How this Kerala doctor-couple is empowering a TN tribal community


On-line sale of natural turmeric by Dr Regi George and Dr Lalitha Regi, helps the tribal group in Sittilingi, Tamil Nadu

‘Turmeric is for auspicious beginnings’… So says a be aware on bottles of ‘Sittilingi Gold’ that got as return presents on the marriage of Hyderabad-based Ajay Narne’s daughter. Dr Dhanasekhran Krishnan, Dean of Stanley Medical School, Chennai, did the identical.

“Each of them needed to assist tribal farmers in Sittilingi, whose organically grown turmeric has a excessive content material of curcumin, which has many well being advantages,” says Dr Regi George, anaesthetist and well being activist working in Sittilingi for 28 years, over cellphone. For the final four-five months the physician has been busy on social media, to assist the farmers promote their turmeric.

For Regi and his spouse Dr Lalitha, an obstetrician, promoting the turmeric is merely one other aspect of their work within the Sittilingi valley, 85 kilometres from Salem,Tamil Nadu. In 1993, when the younger physician couple from Kerala determined to open a hospital in a hut in Sittilingi, it was a dusty bowl that was 50 kilometres from the closest hospital and had an toddler mortality fee of 147 per 1,000.

Throughout their work in Gandhigram, Madurai, they understood that many sufferers from distant areas got here for remedy of simply preventable diseases akin to diarrhoea. “We realised that well being care went past medical care in a hospital. Each of us needed to work in a spot that wanted us. If there have been 11 gynaecologists working in a spot, I had no need to be the12th one there.Regi bought a fellowship to go to NGOs and organisations working on the grassroots in distant areas in India. It gave us the chance to know what India is; we had no concept how 70% of India lived,” says Lalitha.

On the finish of Regi’s journey, they determined to work in tribal areas, which have been invariably borders of states or encompassing borders of districts. “Normally such locations have been geographically remoted and there have been hardly any amenities or Authorities presence,” provides Lalitha.

Jars of organically grown Sittilingi turmeric powder were given away as gifts for guests who attended Ajay Narne’s daughter’s wedding in Hyderabad.

Jars of organically grown Sittilingi turmeric powder got away as presents for company who attended Ajay Narne’s daughter’s wedding ceremony in Hyderabad.  
| Picture Credit score:
particular association

The journey right here

Since they knew Tamil, they determined to decide on a spot in Tamil Nadu. The couple moved to the Sittilingi valley with their toddler son. A hospital in a hut was the start of Tribal Well being Initiative (THI), which has now made deep inroads within the lives of the folks. Through the years, the hospital has been constructed, brick by brick, by the tribal folks.

Work on many fronts

  • Regi and Lalitha have arrange an artisans’ society known as Porgai that helps the ladies market and promote embroidered cotton dwelling linen, garments, cushions and so forth
  • SOFA promotes ‘Svad’ model of natural produce and meals
  • At current the Panchayat president of Sittilingi is Madheswari Manjunath, a member of SOFA
  • Contact: Ramesh Kannan (8110012965)

Lalitha makes mild of the challenges she may need needed to face. “There have been 10,000 folks residing right here. We have been two extra folks. That’s all,” she says.

The THI was additionally a way to empower the tribal group to deal with their well being and that finally empowered them financially, socially and politically. Starting with coaching tribal girls in well being care to forming societies to advertise natural farming and tribal artwork, the medical doctors have led from the entrance. “The Malayali tribals of Sittilingi Valley have been subsistence farmers who grew their very own meals. However in addition they wanted money for varsity charges, weddings and so forth. Ten years in the past, we inspired them to show to natural farming and turmeric was recognized as a money crop. As well as, our thrust was on dietary safety that included meals like millets of their weight loss plan. In consequence, in the course of the lockdown, nobody in Sittilingi went hungry,” says Regi.

The Sittilingi Natural Farmers Affiliation (SOFA), shaped in 2008, trains farmers in natural farming and helps in advertising the crops. At current, in a group of about 15,000, round 4,000 are farmers, of that 500 are into natural farming.

Organically grown turmeric in Sittilingi being sun dried by farmers

Organically grown turmeric in Sittilingi being solar dried by farmers
| Picture Credit score: Inanc Tekguc

To assist market the turmeric, SOFA reached out to retailers, NGOs and others. Peermade Growth Society (PDS), an NGO that was into export of spices, started shopping for about 30 tonnes of the turmeric for export to European international locations. “Of the 40 tonnes produced by the farmers, we saved solely 10 tonnes for retail. Within the Salem market, turmeric finger often sells for about ₹760-800 for 100 kg; our farmers bought ₹1,200.”

Turmeric, a 10-month crop, is harvested in January-February. In 2020, they grew 70 to 80 tonnes of turmeric and the pandemic struck. As delivery traces closed in the course of the pandemic, PDS didn’t purchase the turmeric. “Tonnes of turmeric remained unsold. We knew that misery gross sales would start and one thing needed to be achieved rapidly.”

On the recommendation of a good friend to start a social media marketing campaign, they started writing concerning the turmeric on Fb. The Rotary Membership of Indiranagar pitched in with a robust marketing campaign. Natural Sittilingi turmeric was offered for ₹200/kg. Residents in Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad purchased roughly 15 tonnes of turmeric. By then delivery traces had opened and PDS took in 25 tonnes.

Farming activities under the aegis of the Tribal Health Initiative in Sittilingi

Farming actions beneath the aegis of the Tribal Well being Initiative in Sittilingi  
| Picture Credit score: Inanc Tekguc

“Now now we have round 15 tonnes. That’s when Ajay Narne and Dr. Dhanasekhran purchased about 200 to 300 kg turmeric powder from us, repackaged it well and gave it as presents. Within the course of, they have been serving to tribal farmers in Sittilingi as nicely. While you give a present, why not select one thing that can assist farmers as nicely?” suggests Regi.

Trying again at their journey within the valley, Regi and Lalitha level out that their work among the many tribal group has earned them their belief. “So, once we speak to them, they hear. In each home, there may be somebody now we have handled and all the youngsters within the village have been born on the hospital,” says Regi with justifiable satisfaction.

With eight medical doctors, the THI has grow to be a secondary care hospital. Of the numerous infants born at THI, three have grow to be medical doctors themselves. “Our work has been fulfilling. It was all staff work with the group. When folks do it collectively and acquire power from being collectively, there’s a good feeling about it,” believes Lalitha.

She asserts that well being in its broader definition consists of bodily, psychological and social well-being. “Farming, watershed improvement, artisans… I really feel it’s all well being work. If the well being of the group in its wider that means must be achieved, it’s a must to work on all these fronts,” she provides. Encapsulating their work in a sentence they are saying: “We live a dream.”


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