Amid din of elections, tribals in malnourished belt stay forgotten

In a chilly January week this year, Bhimjaya Bhogade (35) and his wife Malti (30) lost their month-old twin daughters five days apart. Born prematurely and underweight, the babies died before their parents could even think of names. The official record though spoke of only one death in their village in Mokhada taluka of Maharashtra’s tribal-dominated Palghar district.

The “error” hardly surprised the Brigades or other residents of Ghodipada, a tribal hamlet located 12km inside of Mokhada and over 150km from Mumbai. “We are used to being invisible. Do our lives matter to the government, political parties or any leader?” said Dakaljana, the 67-year-old grandfather of the babies. Despite “efforts” by the government Palghar remains a hotbed of infant and child deaths, with nearly 3,000 mortalities in the last five years. The vicious cycle of poverty, hunger, unemployment and migration remain entrenched in the tribal blocks of Mokhada, Jawhar, Vikramgad, Dahanu and Wada.

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