Relief offer for unwed mothers hits a raw nerve

PALAKKAD: Various tribes and social organisations in Attappady have come out against the decision of the State government on Wednesday to provide one acre (0.4 hectare) of land and a monthly pension of Rs.1,000 to unwed tribal mothers.

Eswari Reshan, district panchayat member, said on Thursday that the decision was “an insult not only to tribal women but also to womanhood.”

She said some tribal women had come to her protesting against the reopening of old issues, saying that to get financial assistance, they were being forced to file cases against the men who had deserted them. Doing so would aggravate the stigma they faced for giving birth out of wedlock.

Rather than give relief, she said, the government should bring to book the men who had deserted the women after having a child or two. Some women had been abandoned by men who had legally married them. The relief announced would only encourage those who wanted to exploit women.

Ms. Reshan said the government should enforce the law against such cheating and exploitation. Provision of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act should be invoked.

On the government’s promise of land, Ms. Reshan said most unwed mothers owned two acres to five acres of land, but had no resources to cultivate it. The government should fund cultivation and offer employment and educational opportunities.

‘Atrocities will go up’

P.R.G. Mathur, expert in tribal affairs and former Director of the Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (KIRTADS), said the government’s decision would promote atrocities on tribal women, besides being an insult to them and womanhood.

Would the government apply the same yardstick to unwed mothers of other communities in various parts of the State, he asked.

Dr. Mathur said the government’s duty was to implement the law and bring the culprits to book. The men, not the government, should be made to pay for the crime.

He cited examples from Madhya Pradesh of men who had ditched tribal women being brought before the law and made to marry the victims and look after their family.

He said that Kerala government should immediately conduct a survey on unwed mothers in tribal areas.

M. Sukumaran, president, Attappady Samrakshana Samithi (protection committee), said no civilised society could accept the government’s decision, as it went against the law of the land.


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