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Buddha admits state of starvation

Calcutta/Midnapore, June 11: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today stopped just short of saying there had been hunger deaths in West Midnapore, but conceded that “conditions of starvation” prevailed in some remote areas of the district.

Five starvation deaths had been reported from Amlashol in Belpahari region of the district, about 250 km from Calcutta, over the past four months.

“I was extremely worried after reading reports of starvation deaths in Amlashol. The district magistrate has already submitted a report on these deaths.

“However, instead of going into the causes of these deaths, I want to say that it is a remote area with poverty, hunger, lack of healthcare and drinking water facilities,” a grim Bhattacharjee said at Writers’ Buildings this evening.

Listing the number of people he had already despatched for damage control, he continued: “I had asked the DM to submit a report, the district police superintendent has also informed me. The sabhadhipati visited the area today and I have also asked Maheswar Murmu (MoS for Paschim Anchal Unnayan affairs) to go there tomorrow.”

A jarring note was, however, struck by district magistrate Chandan Sinha. “I have visited the area but no one has complained to me about starvation deaths,” he said. Murmu, too, insisted “there has been no starvation death during the 27 years of Left Front rule”.

But Bhattacharjee glossed over both statements. Carrying on in his earlier vein, he said: “Deaths are unfortunate, and deaths due to starvation are even more so… the government is focusing on fast improvement of agriculture, irrigation, drinking water facilities and primary health centres in the remote areas.”

Chief secretary Asok Gupta will shortly hold a meeting on the backward regions of Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore. The Paschim Anchal Unnayan Parshad, of which Murmu is the chairman, will look into the development of these regions.

“There was a crash programme of Rs 2 crore for the area’s development two years ago. Now, we are getting Rs 45 crore for three years from the Planning Commission for improvement of the backward regions of West Midnapore and South 24-Parganas. We will see to it that the poor and most backward regions benefit from this,” Bhattacharjee said.

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