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Prosperous Nicobarese worst hit: Govt report

Friday 7 January 2005

NEW DELHI: The tsunami waves hit the numerically large and more prosperous Nicobarese, the largest ST population living in the Car Nicobar plains, sparing much of the remaining tribal population in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Still looking for the 3,000 missing Nicobarese and sending relief to the remaining, the Union home ministry has based its estimates, made public on Thursday, on the 2001 Census figures and reports from the islands. It is still in the midst of surveying the damage in terms of life and property.

The others - Andamanese (43), Jarawas (240), Onges (96), Sentinese (39), all primitive tribes of people who belong to the Negrito group and Shom Pens (398), who are of Mongloid extract - are either not affected or reported safe.

The Census figures show that the STs, numbering 29,469, constitute only 8.27 per cent of the total 3,56,152 population as on March 1, 2001. The actual numbers have registered marginal increase in the last three years.

The islands in the popular perceptions are the home to several tribes, some of them endangered. But they have undergone demographic changes, particularly since Independence, when people from the mainland and refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan settled there.

Only about ten per cent of the STs live in the Andamans district, while the remaining 90 per cent live in the Nicobars. Of the total Andamanese population of 43, (24 men and 19 women), inhabiting mainly Straits Island in Rangat tehsil, nine were found to be living in Port Blair town. Their habitats have suffered substantial damage and they require rehabilitation.

The internationally famous Jarawas, numbering 240 (125 men and 115 women) have settlements in six villages of Andamans district. They live in the jungles and on highlands and are also reported safe.

The Onges, 57 men and 39 women, live mainly in two villages, Dugong Creek anfd South Bay.

Their geographical location in Port Blair tehsil partially protected them from the devastating tsunami wave. They are reported safe, having taken shelter in the hills and forest area on the island.

The government has not contacted the Sentinelese, who are generally hostile to outside contact, but they have been sighted by aerial survey, the government says.

Most concern centred on Shom Pens who live mainly in Campbell Bay. The 254 men and 144 women have been scattered over 17 villages of Nancowry tehsil of Nicobar district. Inhabiting the southern-most tip neighbouring Sumatra, they have been found to be safe. Rescue and relief teams are reaching them by foot since all bridges to their villages have been destroyed, the ministry report said.

See online : Times of India

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