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The plight of tappers in palm plantations of Tamil Nadu

| Updated on July 19, 2019 Published on July 19, 2019

Tapper families spend almost half a year without access to safe drinking water or healthcare facilities in Tamil Nadu’s remote palm groves

India is home to more than 100 million palms, and about half of these are found in Tamil Nadu, with the highest concentration in the Ramanathapuram district. There are more than 800 uses of Palmyra or Toddy Palm. It is referred to as the ‘tree of life’ in some cultures. Families migrate to these remote palm groves for the seasonal tapping of the Palmyra sap, conducted from February to September. The income from tapping is not sufficient for a family, and its children are often drawn into the labour. A recent study conducted by Child Rights and You (CRY) and Rural Workers Development Society (RWDS) on 396 migrant settlements found that 88 per cent migrated with their children.

Tapper families are usually landless migrant farmers who settle for six to eight months near the groves. These areas are grossly neglected by the state and bereft of any public services such as safe drinking water, sanitation, healthcare centres or roads. The families spend almost half a year without access to these services. The lives of the children are especially hard. They have to travel 20-30 km every day to attend school, and many of them skip classes to help their parents in the groves. Since the ban on toddy tapping in the early ’90s, the livelihood of the people working in these parts is wholly dependent on the Palmyra tree sap, which is used to make jaggery. The pictures depict the ground reality of a community that few seem to care about.

Abhiroop Dastidar is a photographer working for Child Rights and You (CRY)

Published on July 19, 2019