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Nutrition deficit in shut tea garden

Alipurduar, Nov. 25: A medical camp conducted by a Siliguri-based voluntary organisation on the closed Dheklapara tea estate today found that nearly 80 per cent of the 326 people examined were suffering from malnutrition.

Health officials said a “good number of people” out of those checked today had eye problems caused by vitamin deficiency and tuberculosis and worms in their stomach.

The garden in Jalpaiguri district has been shut since 2002 and around 15 people died in the garden of suspected malnutrition in the past two months.

“Eight years ago we had visited the garden and distributed food grains among the people. Recently, we came to know about a number of starvation deaths, although the state government is denying it. We had made a thorough survey in the main division of the garden and decided to organise a health camp,” said Avijit Majumder, the president of Siliguri Welfare Organisation that conducted the daylong camp today.

“We conducted a survey primarily on the Body Mass Index (BMI) which indicates the nutrition levels,” he added.

Debasish Mukherjee, a doctor from Calcutta who was part of the camp, said: “At least 80 per cent of the 326 persons we checked today are suffering from malnutrition. A good number of people are also suffering from eye problems because of vitamin deficiency. Lot of people have tuberculosis and worms have been detected in the stomachs of some of them. We have distributed medicines among the garden people.”

Around 253 mosquito nets and 450 blankets were also distributed in the garden.

Four doctors and 25 members of the organisation attended the health camp today.

According to Majumder, 100 girls in the age group of 15 to 25 years were found to be “underweight”.

Swapan Samjhar, a garden worker, said: “The pipelines for the supply of drinking water are in a deplorable condition. People collect water either from a deep tube well in the main division or go to Bandapani, nearly 2km away.”

Majumdar said occasional health camps would not be helpful to the garden workers.

“This kind of sporadic relief will not help the people much. The garden needs to be reopened,” he said.

Majumdar added that the organisation was preparing a report based on today’s findings and it would be sent to the Centre and the state government.

“We have heard about the poor condition of the people in Nepania division (the out division of the garden) and we plan to go there the next time,” Majumdar said.

The garden had around 600 workers when it was shut.