Belpahari, Aug. 31: A team working on behalf of the Supreme Court visited impoverished villages in the Belpahari police station area of West Midnapore for three days, interviewing villagers on their penury.
The four-member team led by Chiraranjan Pal and Sukumar Gayen, visited Bamundiha, Namopara, Dompara, Amlashol, Kankrajhor and Shimulpal on behalf of the adviser to commissioners appointed by the apex court. The commissioners monitor implementation of the court’s orders on right to food.
A report will be submitted to commissioners N.C. Saxena and Harsh Mander and a copy forwarded to the state government.
The visit comes in the wake of The Telegraph’s report last week on the death of a tribal woman, Anchala Pramanick, after going without food for almost a week at Namopara in Belpahari, about 250 km from Calcutta.
When Pal and other team members arrived at a ration shop at Bamundiha on August 27, the owner Ashish Kar was absent. His brothers Biman and Jalad were selling foodgrain without giving receipts.
Pal identified himself and asked why receipts were not being given. When Biman replied that receipt slips were exhausted, several villagers protested. “This is the practice here. Receipts are never given,” said Mriganka Das, a villager.
“Five years ago, we had protested against malpractices of the ration dealer. But no steps were taken,” said another villager, Biswajit Pal.
At Kankrajhor and Shimulpal, ration shops were found closed for the past two weeks.
Pal and his team visited Anchala’s house on August 28 and found the secretary of the Belpahari gram panchayat, Tarak Chandra Dandapat, filling in some forms for her husband Nibaran. Dandapat told him Nibaran would get Rs 10,000 under the National Family Benefit Scheme and his name would also be proposed for the Indira Abas Yojana, which would fetch another Rs 25,000.
Anchala’s daughter Habi broke down. “If this money had come a little earlier, my mother would not have died of starvation,” she said.
The team found that Shyamal Midya of Dompara had 12 below poverty line (BPL) cards for his family but was unable to get any grain for the last two weeks. “Whenever we go to the shop, we are told foodgrain only for those above poverty line had arrived,” said Shyamal.