Western Odisha has always been in the news, albeit for all wrong reasons.
Two years ago, Jhintu Bariha of Chabripali village under Khaprakhol block of Balangir died along with five members of his family due to alleged malnutrition.
This year, tribal Siba Naik (65) died of malnutrition and hunger on July 8. A Dalit labourer Kapil Hans of Gobindpur village under Tribanpur gram panchayat of Rairakhol block died of starvation in July. Two months later, Jhirla Kisan (60), a woman from village Dhudipali under Jamankira block in Sambalpur, reportedly died under similar circumstances.
On December 4, Jatra Khilar (60) of San Dangaghat village in Reamal block of Deogarh district died of malnutrition. Bishnu Majhi (42) and his wife Parbati (37) of Sargimunda village in Balangir district also died for the same reason in a span of 13 hours on December 8 and 9.? For all these people, food had become a luxury.
Sources said the number of deaths could be higher with many such incidents in interior pockets going unreported in this part of the State, where hunger and starvation persist scandalously. Because of a number of problems, ranging from livelihood crisis and indebtedness to distress migration, prolonged malnutrition and non-implementation of government schemes, starvation amongst the region’s population is not at all uncommon.?? While it is a known fact that schemes such as MGNREGS, Old Age Pension, Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and Public Distribution System are not implemented properly, the State Government has so far refuted that any of these deaths were due to malnutrition or starvation.
The victims neither had a BPL card nor were enrolled under any of the welfare schemes. And apart from livelihood issues and resultant poverty, the starving people had no access to healthcare facilities.