National Human Rights Commission probes hunger deaths in Orissa

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Chabiripali (Orissa), Mar 27 (ANI): The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has conducted an on the spot probe into the reported deaths due to starvation at Orissa's Chabripali village in Balangir District.

On Saturday a team of NHRC visited the village for an in-depth inquiry.

The NHRC team headed by Damodar Sarangi ascertained relevant facts leading to the reported death of five members of a family who allegedly died of starvation in the past months.

The villagers also disclosed to the team members that their staple diet consists of mahua flowers, kendu fruit, roots of bamboo and other forest produce.

After the death of four members of a family of Jhintu Bariha, a villager who died in September 2009, the fifth member died of under nourishment at a hospital in Balangir in the month of December 2009.

Five out of seven members of the family have died and presently there are just two surviving namely Champe and Ramprasad Bariha who also are undernourished.

Sarangi did not disclose the findings of the report and said that he has discussed the report of starvation deaths with the concerned officials and took stock of the government schemes in the region.

"I went to these villages and verified whether these deaths have taken place and if so in what circumstances? What is the condition of the families there and then we also verified the social security support available in the region," said Sarangi.

"What are the government schemes, whether they have been implemented correctly or not? We also looked into the medical reports of the people who died," he added.

Sarangi further said that he would be submitting a comprehensive report to the concerned officials of NHRC.

He interacted individually with almost all the residents of Chabripali village and noted their problems.

While speaking about Jhintu Bariha, the villagers narrated his plight to Sarangi and mentioned the government has not taken any remedial measures till date.

"Jhintu Bariha was a very needy person. I can recollect that his one child died after which he consulted us and then the next day, his other child died too. Before our eyes, both his children died. The next day, his wife also fell ill and subsequently died. We found that she had not eaten for several days. Due to starvation she and her children died," said Taral Bariha, a resident of Chabripali village.

According to the Orissa Government website on the undivided Koraput, Balangir and Kalahandi region (KBK region) more than 85 percent people live below the poverty line.

The population, mainly comprising of tribals who suffer from high morbidity on account of under-nutrition and endemic malaria and other localised diseases.

Road connectivity also poses a major constraint in the region and irrigation facilities are scarce.

At present, all the eight KBK districts are ecologically disturbed and more than 50 percent of forests of these districts are degraded, aggravating the problem of poverty.

Despite federal and state government pumping in millions of rupees for the region in the past, it has not brought any development worth its name in the region. By Sarada Lahangir (ANI)

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