Mamata denied starvation deaths in Bengal, but survey says state tribals have food scracity
Kolkata, Jan 7: When the Left was in power, the Opposition led by Mamata Banerjee had lashed out at the rulers of the day over the deaths in Amlashole in West Midnapore district because of starvation in 2004. It was exactly five years ago on this day (January 7) in 2014 that Banerjee, now the chief minister of West Bengal, paid a visit to Amlashole to assure that not a single life would be lost during the rule of her Trinamool Congress.
However, it was recently that seven people from a tribal community reportedly died of food scarcity in Lalgarh in Jhargram district of the state and this time, the government of Banerjee was in the firing line. The government denied that the deaths were caused by starvation but a survey has found the prevalence of "food scarcity in varying degrees" in about 31 per cent of tribal households in the state.
According to The Hindu, the study titled 'An Inquiry into the world of the Adivasis of West Bengal' and conducted by Nobel laureate Professor Amartya Sen's Pratichi Institute and Asiatic Society, which was to be released on Monday, January 7, said communities were "far behind" in terms of human development. The survey covered 1,000 tribal households to understand their living conditions, education and health.
Bengal has over five million tribal people accounting for six per cent of the country's tribal population. However, in several areas, the tribals are "far behind" in terms of human development. One area of concern is the scarcity of food and that "nearly one third [31%] of the surveyed households" reportedly faced "food scarcity in varying degrees" in the past one year.
"...While some households faced acute hunger only in some months (August-October), in many cases, people had half-meals only twice a day. Also, in some cases, adult members reportedly ate only once a day. Also, in some cases, adult members [of households] reportedly ate only once a day," the report said. Most of the families that were surveyed could hardly afford animal protein or pulses, said the report.
"Poverty-born vices like alcoholism [and] the fragility of the public health system...seemed to have resulted in a much lower life chances among the Adivasis than their more privileged co-citizens," the report added. Degradation of forest was cited as a major reason behind "reduced availability of natural nutrients" resulting in premature deaths.
The report added that the surveyed households in the year preceding the survey was 52 out of which, 48 died premature deaths while only four died because of old age.