The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Starvation stench in Amlashol again

Midnapore, April 20: The spectre of starvation has returned to haunt West Midnapore's Amlashol with a person from the Shabar tribe allegedly dying of hunger.

Last year, a panchayat samity member had raised the stink of five starvation deaths in the village. The government had contested the charge but had also initiated development work in the region.

Forty-two-year-old Lula Shabar died on Saturday after his wife Mugi and eight-year-old daughter Ledi left for his elder daughter Jaba's house in Dhobakacha village, 15 km from Amlashol, as there was no food in the house.

Villagers said it was for the same reason that Jaba, 15, had eloped with 17-year-old Budhu Shabar four days before Lula's death.

'No one was beside him when he died. The villagers arranged for the last rites and cremated his body,' said Budha Shabar of Amlashol, 220 km from Calcutta.

The administration, however, ascribed Lula's death to tuberculosis. 'Lula did not die due to starvation'. We have already inquired into the matter and found out that he was suffering from TB,' said subdivisional officer of Jhargram Ganesh Chaudhuri.

However, Kailash Mura, the panchayat samity member who had stung the government in June 2004, said malnutrition due to starvation had led to Lula's tuberculosis.

'Lula had recovered from TB but was again afflicted with the disease because of starvation and malnutrition,' said Mura, who had won on a CPM ticket but later joined the Samajwadi Party.

When Jaba's mother came to her house, she told her that Lula was ill. 'For three days, they did not have anything to eat', the 15-year-old said.

Mugi and Ledi have set off for Jharkhand in search of a job, Jaba said. 'She still does not know that father is dead.'

In Amlashol, Lula's nephew Rathu Shabar recounted Lula's ordeal. 'My uncle cried bhat dey, bhat dey (give me rice, give me rice) for three days before he died. But, from where shall we provide rice' We ourselves have virtually nothing to eat. The day before he died, we had given him some fan (starch water that is thrown away after rice is cooked). The next afternoon, he died,' said Rathu.

Asked why Lula was left without food despite the government's various development schemes, Rathu said: 'My uncle did not have any strength to work. As a result, he did not have money to buy the rice and foodgrain under poverty alleviation schemes.

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