How hunger kills hundreds in Balangir

May 1, 2010 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

Following is a TOI report:
BALANGIR: Enter any village under Belpada block of Balangir district and see how people battle for their existence. And how hunger can kill hundreds. Starving and emaciated, villagers often succumb to their circumstances.

The scenes in these villages will leave anyone speechless. Barring a few who own land, most villagers depend on nature. They collect forest produce for their sustenance.

TOI visited Bileimara village, 17 km from the block headquarters and met Bhaktaram Bariha, who is 65. For the past 10 years he has been bed-ridden. His spouse had died of some mysterious disease years ago. What is most pitiable is that he was forced to marry off his two daughters to the same man.

His son-in-law had promised to look after him and so Bariha gave away his second daughter, too, in marriage to this man. Today, all four stay together, the daughters look after the father and husband. Bariha does not get old age pension. Neither does he hold any entitlement card which can buy him subsidized rice at Rs two a kg.

Early morning all of them, barring Bariha, go to the forest to collect char, seeds and mahua flowers. They return home by evening. During their absence, Bariha’s granddaughter Srimati, who is five, looks after him. “I can’t remember any government official visiting this village. I was just a kid when someone came here and talked to some villagers and then vanished. We are fed up requesting the sarpanch to give us a BPL card or an IAY house. Every time he tells us that some procedure has to be followed and then the matter is forgotten,” said his daughter.

Sometime back, he developed a swelling on his neck. He sent his son to the nearby PHC to call a doctor, but he did not come. Finally, his son-in-law called a quack, whose medicines worsened his condition.

The life of Khatra Bariha, 65, of Rengtasil village, mirrors the despondency of his village. He lost his wife after two months of their marriage. A few years later, he lost his two sisters. He had lost his parents when he was young. A stark example of peripatetic life, Khatra constructed a thatched house on the outskirts of the village.

The house is closed from all sides. Every time he goes to the village to fetch water and other essential items, he breaks the thatched wall and then reshapes it. His only possessions are perhaps two bowls and some clothes. Khatra said he asked the sarpanch to get him a BPL card, but the sarpanch asked to him to prove his identity. He collects forest produce and exchanges them in village shops for rice and other items!

Bariha and Khatra are just metaphors of a larger canvas. For these 800-odd poverty-stricken villagers, the forest is a source of sustenance. Adhikar, a voluntary organization, has submitted a list to the government giving names of villagers who are living in this pathetic condition. But there has been no action yet. Jatin Patra, who surveyed the areas and prepared the list, said there’s been no development in the villages in the past 20 years. “Except improving the condition of some roads, there’s been no visible development,” he said.

Five of a family recently died of hunger in Chabripali village under Khaprakhol block. But even this painful incident failed to move the administration.

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Entry filed under: Agriculture, Agriculture and Irrigation, Balangir, Breakdown in Balangir, Dadan Sramik Migration, Farming and food security, Kalahandi Balangir Koraput (KBK) region, Malnutrition, Poverty and hunger, Poverty and Hunger in Koshal region, Poverty politics, Region watch, Starvation, Starvation deaths, State Watch-Monitoring the Odisha State.

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