Lawngtai (Mizoram), Apr 23 : Famine relief operations are underway in Mizoram as the remote state is hit by acute food shortage after an army of rats devoured rice crops.
According to the state's Food and Supplies department, this year, the food shortage has affected about 630,000 people, nearly 70 per cent of the 900,000esidents of Mizoram.
However, no starvation deaths have been reported so far.
The people of Mizoram fear bamboo flowering, the harbinger of famine.
"We have a food crisis. I sometime worked in NREGS when we get the pay and we eat for two to four days with it. After that we hunt for wild potatoes in the forests," said Sitibu, a villager. Officials said that rats multiply in abundance whenever the rare bamboo flowering occurs as they feed on these flowers and then go about feasting on standing crops and granaries.
State authorities along with various Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs)pearheaded by the Central Young Lusai Association (CYLA) of Lawngtai districtre providing relief to the people under Action Aid program to avert hunger.
"Our main objective is to work together with the Action Aid against this mounting famine. We do not allow the losts of even a single life due to this famine," said L.Z Tluanga, President of the Central Young Mizo Association.
Last year, farmers in Mizoram had reaped only a fifth of the expected rice production, enough for just two months' consumption.
Popularly referred to as 'poor man's timber', bamboo has been an integral part of Mizoram. 'Manta' or the gregarious bamboo flowering is a phenomenon that occurs once in almost five decades.
Earlier in 1959, the state witnessed similar conditions when bamboo had flowered in this hilly outpost. Rats had feasted on the small green bamboo fruits, breeding in millions. When the fruit was exhausted, the rodents swept like a plague through paddy fields, leading to widespread food shortages.
According to scientists, bamboo fruit bears a unique enzyme, which develops theertility of rodents leading to an increase in their population.
According to an estimate by the State Agriculture Department, this would cause a loss of over 75 per cent of the crop this year.