Anthropology of Tribal Health and Medicine in Forest Environment

The book was published in the year March, 1995. The price of this book was Rs. 75/-.

Majority of our tribals who form around 8 per cent of our population are forest dwellers, leading a partially isolated life. Selective pressure of nature for ages has created culture/eco specific genetico- environmental health problems among them.In response to this tribal societies through trial and error have invented a number of culture/eco-specific remedies for such disorders. The diversity of tribal culture and their habitat is reflected in their therapeutic practices also. Studies on this aspect of tribal life is relatively few and we bring out this work in order to initiate a discussion among health workers, researchers and medical practitioners working among tribals on various aspects tribal health.

These are the papers presented at the national seminar on Tribal Health and Medicine in Forest Environment organized by KIRTADS in April 1987. This book is organized into four sections. Section one deals with genetico-environmental diseases and tribes. In this section, the paper by Kailash C. Malhotra maps the genetic disorders existing among the tribal population of India. He proposes a “culture counselling” for physicians working among tribals to tackle these disorders. R.S. Negi in his paper argues that the incidence of sickle cell trait among tribals has direct relationship with evolutionary stages of agricultural practices of different tribal groups. Also he points out that the frequency of sickle cell trait is significantly high among certain south Indian tribal groups who follow similar agricultural practices. V. Rami Reddy discusses the environmental-cultural dimensions of genetic disorders among the tribals. He suggests that adequate formal and nonformal education among the tribals would help them eradicating many of the disorders. The interplay of social and genetic factors that are instrumental in creating many disorders among the tribal population is well represented by J.C. Sharma in his study on Gonds of Central India.

Section two of this book deals with tribal health and forest environment. P. K. Bhowmick and Tilak Bagchi in a micro study analyses the socio-cultural and environmental factors interacting with health. In a similar vein V.S. Upadhyay presents the case study conducted by him among the tribals of Neterhat plateau in Bihar. Also he explains how the disturbance affected to the forest ecosystem has altered the nutritional status of the tribals. S. C. Tiwari’s paper focuses on disease diagnosis and treatment by the tribals of Uttarakhand, UP. S.K. Sahu highlights the issues related to the tribal health from a theoretical perspective, questioning the traditional approach of tribal development which he finds superficial. He also argues that the limitations of ethnomedical practices should be analysed only within the boundaries of a specific culture.

Section three covers tribal medicine in forest environment. P.R.G. Mathur gives an account of various therapeutic methods administered by Irular tribe of Attappadi, Kerala N. Viswanathan Nair gives a comparative analysis of herbal matter in the therapeutic system of seven tribal communities of Kerala. J.S. Gaikwad and B.V. Bhanu presents the ethnomedical therapy of Pawras of Maharashtra. L. K. Balaratnam explains various magico-religious practices incorporated by tribals in tackling health problems they confront.

Section four deals with the anthropological strategies of tribal health and medicine. Baidyanath Saraswathy emphasizes the importance of preserving tribal medical system after comparing it with classical ayurveda. Murkot Ramunny highlights problems of tribal health he had to deal with when he was in administrative service in the North-Eastern India and Lakshadweep.

The recommendations suggested by the participants after analyzing various issues concerning the problems of tribal health is given in the end of the section four. We would highly appreciate readers comments regarding the issues discussed here.

We acknowledge our sincere gratitude to Hon. Minister for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Development Sri. Pandalam Sudhakaran for his suggestions in bringing out this book. Also we express our sincere thanks to Sri. M. G. K. Murthy, IAS, Commissioner and Secretary to the Government, SC & ST Development,  Government of Kerala for his consent for publishing these seminar papers in a book form.



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