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Starvation stirs hunger bowl

Bhubaneswar, May 15: Five people from separate families in Bolangir, suffering from weakness due to “starvation”, were released from district headquarters hospital today.

With their cases, the hunger bowl of India — as Bolangir is known — is once more under scanner, as the patients’ families alleged that the five had gone hungry for several days before falling ill. They were admitted to a hospital on Monday.

Bipin Nag (60), Abhel Harpal (60), Radha Nag (75), Pancha Nag (40) and Jamuna Mahanand (45) of Jharnipali village in Agalpada panchayat samiti of Bolangir were admitted to Loisingha primary health centre yesterday, after they complained of weakness. They were later shifted to Bolangir district headquarters hospital.

Angry villagers alleged that the PDS rice, distributed under Antodaya and Annapurna schemes, has not being distributed to the villages for months now. They further added that the PDS supplies were being withheld for more than two months.

However, Bolangir collector R. Sant Gopalan denied the allegations. Also, Chittaranjan Panigrahi, the doctor treating the five at Bolangir district headquarters hospital said the villagers were victims of “mild to moderate dehydration” and were released after being administered IV fluids and ORS solution. “There were no symptoms of starvation,” said Panigrahi.

The collector further defended himself by saying that the allegation (of PDS supply being held up for more than two months) was an “exaggeration”. “There might have been a delay of one week at the most, but no more,” he said, adding that steps have been taken to normalise PDS rice distribution in the block.

Subcollector Nagendra Mund, who visited the spot, admitted that the executive officer has been on a leave for the past one month, after he was “threatened” by a local strongman. “But we are still supplying the rice, irrespective of whether retailer licences were renewed or not. Besides, the elderly persons were regularly receiving their pension,” he said.

But Opposition leaders believe that the situation in the district has worsened in the past seven years. “The PDS in the block is in complete disarray. Licences of 46 PDS distributors have not been renewed since March 31 and there has been no distribution of rice to beneficiaries since then,” alleged former Loisingha MLA Balgopal Mishra, adding that several cases of starvation go unreported. “Starvation would be ‘imminent’ in the entire district unless the PDS is resumed soon,” he said.

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