Over the past several years, watching raging social media debates and the shaping of merit in public discourse in India spurred this editorial on merit in public health/policy that appeared in BMJ Global Health as an editorial on August 6, 2021. Many thanks to Seye Abimbola, the journal’s Editor-in-Chief for his comments. As noted in the acknowledgements, a lot of internal reflection and churning from various life events, many of them not necessarily pleasant have shaped this editorial.Continue reading
Sociologist and activist Abhay Xaxa has written this poem that I found deeply illuminating for many privileged folks like myself who work with Adivasi communities. Since the poem in English is not accessible to many of my Kannada-speaking colleagues & collaborators, with help from Latha Chilgod, we produced a crude Kannada translation of the poem. A dream to set it to tune in Kannada one day, perhaps with help from some of the amazing Adivasi musicians here in Chamarajanagar…one day….meanwhile, below is our Kannada translation and further down is the original in English that I believe was first published in Roundtable India.Continue reading
My Youtube feed offered me a suggestion from one of the recent uploads by Prasar Bharati, the Indian government public broadcaster. It was a documentary film about Namdapha Tiger Reserve, nestled away in the north-eastern corner of India with “pristine” but peopled forests. Literally within seconds, the film became uncomfortable to watch and as the 20-odd minutes of the film rolled by with very little of the flora and fauna of Namdapha, and a complete lack of mention of ANY local person, let alone a mention of the several tribes including the Lisu people who have lived for decades (if not longer), I thought of putting together my thoughts on the fillm in this thread.
At the 2021 edition of the Karnataka Bird Festival held at BR Hills somewhere neatly between the damp squib of a first wave (in Chamarajanagar) and the severe second wave, a small F2F gathering with online streaming of talks was organised. I did a broad sweep of birds of br hills overlaid on how the hills’ unique geographical location and social history.
Dear Mr President,
It was another October in the year 2006, when a vehicle bearing the national emblem instead of a license plate (as is the norm for vehicles transporting the President) stopped at B R Hills in Chamarajanagar district of southern Karnataka. It was an exciting time for the Solega people who were among those who welcomed him. And why not? It was after all their lands and forests that the (then) President was visiting, and it was with pride and anticipation that they received President Kalam. School girls from Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra (VGKK) school welcomed him. In complete breach of the blue book which is prescriptive of protocols and behaviours during Presidential visit replete with colonial referencing to visits by (then) royalty, President Kalam insisted on going everywhere that the local district administration had forbidden. He met patients at the tribal hospital that he inaugurated, shared thoughts in his speech on his vision for rural and remote areas, and later on hugged and was hugged by scores of Solega Adivasi children. As a doctor at the hospital, I watched in awe as he demonstrated his familiarity with the name of the local Adivasi community and asked me about the status of Sickle Cell Disease (known to be prevalent among several of these communities). He even naively promised that in a decade genetic engineering would find a treatment for it (which is not yet the case).Continue reading