Monday, September 10, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Starvation stalks Kashipur
23 die, 20,000 cry for food; Orissa Govt denies
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

Kashipur (Orissa), September 9
At least 20,000 persons, mostly the old and children, are in urgent need of help in Kashipur block of Rayagada district, Orissa, even as the death toll has risen to 23 with two more persons succumbing to mango kernel paste in Tikri.

Hunger has forced the tribals in this region to eat mango kernel, ragi and tamarind seeds at time when the country has 50 million tonnes of foodgrains as against the required buffer stocks of 17 million tonnes and the FCI godowns are facing the problem of storage.

While the farmers in Punjab and Haryana, with their bumper harvest are looking forward to a remunerative price for their produce, the tribals in this backward district of Orissa are eagerly awaiting their next meal.

The state government maintains that no starvation death has occurred in Orissa and Chief Minister Navin Patnaik, who toured the affected region, later reiterated that “no starvation death has taken place”.

The District Collector of Rayagada, Mr Bishnupada Sethi, maintains no one has died of starvation in Kashipur. “By no stretch of imagination can these deaths be called starvation deaths”, he stated categorically.

The semantic debate whether it is starvation death or not continues, but the fact remains that the people in this predominantly tribal region are forced to eat mango kernel paste as their last harvest had failed.

Though semantically what the state government maintains is correct as starvation death means that no food was found in the stomach of the deceased.

Since June-July this year, when the monsoon struck, the people have gone without work. The tribals supplemented their meagre rice supplies with mango kernels, ragi and tamarind seeds.

Mango kernel or tanku peejaw as it is locally called is a thick paste of boiled mango seeds, which costs nothing to prepare. The paste is what thousands of tribal are consuming in Kashipur to keep themselves alive and they continue to do so even after the state government promised food for work programme.

In Panasguda village, where seven persons have died consuming mango kernel paste, villagers said they continue to consume it as they have no alternative.

“We have to fill our stomach with something or other to survive. Does the government give us proper food? Does anybody think of feeding us? There is nobody for us,” said Kailash Majhi.

Asked about the government’s scheme of exchanging mango kernel with rice, he said they have exchanged equivalent amount. “Each family was given 7 kg of rice for the mango kernel surrendered,” he said, adding that “how long will that rice last. So we did not surrender all the mango kernel”.

The Tribune had a close look at the mango kernel withheld by the villagers. It was black in colour with fungus formation already appearing on it. When asked whether they would eat this poisonous kernel, the villagers said they had no option.

Contrary to the general argument that mango kernel is a traditional food item in this area, it was found that people have converted it into their staple diet because they have neither the land to produce paddy nor the purchasing power to buy rice from the market.

But food insecurity looms. And the tribals of Kashipur, with little work in hand, are increasingly getting vulnerable. Their rugged terrain together with the near total absence of irrigation in the district has made the going worse.

The scantily-clad, ill-fed children scampering around the tiny hamlets are proof that little has changed for Kashipur’s tribals though there has been a lot of hue and cry over their plight.

Rayagada district comes in the old KBK zone of undivided Kalahandi, Bolongir and Koraput districts in Orissa, which predominantly tribal dominated region and little has changed over the years.

Kashipur block falls in Zone eight of Orissa’s poorest districts — a reflection of the neglect over the years.


Ajit blames it on malnutrition
UNI & Tribune News Service

Allahabad, September 9
The Union Agriculture Minister, Mr Ajit Singh denied the occurrence of any starvation deaths in the country and said the reported deaths were instead caused by malnutrition. He said this speaking to newsmen here today.

Mr Ajit Singh denied reports that he had plans to resign from the Union Cabinet if his demand for the formation of Harit Pradesh was not fulfilled.

The Minister said the news published in a section of the press was completely “fabricated and untrue’’. He said the demand for Harit Pradesh was neither new nor politically motivated. “It was a unanimous demand expressed by the people, including traders, teachers and politicians residing in the western part of Uttar Pradesh’’, he said.

He said once the new state Assembly was constituted, he would try to get a resolution for the formation of Harit Pradesh passed in the House and forward it to the Union Government for approval.

The RLD leader said he favoured the proposal for the establishment of a Bench of the Allahabad High Court in western Uttar Pradesh which, he said, was in the interest of the people. “Those opposing the proposed move were bothered about their parochial interests and not about the problems faced by litigants in that part of the state’’. Speaking at a function organised on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebrations of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, held here in New Delhi today, Mr Ajit Singh said 6 crore tonnes of food, including 60 lakh tonnes of sugar, was lying in the godowns. “Kalahandi produces one of the best varieties of rice in the country but people in the region are poverty-stricken and we often come across reports of starvation deaths there,” he said.

Calling upon scientists and engineers to rise to the challenge, the Agriculture Minister said there were great expectations from the alumni of premier institutes such as the IIT.

He said globalisation came at a rapid pace after the signing of the WTO agreement and this was adversely affecting the economy — both agriculture and industrial.

Regarding the WTO and its effect on agriculture, the minister said there was a disparity to the extent that developing nations like India were forced to do away with the subsidy regime. 

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
121 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |