The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jitters over Presidentís drought trip

Jaipur, Nov. 27: A jittery Rajasthan administration wants President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to avoid visiting Baran district, which has been in the news over the starvation death of Sahariya tribals.

The state has suggested that Kalam include the tribal belt of Udaipur division in his proposed tour itinerary next month instead of Baran, which adjoins Kota on the Madhya Pradesh border and is about 350 km from here.

Governor Anshuman Singh has sent his report on the drought to the President after Kalam sought an evaluation of the situation.

Singh got his feedback from more than one source and personally visited some of the drought-hit villages after the President expressed his desire to visit the worst drought-affected areas.

In response to a query from Rashtrapati Bhavan about the exact location of Baran district, the state government has reportedly said that it was located on the Rajasthan-Madhya Pradesh border and that it was the first year of drought in the region.

At least 20 tribals, including 11 children died of starvation last month in the districts of Baran and Shahabad. Despite the state governmentís development efforts, the Sahariyas remain a backward community, many of who claim they have never seen a train or boarded a bus.

The state administration, which denied the deaths, has also suggested that it would be better if Kalam visited the tribal belt of Banswara and Dungarpur districts in the south, which are witnessing drought for the fourth consecutive year. Relief work was also going on in these two districts, it added.

The Presidentís three-day tour of Rajasthan begins on or around December 22 and his schedule almost certainly includes the desert district of Jaisalmer bordering Pakistan. The state government has suggested that Kalam could fly directly from Jaisalmer to Udaipur.

The state administration feels that Kalam should not be taken to an area that made headlines because of the controversial starvation deaths, which, were denied by the government. It is, nevertheless, laying the groundwork in Baran in case the President decides to go there.

The state authorities have been in touch with Rashtrapati Bhavan, finalising the itinerary. Officials believe that the President himself would avoid visiting the district to avoid any embarrassment to the state government.

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