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Village woes

Print edition : Sep 21, 2007 T+T-

IN August 2001, hordes of politicians, human rights activists and the media visited Bilamal village in Kashipur block following the death of four people allegedly because of starvation and consumption of unhygienic food. Many fell ill after eating gruel made of mango kernel. The authorities promised all help, including allotment of dwelling units under the Indira Awas Yojana, to the tribal-dominated village. But all this was just hot air.

Ten people, including two children, have died of cholera and diarrhoea in Bilamal this year. Again, no help has reached the village.

Dukhu Majhi, a villager, said they had no work and no money to go to hospital. The authorities started giving us medicines free at the Tikiri health centre last week, he said.

Every year during the monsoon months we have no work and have little food, said Milka Nayak, another villager. He said many villagers who had worked in two separate projects under the food-for-work scheme were waiting for their wages for a long time. At least 60 people have not been paid their wages for the Soil Conservation Departments work nearly a year ago, he said.

Fear of disease and death has increased with the onset of the monsoon. But authorities have chosen to underplay the seriousness of the situation.

Twenty deaths in the entire Kashipur block hit headlines in 2001. The official death toll this year is 51. The unofficial figure varies from 95 to 180.

Prafulla Das