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21 more members of vulnerable tribal groups test COVID positive in Odisha

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Bhubaneswar, May 16 (PTI) Twenty-one more members of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) in Odisha were afflicted with coronavirus, taking their number to 45, official sources said on Sunday.

The PVTG is a classification by the central government for tribes based on their relative physical isolation, declining population, low levels of literacy and pre- agricultural stage of economy such as hunting, food gathering and shifting cultivation. Before 2016, PVTGs were known as Primitive Tribal Groups.

While the number of PVTG people infected with COVID-19 was 21 till Friday, 10 more members of the Bonda tribe and 14 of the Dongaria Kondha community tested positive for the virus since Saturday, officials said.

A total of 19 people belonging to the Dongaria Kondha tribe living at Pakeri village in Rayagada district are now affected by the disease, they said.

The Dongaria Kondha tribe lives in Niyamgiri Hills on the border of Rayagada and Koraput districts. They live on hill tops and rarely come to plains.

A report from Malkangiri district said that 10 more members of the Bonda tribe have tested positive for COVID-19, taking the number of such patients to 12. Some of them have already recovered and others are in home isolation.

'Health condition of the affected persons is being closely monitored by our rapid response team and required medicines are being given,' an official said.

He said that the first case of COVID-19 among Bondas was recorded on April 26.

Bonda is one of the ancient tribes of Odisha and the community is divided into two groups, the Lower Bonda and the Upper Bonda. While Lower Bondas live on the foothills of Bonda hills, the Upper ones, mostly untouched by the modern civilization, live in the hill range in Khairaput block of Malkangiri district.

Asked how the Bondas got infected with the virus, the official said, 'After the Odisha government closed the weekly markets, a group of Bondas had visited a nearby market at Anakadil in Andhra Pradesh. It is suspected that they got infected from there.' He said that the district administration has decided to seal the road connecting Bonda Hills to Anakadil.

Apart from Bonda and Dongoria Kondha, COVID-19 cases have also been detected in other PVTG communities, said Project Director of Odisha PVTG Empowerment and Livelihood Improvement Programme, P Arthanari.

Members of the PVTG had remained untouched by the virus during the first wave of the pandemic last year, he said.

Of the 62 tribes of Odisha, 13 belong to PVTG. Though tribal people constitute 22.8 per cent of the state's population, the number of PVTG members is only 2.14 lakh, officials said.

The PVTG people love nature and prefer to spend time in forests and springs instead of visiting urban pockets and their unique lifestyle also keep them healthy, said Dr A B Ota, director-cum-special secretary of SC-ST Research and Training Institute. PTI COR AAM NN NN

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