The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mynah is meat, not pet, in hunger belt

Amlashol (West Midnapore), June 13: Little Lakshmi had bunked school. He wandered into the forest and came home delighted with a mynah he had trapped.

It was to be the pet he wanted for a long time.

Outside their hut, mother Rohini Sabar was rolling a rope of weeds. She, too, was delighted to see the bird, but only as a source of nutrition. “Pets can wait, let my children have some good food like roasted meat,” Rohini snapped at Lakshmi.

The abject poverty of the tribals in Amlashol has become an emotive issue in Bengal with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee admitting that conditions of starvation prevail in remote area of the district.

More than 20 families of the Lodh and Sabar community at Amlashol, nearly 260 km from Calcutta, cannot afford a square meal a day and often go without food for days.

“We live on a few grains of rice and a pinch of salt and when we cannot afford even that we have to go hungry. If we are lucky, we manage to find plants and tubers from the forest — then we can save the rice for another day,” said Lakshmi’s father Gurucharan.

However, his family would not have to go hungry today. Lakshmi managed to get a few wild dates from the forest.

“I skipped school today, otherwise someone else would have plucked them away. There is no rice at home and we would have had to fast if I did not get these,” a dejected Laksmi said.

Lalu Sabar and his family have been using rice sparingly for the last few days. “We boiled the rice in water and had the starch for the last couple of days. Today we will have a portion of it mixed with the remaining starch and have the rice tomorrow. Right now I have no idea what we will have for the day after tomorrow,” Lalu said.

His wife was making a broom from bamboo shoots which would fetch her 80 paise. “I have to prepare at least 10 brooms to buy a kilogram of rice. These will take a few days as I have to dry them before they can be sold. So we have no idea when we will be able to buy some rice,” she said.

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