Posts filed under ‘Starvation’

How a 75-year-old tribal man grew a forest in Kalahandi

Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Forest officials say the work by Majhi and local tribals in Kalahandi is an important step in guarding the forest resources.

The septuagenarian Kondh tribal from Kalahandi’s Boringpadar village may not have studied much, but has brought cheer and hope to a place where death is an annual feature.

In 1979, Majhi started planting sapling on the 97 acre barren land adjoining a hillock near his village with support from the Nehru Yuva Kendra. Villagers who used to grow millet on that land had no idea what Majhi was up to, but grudgingly came around to support him for next three years.

Some 35 years later, the 97 acres of once-barren land near his village is home to a luxuriant forest consisting of Sal, Teak, Acacia, Chakunda and several other timber and fruit-bearing trees. In the process, he showed the ability of free Indians to battle the most adverse of circumstances, and the transformation that takes place when society and state collaborate.

Epicentre of starvation

Kalahandi in the 60s was known as Ethiopia of India for its acute starvation triggered by long periods of drought. After a particularly protracted spell of drought in 70s and 80s that forced poor parents to sell their children, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited the region. While its forested landscape was being slowly eroded by timber smugglers who valued the rich Kalahandi teak, the shifting cultivation of tribals took its toll on the forest cover

“When I was young I came to realise that without rains we would not have any hope. My father told me that the only way we can have regular rains is through forests,” said Majhi. This was the time when a young Majhi got serious about ways to prevent drought.

An old picture showing Manjhi and others planting saplings (HT photo)

 

With some handholding by local forest officials and help from Nehru Yuva Kendra in Bhawanipatna, Majhi and his elder brother Bali through Boringpadar Yuvak Sangha started planting saplings on the barren land, that was recorded as forest in government files. Soon the rest of the villagers joined in. The remunerations were not great – all that the villagers got was a sack of potatoes and two sacks of rice.

“At times when people were not willing to go for planting, I used to mortgage my umbrella and utensils at home to pay people and a security guard to keep an eye on the saplings,” said Majhi, standing next to a sal tree which he planted. Tejiraj Pradhan, a young farmer, still remembers how he used to plant saplings with Kartik mausa.

The transformation

Ten years later as the saplings grew in length, the once-barren area sported a different look. “It was like seeing a desert bloom,” said Majhi’s friend Kirtan Majhi.

Impressed with his work in creating a forest out of a barren land, the forest department in late 90s entrusted Boringpadar Yuvak Sangh the task of looking after the 500 hectares of reserve forest near his village. The villagers also keep an eye on another 500 hectares of forest near the hills adjacent to the village.

Forest officials say the work by Majhi and local tribals in Kalahandi is an important step in guarding the forest resources.

“Creating a forest and guarding can never be done by the forest department if individuals like Majhi are not involved. A forest guard is supposed to guard an area of 20-25 km. Is it possible on his part to keep an eye on so large an area,” asked Suresh Pant, regional chief conservator of forests of Bhawanipatna.

Preserving the legacy

Despite efforts by Majhi, old-timers of the district are not so hopeful of seeing the luxuriant forest cover of mid-80s when 50% of its geographical area was under forest cover. The last Forest Survey of India published in 2015, put the forest cover at 30%. “The success of people like Majhi is important, but it’s very difficult to get back what we lost,” said former Kalahandi MP Bhakta Charan Das.

Now 75, Majhi can’t walk properly and has problems in his sight. But his son Shankar seems to have inherited his father’s legacy as he goes to the forest with his friends to keep an eye on anyone cutting forests. This year a dozen villagers entered the reserve forest area and tried to cut the trees. They were promptly fined Rs 6,000 by the Yuvak Sangh volunteers.

Majhi says forests are intrinsic to the well-being of tribals. “We can’t always travel to the hospital in Narla block, which is 15 km away. If we suffer from malaria, we take crushed leaves of Nyctanthes, black pepper mixed with honey. The forests give us everything. Jungle is mangal for us,” said Majhi.

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August 14, 2017 at 10:02 am Leave a comment

A damning Indictment of Odisha’s inefficiency

Following report is from the TNIE:

The Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 has in one stroke not only demolished Odisha’s growth story spun by the Naveen Patnaik government over the past one-and-a-half decade but also laid bare an embarrassing failure of its much-vaunted welfare and poverty alleviation schemes. It cannot be a more damning indictment of the inefficiency than the fact that more than 66 per cent of the population in rural Odisha still continues to languish in acute deprivation without access to basic needs such as food, housing or income generation means. The findings of the census has countered and exposed the hollowness of the government’s claims at every point.

While the State Finance Minister  painted a glowing picture of the socio-economic rise over the last decade, projecting a growth of eight per cent in 2015-16, the census report has presented a worrying scene. Over 46.6 lakh (54 per cent) of the total 86.22 lakh rural households are landless and 23 lakh households have only one room with kutcha roof to shelter whole families. A whopping 87 per cent households manage with a measly income of less than Rs 5,000 a month. In the face of the Government’s claims that poverty has been reduced by almost 25 per cent and socio-economic conditions for a vast chunk of the population have been improved, Odisha has been ranked among the top four states in the country in terms of beggary with over 54,000 households depending on it while as many as 22,353 households resort to rag-picking and rummaging garbage dumps for their livelihood. Further, almost 59 per cent of the total households are engaged in manual and casual labour.

The census practically serves as a report card on the schemes and measures implemented by the government, revealing their failings and fissures. Despite the flagship Rs 1-a-kilo rice scheme, claimed to cover over 58 lakh households, and programmes for housing, irrigation, farm assistance, skill development and employment generation, the poverty and deprivation situation has not improved as much. The government should re-examine the schemes to reach the beneficiaries at every level and draw up strategies for more focused implementation of poverty alleviation and development programmes.

July 30, 2015 at 3:25 pm Leave a comment

Employment scheme; a failure in Balangir

Following is a report from TNIE:

Lalit Bhoi of Badbanki village in Turekela block in the district has decided to migrate in search of job as he is not able to get work even after applying for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Similarly, Surdas Pradhan of Bijamal village in Muribahal block feels that he would migrate if he would not be able to get work under the flagship scheme soon.

Bhoi and Pradhan are not solitary instances of poverty stricken people unable to get the benefits of MGNREGS. In fact, the MGNREGS, aimed at providing employment to rural poor, has miserably failed in the district.

According to sources, 2,72,527 households in the district have been issued job cards. Out of them, 61,339 households applied for works in 2013-14 and 47,393 households have been provided work till now.

While in the present month, 5,904 households are engaged in work, 2,086 households have completed 100 days of work. Among those who completed 100 days of work, 463 households were linked to the housing schemes like Indira Awaas Yojana. According to latest estimate, about 68.2 per cent of the budget for the scheme has been spent till now including labour payment and construction work.

The major road blocks in implementation of MNREGS are non-payment and delayed payment of wages to the labourers and shortage of field staff for preparation of muster rolls. Sources said people are not getting work during lean period. They also alleged that the officials were providing work as per their whims and caprices.

As per a conservative estimate, more than one lakh people have migrated in search of livelihood from the district to other places in and outside the State. The district has also more than 1,000 certified bonded labourers.

According to a survey of Western Odisha Migration Network (WOMN), a network of civil society organisations and academicians working in the district, more than 80,000 people from Bangomunda, Turekela, Belpara, Muribahal, Saintala and Khaprakhol blocks have already migrated.

“Balangir is a poor and migration prone district. MGNREGS has all the ingredients to address labour migration due to acute poverty and unemployment. However, to realise the same, the administration needs to identify the vulnerable people and implement MGNREGS during the lean period. But it has failed to provide timely works as well as the payments,” said Jatin Kumar Patra, an activist working on the issue.

Project Director of Balangir DRDA Pabitra Mandal said the administration is taking steps to provide work in all the revenue villages. “We are preparing plans and very soon the works will start,” he said.

December 26, 2013 at 1:31 am Leave a comment

Hunger in Nuapada

Following report is from the Sambad:

April 26, 2012 at 11:52 am 1 comment

Couple die of starvation in Balangir district

Following report is from express-buzz.com:

PATNAGARH: Starvation has reportedly claimed two more lives in western Odisha. In a span of 13 hours, two deaths were reported in a family in Sargimunda village in Kandhenjhula gram panchayat of Belpada block in Balangir district. The two have been identified as Bishnu Majhi (42) and his 37-year-old wife Parbati. Bishnu was a migrant labourer. He had planned to migrate this year too but with Parbati taking ill, he had to cancel the plan.

While the five-member family comprising the couple and their three sons Katha (17), Tikelal (14) and Laba (9) had no other source of income, their eldest son Katha availed of a loan of ` 10,000 from a labour ‘sardar’ for treatment of his mother before leaving for Andhra Pradesh to work in a brick kiln.

But the loan money was not enough for treatment of Parbati and maintenance of the family. Sans food and treatment, Parbati died on December 8.

The following day, immediately after Bishnu completed Parbati’s final rites, he complained of illness and had to be admitted to the Patnagarh sub-divisional hospital. He breathed  his last on December 9 night.

Villagers said that the couple were not keeping well for a long time due to malnutrition.  The family has reportedly not received any BPL rice for the last three months.

The Belpada tehsildar Abhimanyu Majhi met the couple’s children on Tuesday to find out if they are covered under any social security measures.

December 15, 2011 at 7:00 pm Leave a comment

Another ‘starvation’ death in Western Odisha

Following is a report from expressbuzz.com:

DEOGARH: Starvation reportedly claimed  another life in western Odisha. Close on the heels of death of three persons due to starvation in Kuliadangri village in Nuapada district, Jatra Khilar (60) of San Dangaghat village under Reamal  block of Deogarh died of starvation on Sunday morning.

The incident came to light after Jatra’s son Prasanna Khilar lodged a complaint in Reamal police station about the death of his father due to starvation.As per reports, Jatra was residing in the village along with his wife Chandri for the last 17 years while their only son Prasanna was residing in their ancestral village at Pendrakhol under the same gram panchayat.The elderly couple were residing in a makeshift shed after their house was destroyed during the last monsoon and eking out a living by begging. They were allegedly deprived of old age pension and other government benefits.

Sources said even as they ran from pillar to post to get financial assistance, it yielded no response. However, assistant engineer of Reamal block Bhramarbar Samal said the death was due to prolonged illness and not starvation.Police have sent the body for autopsy.

December 5, 2011 at 9:46 am Leave a comment

Drought in Padampur subdivision forcing migration of people as laborers

Following is a report from the Sambad (Sambalpur edition):

December 3, 2011 at 10:57 am 2 comments

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