Friday, September 28, 2007

Hunger stalks rising India

Infochange Analysis,Sept 28,2007
By Devinder Sharma

Over 500 hunger deaths are reported to have occurred in Kalahandi and other parts of western Orissa in the last few months. Indeed, all the 836 million who live on less than Rs 20 per day are probably unable to get two square meals a day. And yet the government is planning to double the price of foodgrain for the midday meals programme.

At a time when the newspapers are full of reports of billions of dollars of foreign investments flowing into the country and daily projections of an unprecedented growth rate that will eclipse poverty, the cries of 12-year-old Jabila in Orissa's Kalahandi district have gone largely unheard.

In the first week of September, within a matter of five days, Jabila's younger brother died due to a hunger-related ailment. The very next day, her father succumbed to hunger; unable to buy grain, he had been living on green leaves just before he died. No sooner had the pyre cooled when Sonai, Jabila's mother, died of starvation. Jabila now sits in front of her hut, empty-eyed, perhaps awaiting her turn...

This is not an isolated case. Writing in the web magazine , journalist Neeraj says that as many as 20 people in Telnagi village in Rampur , Kalahandi, have died from hunger or hunger-related ailments. Talk to any villager and he will start counting the names on his fingers.

According to Parshuram Ray of the New Delhi-based Centre for Environment and Food Security, over 500 hunger deaths have occurred in the Raigada, Kashipur, Kalahandi and Koraput regions of western Orissa, over the past few months.

Around 10 years ago, while researching my book In the Famine Trap , I was travelling in the infamous Kalahandi area; a few hunger-related deaths had been reported from the Bolangir district. I drove to the village to meet the families of those who had succumbed to hunger. As I approached the dusty village, what appalled me was the sight of two huge satellite towers installed right in the heart of the village. Believe it or not, every house in the village had a satellite telephone! The villagers didn't have enough food to eat, but they had been provided telephones!

Orissa is not the only state that downplays growing hunger and malnutrition and, at the same time, adopts lopsided polices in the name of development. It's the same situation in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra , Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. Hunger stalks the entire northern belt of the country (and, for that matter, parts of the rest of the country too). The only difference is that respective state governments continue to either ignore or deny this as they do deaths from diseases like cholera and malaria.

An estimated 320 million people suffer food insecurity in India . This could well be an understatement. If the projections of the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector are correct, 836 million people survive on less than Rs 20 (less than half-a-dollar) a day. Rs 20 is not enough to buy you two square meals a day. The number of hungry therefore stands at 836 million -- almost equal to the 852 million hungry that the UN Millennium Development Goals (and the FAO) wrongly computes as the number of people living in hunger throughout the world.

Shocking reports of hunger deaths pour in at a time when the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution estimates that 53.3% of wheat and 39% of rice worth Rs 31,500 crore, meant for distribution to the poorest of the poor, have been siphoned off in the past three years. For the last three decades, despite numerous studies and reports, pilferage from the Public Distribution System (PDS) remains colossal. This is not a crime, it's treason.

Although the per capita availability of food has climbed down to a level that existed at the time of the Great Bengal Famine of 1943, the nation seems unperturbed. The need to make the PDS effective has remained outside the gamut of political expediency.

Knowing that food meant for the poor is not reaching them, and undeterred by persistent reports of hunger and malnutrition, the department of food and public distribution, under the same ministry, is now planning to double the price of foodgrain meant for the midday meal programme for schoolchildren. In simple words, the department is making it difficult for the states to provide midday meals for 12 crore (120 million) children. A resource crunch will ensure that, in the future, the Ministry of Human Resources is unable to shell out Rs 12,000 per metric tonne, as against the present Rs 5,650.

In a country where 5,000 children die every day from malnutrition and related ailments, the importance of expanding the midday meal programme needs no emphasis. But by putting it beyond the reach of the official machinery, the Ministry of Human Resources may now find it difficult to run the existing programme let alone expand it to reach an additional 3 crore (30 million) children.

The paradox of plenty -- acute and widespread hunger amidst abundant foodstocks -- exists at a time when the country is poised on a high-growth trajectory. Policymakers, planners and economists have been telling us that even if poverty increases in the short term, it is a price that has to be paid for long-term stability and growth. In other words, Jabila needs to accept that her parents paid for the growth the country is witnessing!

It is primarily for this reason that we feel good about the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme that provides 100 days of employment to the poor and vulnerable. We know that 100 days' wages cannot keep a poor person alive and well for the entire year. Yet, none of those who form part of the growing tribe of intellectuals are willing to raise their voice against this glaring human inequality. If we in urban centres cannot survive for a year on 100 days' wages, how do we expect the poor to survive?

Even with the largest number of hungry in the world, hunger and starvation no longer evoke compassion in India . News of hunger and starvation rarely makes it to the front pages of the newspapers. In reality, hunger is a non-issue; it's something we close our eyes to. How does it matter to us if the PDS doesn't work, or the midday meal programme is eventually scrapped because of lack of adequate funds?

What we don't realise is that an empty stomach cannot wait. With the passage of time it will lead to social upheavals whose repercussions could be damaging to society at large.

Tourist complex lying neglected

The New Indian Express, Sept 28, 2007

BHAWANIPATNA: Even as the Government boasts of promoting tourism, specially eco-tourism, in the State, the pathetic condition of the tourist complex building here speaks otherwise.

The complex, set up at Thuamul Rampur of Kalahandi district to boost tourism, is lying abandoned and uncared for.

Construction of the complex, started in 1992 with an estimated cost of Rs 39 lakh, took 12 years. But over the years the project cost escalated to Rs 45 lakh.

The building was not taken over by the Tourism Department from the construction agency, the Public Works Department, as the general PHED and electricity departments did not complete the fittings. The building is lying abandoned and with no security to keep a watch on it a public school has taken over a part of it.

PWD Executive Engineer Ashis Kumar Badpanda said several reminders to take over the building have been sent to the Tourism Department but to no avail.

On the other hand, the tourism complex work at Beheraguda on the outskirts of Bhawanipatna too is in a deplorable condition. The work on the complex was initiated in 1992 through PWD at Rs 31 lakh.

After constructing it up to the plinth level the contractor abandoned it. Ironically no action was taken either against the contractor or the engineers.

Both the tourist complexes were initiated during the tenure of late chief minister Biju Patnaik. With his son, Naveen Patanik, in power people here are hoping against hope that these buildings would function soon.

Monday, September 24, 2007

When Ghumura meets Dollu Kunita

The Hindu, Sept 11, 2007
BANGALORE: “Ghumura”, an Orissa folk dance form, looks similar to the “Dollu Kunita” of Karnataka. The performance of this war dance from Kalahandi district of Orissa has many features that resemble our folk art. The only difference is in the attire and the drums.

The Oriya Cultural Association in the city is preparing to stage a cultural programme that showcases the folk dance forms of the two States at the Chowdaiah Memorial Hall on September 15. This will be a part of the community’s annual Ganesha pooja celebrations being held on the day. “We are trying to show the link that exists between the Orissa and Karnataka folk art forms,” said Additional Director-General of Police (Corps of Detectives) S. Mahapatra, who is a member of the association.

The programme provides an opportunity for the two lakh Oriyas as well as Kannadigas to enjoy each other’s art forms. “Every Oriya dance will be followed by a Karnataka folk dance,” said Utkal Mohanty, another association member. The Oriya dance forms to be staged include the “Sambalpuri”, an effervescent dance resembling the bhangra; “Gotipua”, an acrobatic performance by boys in female costumes; and the “Ghumura”.

The programme will be inaugurated by Suryanaraya Patra, the Orissa Minister for Culture, Energy and IT. A cultural delegation from Orissa led by Information Technology Commissioner S.N. Tripathy will participate in the programme.

College students take out cycle rally in Bhawanipatna

The Pioneer, Sept 24, 2007
Pioneer News Service | Bhawanipatna

The students of the Government Autonomous College here took out a cycle procession and shouted slogans in protest against non-fulfilment of their demands before reaching the district Collectorate.

The students alleged that although the college principal and local MLA Pradeepta Naik had promised them on August 18 that their demands would be met 'very soon,' no steps have been taken in this regard till now.

The students submitted a memorandum to the district Collector, reiterating their demands, which included filling up of vacant posts of lecturers, supply of books to library, provision of drinking water, electricity, introduction of M Phil, M Sc and M Com courses, posting of a permanent principal, holding of students' union elections and an investigation into misappropriation of lakh of rupees allocated under the Central Government schemes in Thuamul-Rampur block. Collector Pramod Chandra Pattnaik assured the students to meet their demands within a week.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

'Industries will badly hit tribals'

The New Indian Express, Septe 19, 2007


BERHAMPUR: As multinational companies and industrial houses eye natural resource enriched forests and bauxite rich zone in South Orissa, a fear of largescale displacement of tribal populace looms large.

According to conservative estimates, livelihood of around 50,000 adivasis of undivided Koraput and Kalahandi will be affected if industrialisation takes place. In the past five decades, in the name of industrialisation, a large chunk of forest land has been cleared up during construction of different hydel projects like Indravati, Machhkund, Kolab and Balimela. Thousands of adivasis have been displaced, but they are yet to be properly rehabilitated.

According to some environmentalists, government is blindly changing laws in the name of controlling forest produces, but not in a single case the rights of tribals and jungle dwellers have been safeguarded.

If the government hands over the remaining forest lands to mine owners, paper mills or big industrial houses without considering the socio-economical and environmental impacts on the people at large, it would lead to a devastating situation, experts feel.

About 70 to 80 per cent of the total bauxite reserve of the world is located in the east-coast bauxite belt, particularly South Orissa mines like in Niyamgiri, Baffimali, Kodingmali, Pachpatmali and Deomali regions.

All the companies, which are interested to invest here, are not showing any interest to develop the area or the lives of the locals, allege some social activists. Similarly paper mill owners, who are seeking lease of forest lands, would clear up the rich Tik woods and encourage bamboo and eucalyptus plantation. In all these activities, the productivity of land will be badly affected besides affecting the groundwater resources and drying up natural fountains.

South Orissa is home to around two-third of the total adivasi population in State. They will be affected if all the projects are implemented, experts said.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Cholera-hit Indians 'face hunger'

BBC, Sept 7, 2007
By Salman Ravi
BBC Hindi service, Kalahandi, Orissa

Villagers are facing starvation in a tribal area of eastern India where an outbreak of cholera has killed scores of people in recent weeks.

The BBC visited affected districts in Orissa state and found people with no food, surviving on leaves. They said they had seen no rice since last year.

Doctors blame contaminated food and water for the cholera epidemic, which officials say has killed 175 people.

Aid workers say years of neglect have helped fuel the spread of the disease.

They say the death toll in the three worst hit districts of Rayagada, Koraput and Kalahandi is at least 250.

No food

When the BBC visited Kalahandi, we were offered leaves to eat.

Diarrhoea and cholera outbreaks happen nearly every year... lessons are not being learned

In a number of affected areas, we found people with no food. For the past nine months, people in this part of the country have had no rice.

"We do not have anything to eat, this is what we are eating, this is the bark of the bamboo tree. We boil and eat it. We have not seen rice for a long time," one villager said.

An official in Kalahandi district, Ignasius Ikkam told the BBC that starvation had played a significant role in many recent deaths from diseases such as cholera and malaria across Orissa.

"Hunger is undoubtedly a factor behind these deaths. The remoteness of the area is also partly responsible - the lack of infrastructure makes it difficult for us to reach the affected areas," he said.

"Transport and communication facilities are so poor that doctors are not able to reach people who are suffering, nor can the affected people make their way to the nearest doctors."

The Orissa authorities denied there had been any deaths from starvation.

Official Indian policy dictates that no one in the country now dies of hunger - those living below the poverty line are given rice by the government.

But those who need it most in this part of the country, appear not to be getting it.

Meanwhile, the authorities have suspended four local government officials responsible for supplying food to this remote region.

The four are accused of siphoning off emergency food supplies for profit.

Police are also seeking to question an agent who supplied rice and vegetables to some remote districts. He has been charged with misappropriating government grain supplies.

The extremely poor indigenous communities who live here have suffered official apathy and neglect for years.

Their drinking water comes from waterfalls and drains, which have been contaminated following severe flooding in recent weeks.

Remote area
The area affected by cholera is about 100km (65 miles) from the district headquarters at Bhavanipatna.

It is a remote area, surrounded by hills, and to get here one has to cross waterfalls and rivers on foot.

Orissa's rural development minister, Biswabhusan Harichandan, arrived in the area by helicopter and travelled to one village by car.

But he could not get to the worst-affected villages - where there are many patients, the water is unfit to drink and there are no medicines.

"Diarrhoea and cholera outbreaks happen nearly every year in this region and on average about 50 people die annually. But lessons are not being learned," says Bratindi Jenna of aid agency ActionAid.

"There needs to be a shift in provincial culture of blaming the tribal way of life for disease outbreaks. The local administration should accept its responsibility for ensuring access to safe drinking water and public health facilities."

ActionAid accuses the authorities of under-reporting cholera deaths to minimise compensation claims.

Kalahandi has been in news since the 1980s when famine there led to many starvation deaths in the district.

Many development projects promised have failed to materialise due to local corruption.

The cholera epidemic started in Kashipur, in Rayagada district, nearly 500km (310 miles) from the state capital, Bhubaneswar.

Street plays for sanitation awareness in KBK areas

The Pioneer, Sept 7, 2007
Pioneer News Service | Bhubaneswar

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday directed the Health Department officials to start public awareness campaign in the KBK region on the use of safe drinking water and impact of proper sanitation. Patnaik directed the officials while taking a review meeting of the Health Department at the State Secretariat.

It has been decided that to spread the message, Government will focus on arranging street side meeting. The officials will take the help of street plays like Pala, Daskathia and other form of street shows to create the awareness.

It has also been decided that public awareness meeting would be organised at the block headquarter at a regular interval. Ward member, panchayat sammitee member, anagwanwadi karmee and other public representatives will attend the meeting. Collector and Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) of the concerned district will attend the meeting. They will educate the people on this issue. Rural Development Department has been asked to put stress on the setting up of more tubewells in the KBK and the tribal dominated areas. They would be remained in charge of disinfection of drinking water. Panchayat Raj Department will provide the necessary help. Forest Department has also been asked to settle all the hurdles in clearing forest lands for the purpose of building roads to inaccessible areas. "All the health related programmes should continue on a regular basis in the KBK areas," Patnaik said to officials.

In order to create housing facilities for doctors in the remote parts of the KBK areas, it has been decided that more quarters will be constructed under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) programme for doctors. SC and ST Department would be asked to spend money from their fund for the improvement of supply of drinking water. Safe drinking water will be available in all the schools, hospitals and anaganwadi centre. Toilets will be set up in all the slums and public institutions. Doctor teams will be sent to the tribal dominated areas on a rotation basis.

Patnaik also took stock of the situation that has been come up due to the rampant spread of fake medicine in the State. Officials informed the Chief Minister that till September 4, 2965 samples on allopathic medicines were collected from all the over the State. Similarly, 93 samples on Ayurvedic medicines were collected. 30 cases have been registered in this connection. Similarly, 123 nursing homes, 59 ultra sound clinics and 27 MTP centres have been sealed. Chief Minister directed he officials to lodge court cases against these illegal nursing homes, ultra sound clinics and MTP centres.

Cholera-hit areas babus on foreign trip

The Pioneer, Sept 7, 2007
Pioneer News Service | Bhubaneswar

Critics have all along accused the Naveen Patnaik Government of being bureaucracy-driven. They have now some more instances to prove their point.

The Government has allowed PK Patnaik, Collector Kalahandi, to go on a visit to the United Kingdom when cholera epidemic is taking a heavy toll in the district. Patnaik has been allowed to hand over charge to the Additional District Magistrate. He, along with R Santhgopalan, Collector Balangir, and two senior officers of the State Watershed Mission, will visit the UK for a fortnight-long training on development management from September 6.

The officers will be able to rejoin offices only after September 26, said an official in the General Administration Department here. According to official sources, deaths due to cholera are continuing unabated in tribals-dominated Thuamul-Rampur block in the district. Though the official death toll is 27, NGOs and field level health workers put it at 48.

Govt responsible for cholera deaths in Kalahandi: CPM

The Pioneer, Sept 7, 2007
Pioneer News Service | Bhawanipatna

The State Government is fully responsible for the increasing number of deaths due to cholera in the Gram Panchayats of Adri, Gopinathpur and Maligaon in the block of Thuamul-Rampur in Kalahandi district, said CPI(M) team that visited the area on Tuesday to assess the real cause behind the outbreak of the epidemic.

The CPI(M) team comprised party leader Ali Kishore Pattnaik, party district secretary of Kalahandi Naba Pattnaik and other party members.

The leaders collected information as to how cholera broke out during their discussions with the people in different villages of the Gram Panchayats.

In a Press release, the CPI(M) team alleged that the lack of basic requirements such as food, drinking water and jobs under the various schemes like BPL, APL, Annapurna, Antodaya and NREGS has resulted in the outbreak of the epidemic in the region.

They also alleged that the health centres and the sanitation system in Thuamul-Rampur block were non-functional.

The block has a Community Health Centre, a new Primary Health Centre and 16 health sub-centres, which should be manned eight doctors, but there were only three doctors posted. A large number of tube-wells have become defunct, as a result the district administration had to provide alternative methods to supply drinking water to the villages. Parents are scared of sending their children to the school due to the epidemic.

During their visit to a school, the CPI(M) leaders found that only 29 out of the total 203 children attended the school, the release said.

Meanwhile Rural Development and Industries Minister Biswabhusan Harichandan visited the cholera-affected villages in Ardi Gram Panchayat under Thuamul-Rampur block in Kalahandi district. He directed officials to provide 30 tube-wells, 20 sanitary wells two mobile health vans in the area, besides asking the district administration to immediately undertake construction of a large bridge, three small bridges and a 37-km concrete road connecting Adri, Gopinathpur and Maligaon Gram Panchayats.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Death toll from disease in eastern India climbs to 186

AFP, Sept 6, 2007

BHUBANESWAR (AFP) — The death toll from an outbreak of cholera and other water-borne stomach diseases in eastern India rose to 186 Wednesday, with thousands of people still being treated, officials said.

Officials in three affected districts -- some 500 kilometres (310 miles) southwest of impoverished Orissa state's capital, Bhubaneswar -- supplied the toll, disputed by opposition parties and aid workers, who quote higher numbers.

In Rayagada district, 78 people have died since the outbreak of cholera last month, the district's top medical officer P. Sitaram said Wednesday, adding that more villages were reporting cases.

In neighbouring Koraput district, the chief administrative official said a total of 79 people had died.

"We have reports of 79 deaths related to cholera and gastroenteritis," Balakrushna Sahoo told AFP.

And in adjacent Kalahandi district, 29 cholera deaths have been reported so far, officials said.

A health control room in Bhubaneswar set up to monitor the outbreak of water-borne diseases said more than 5,000 people were being treated for cholera and other stomach diseases, according to a government spokesman.

Representatives of the ActionAid development group in Orissa have challenged the figures being put out by officials, saying the death toll is closer to 250, while state opposition parties put it at almost 500.

"The Orissa government is using the term gastroenteritis to cover up deaths due to cholera," said Bijoy Mohapatra, chief of the Orissa Gana Parishad (Orissa Peoples' Forum), a regional political party.

Seven seed centres to come up in State soon

The Pioneer, Sept 6, 2007
Pioneer News Service | Bhubaneswar

The State Government has decided to set up seven seeds centre in the State. These centres would come up at Ganjam, Anugul, Sundergarh, Kalahandi, Balasore Jajpur and Bhubanswar.

The State has already two centres one each at Rayagada and Baragarh.

The two centres give certificates on the certified seeds. Another centre is functioning at Bhubaneswar to check the quality of seeds.

Meanwhile, the State Government has decided to impart training to the farmers about the use of modern cultivation. In this connection, Government is planning to rope in the National Farmer Extension Management Organisations.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

KBK: Where was the money spent?

Dharitri, Sept 4, 2007

Civil supply officials suspended

The New Indian Express, Sept 3, 2007

BHAWANIPATNA: Senior Supply Department officials of Kalahandi have been suspended for negligence in duty and conniving with a storage agent, operating in Thuamul- Rampur.

The agent had misappropriated rice under PDS, BPL and Antodaya schemes. The Kalahandi Collector said during investigation on Sunday, Civil Supply Officer Rajendra Dehuri, Additional Civil Supply Officer Bikram Mahji, two market inspectors Susanta Hota and Niranjan Dash were suspended.

The agent Durga Naik had not supplied BPL and Antodaya rice to dealers and consumers for more than six months.

NGO claims 250 dead due to cholera in Orissa

Times of India, Sept 1, 2007

NEW DELHI: Nearly 250 people have died of cholera in three districts of southern Orissa recently, an NGO claimed on Sunday.

The official death toll in the outbreak has been put at 115.

"Official figures are being kept deliberately low in order to minimise the amount of compensation. If the government reveals the true figure, they would have to offer compensation to many more families," a press release issued by ActionAid said.

The disease had mostly spread in tribal-dominated districts of Koraput, Rayagada and Kalahandi. The state government has announced compensation of Rs 10,000 to the families of the dead.

"The affected people are tribals who suffer from widespread discrimination and official neglect," the NGO alleged.

The state government should invest in repairing the defunct tube wells, disinfecting water sources and scale up medical facilities in the tribal pockets, it said.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Cholera, diarrhoea epidemic claims 171 lives in Orissa

The Hindu, Sept 1, 2007

KASHIPUR (Orissa): The death toll in the diarrhoea and cholera outbreak in the State rose to 171 on Friday and the epidemic spread to new areas.

While many people suffering from diarrhoea were admitted to the Tikiri primary health centre in Kashipur on Friday, the death toll rose to 66 in the tribal-dominated block in Rayagada district.

No doctor

A visit to some hospitals and affected villages showed that the PHC never had electricity and there was no doctor for nearly one year until cholera deaths were reported from a majority of the villages under the 20 gram panchayats in Kashipur.

Electricity was provided and a doctor posted at the health centre only after people of Kucheipadar organised a road blockade on August 22. Fresh cases were reported from the Podagada area in the Dasmantpur block of Koraput district.

Four students of the Podagada girls’ school were admitted to the local primary health centre.

While the official death toll increased to 73 in the block on Friday, it was 78 in the district.

The Kashipur and Dasmantpur blocks have been badly hit by the epidemic, while 27 deaths have been reported from the Thuamul Rampur block of neighbouring Kalahandi district.

Unofficial reports, however, indicated that the death toll in the three districts increased to 297, 180 in Kashipur, 90 in Dasmantpur and 27 in Thuamul Rampur.

Congress’ claim

The Opposition Congress on Thursday said it had already prepared a list of 350 persons who had fallen victim to diarrhoea and cholera.

Lok Shakti Abhiyan, an organisation working in the backward KBK region, also claimed that at least 300 people had died in the districts of Rayagada, Koraput and Kalahandi. Its president Prafulla Samantara alleged that government neglected the health sector in rural areas.

Meanwhile, stray cases of diarrhoea were reported in distant Mayurbhanj district also.

It’s an epidemic!

The Statesman, Sept 1, 2007
Statesman News Service

BHAWANIPATNA, Aug. 31: The Orissa government has finally admitted that an epidemic has hit the state. Collector, Kalahandi, Mr Pramod Chandra Pattnaik, said that according to reports received from the health department, the number of deaths due to diarrhoea and gastroenteritis, stands at 27 across four gram panchayats. Whether the outbreak is cholera or not can only be said after proper laboratory tests, he said. Since these areas are not easily accessible, it is difficult to reach the people. Water pollution and unhygienic living conditions have made matters worse, he said.
To combat the menace, five mobile health service and two health camps have been set up. Two NGOs have been asked to organise additional health camps. Twenty-three villages across Talanagi, Gopinathpur and Adri are water logged. Three power boats have are being used to reach these pockets.
Mr Pattnaik said people in these pockets are being provided employment as part of the NREGS despite it being the rainy season. Steps have been taken to provide rice as part of the public distribution system. To organise health services and public distribution, three block development officers and one tehsildar have been assigned to the affected areas. Mr Pattnaik also condemned three photographers for publishing pictures of dead bodies floating in the Indravati reservoir. He said those were fake pictures taken in 2004 when a boat had capsized in the reservoir.

Gastro havoc in Kalahandi

The New Indian Express, Sept 1, 2007

BHAWANIPATNA: Death roll due to diarrhoea and gastroenteritis is rising in predominantly tribal Thuamul Rampur block of Kalahandi.

Non-official sources put the toll at above 50, whereas Health Department sources put it at 27 so far.

Kalahandi Collector Pramod Chandra Pattnaik confirmed at a press meet here on Friday that from the reports received from Health Department officials, the death roll due to diarrhoea and gastroenteritis is 27 in four GPs - Talanagi, Gopinathpur, Adri and Kerpai gram panchayats.

Whether it is cholera or not can only be confirmed after proper laboratory test, he said. To combat the diseases five mobile health service van have been deployed and two health camps organised.

Besides two NGOs and Vedanta have been asked to organise health camps. As 23 villages in Talanagi, Gopinathpur and Adri areas are waterlogged by Indravati Project Reservoir, three power boats have been pressed into service to reach the areas.

It is programmed to take up NREGS in the affected areas to provide work to people. Steps have been taken to provide rice under PDS to the area.

To organise health camp, start NREGS work and PDS, three BDOs and one tehsildar have been deputed to the affected areas under sub-collector, Bhawanipatna, Ranjit Mohanty.

During the press meet, Collector termed three photographs published in a vernacular daily depicting dead bodies floating in Indravati reservoir as false. He said the bodies are of victims of a boat capsize.

Cholera toll reaches 171 in tribal region

The Pioneer, Sept 1, 2007
Pioneer News Service | Bhubaneswar

Officials of the State Government Archives (SGA) got an unusual visitor on Thursday. A top mandarin visited the SGA premises to find out the documents relating to the worst 1781 cholera epidemic in Puri. In 1781, during the Rath Yatra, cholera took an epidemic form and wiped out thousands of lives of the devotees.

The book by Peters, JC (1875) titled A History of the Travels of Asiatic Cholera in Asia and Europe cited from Baron, AL (1958), has recorded the incident in details. The mandarin was in search of the steps taken during that period to control the epidemic.

This move clearly exposes the weakness of the State Government, which is clueless as to how to control the cholera epidemic that has broken out in districts of the KBK region. The death toll, according to the health workers engaged in the affected area say, has gone up beyond 200, though the Government records maintain it at 171.

With the development of science and technology, the cholera epidemic had gone out of public memory in the civilised world. "Now that the history is repeated after centuries in modern Orissa with hundreds of tribals succumbing to the killer disease is a shame in the civilised world, which speaks volumes of the incompetence and apathy of the rulers of the State," said a former health administrator.

In 2001, these areas of Rayagada and Koraput districts had become infamous following more than 50 deaths allegedly due to consumption of contaminated mango kernel by tribals. The then Chief Secretary DP Baghchi was credited with a statement, "Mango kernel is a staple food of locals," which created a hue and cry in the media and among political circles. At that time, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had promised a package for the poverty-stricken tribals.

More than a thousand crore of rupees has been pumped in the KBK region by the Government of India, while alleging the Centre's apathy, the Chief Minister has started his Government's own Biju KBK Yojana. The result is for every one to see.

NGOs active in Rayagada, Koraput and Kalahandi districts allege that tribals are dying like flies due to rotten food, contaminated water and very little medical attention. People in the inaccessible areas are forced to drink unclean water, although the district administration has been spending huge funds in the name of accelerated rural water supply scheme (ARWSS) of the Rural Development Department.

Bhawanipatna epidemic toll 64

The Pioneer, Sept 1, 2007
Bikash Khemka | Bhawanipatna

Even as the Government claimed the death toll to be 27 and that the situation was under control, unofficial sources say that as many as 64 people have died and many more are battling with life in the epidemic- hit Thumal Rampur block.

Official sources said 21 died of diarrheoa and 6 of cholera from the Gopinathpur, Adri, Maligaon Gram Panchayats in the 57 health camps. The CDMO and ADMO have been staying for the last four days. Meanwhile, 20,000 halogen tablets, 21,450 ORS packets have been distributed. 23 wells and 242 of tube wells have been disinfested in these GPs. Three powerboats, 7 medico teams have been pressed in to service where each team will treat at least 100 people. Twelve hundred mosquito nets have also been distributed and four NGOs have been roped in for providing healthcares.

People have been provided rice since August 29 and legal action against the storage agent was decided to be taken where rice under PDS was siphoned off .

Meanwhile, former Minister Bhakta Charan Das visited the infected areas on Thursday and said that district administration has completely failed in relief operation. It is unfortunate that there is no all weather road to Adri Gram Panchayat for which doctors went to the villages by cycle to look after the infected people, he lamented.

The situation in Pengdhusi village under Adri Gram Panchayat is critical as one died on Thursday during my visit and 12 others already died on Wednesday and 25 more infected are languishing without health care and food and drinking water. No doctor has reached the village, he added.