For these tribal persons, animals are the main lifeline

‘For crossing streams and hillocks in remote areas they come in handy’

Difficult hilly terrains force these people to use horses, donkeys and oxen to ferry them from one place to another and sometimes convert them into luggage-carriers.

In remote tribal areas of Visakhapatnam bordering Odisha, most of them are affected by left-wing extremism, tribal people bank on these animals for meeting their basic requirements – for going to collect ration at fair price shops, visit weekly markets called shandies, reaching nearby dispensary or to sell their agriculture produce in nearby locations.

Though road connectivity has improved a lot in the tribal areas, in hamlets cut-off from the mainstream, one can see tribal people using a large number of horses. Incidentally, owning horses is a status symbol for many. Those who cannot afford owning them hire horses as per their need.

“On an average, we collect ₹200 per day for giving a horse on rent,” Gemmela Surya Rao from Peddalochali in G. Madugula mandal told The Hindu.

Comparatively, donkeys are available for half the price. Oxen are used for both ploughing in fields mainly in the neighbourhood of Araku, Paderu and other mandal headquarters.

In G. Madugula and Pedabayalu mandals itself there are about 500 horses available on rent. Donkeys and oxen are used for carrying paddy and other produce. While a healthy donkey is purchased at ₹5,000 or so, horses are bought at ₹10,000 to ₹25,000 per head depending on its age.

In Baski area of Araku, several areas in Koyyuru, Vangaram and Majjirauvu of G. Madugula, horses are quite popular. Donkeys are seen in large numbers in Katki, Devapuram, Chintalaveedi and Devapuram of Paderu mandal. “For crossing streams and hillocks these animals come in handy in saving a lot of time. For medical emergency also they act as animal-ambulances to reach the nearest dispensary,” P. Devullu, secretary of Sanjeevini, an NGO, said.

‘Podu’ cultivation

Most the tribal people belonging to Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups live on hilltops and eke out a living by taking recourse to ‘podu’ cultivation – by collecting firewood by burning trees and moving from one place to another to raise pulses, millets and paddy in the inaccessible hilly areas.

“Eleven Agency mandals in Visakhapatnam have a tribal population of seven lakh out of total population of 18 lakh in the State. Despite allocation of huge funds, connectivity has remained a big issue in the interior areas depriving the tribals of basic amenities,” said Killo Surendra, AP Girijana Sangham leader.

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