamani Singh a tribal woman teacher of Mayurbhanj said, “Coronavirus is the contribution of the urban rich to the world which is attacking the entire human race. We pray to Buru Bonga to save our tribal community and bless us to fight against COVID-19 without any casualties.”

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