The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Idle cash piles up in hungry belt

Amlashol, Aug. 24: Anchala Pramanick of West Midnapore’s Namopara died this week after surviving on water for seven days.

Water there is aplenty in Belpahari — the rain has been pouring without mercy — and so is money. Crores of rupees are lying unused in the area’s development kitty. But it’s been days since villagers have had a grain of rice on their plates.

After Anchala’s death, two other stories of starvation surfaced in the area today.

Sukra Shabar of Amlashol and his family haven’t eaten for two days. Shabar has no work and no money.

In Banspahari, a hungry Bharati Mahato lies on jute bags and tattered mattresses. Bharati, who used to beg for a living, now begs for death.

At a time when the tribals of the backward Belpahari, under Binpur-II block, are struggling to get two square meals a day, about Rs 4 crore, allotted by the Centre and the state government for various development projects, has remained unspent.

Most villagers here make a living by selling sal or kendu leaves, but the rains have left them sodden and worthless. The projects would have given them jobs and some money to buy food.

“Initially, we did have problems using the funds because of restrictions before the Assembly elections. But recently we spent Rs 40 lakh on implementing some schemes,” said district magistrate D. Nariala.

But a trip to a few gram panchayats like Belpahari revealed that the rural bodies under Binpur-II block had not started any project.

The pradhan of the Belpahari gram panchayat, Ruprekha Hembram, said she has received Rs 4.9 lakh. “But we could not begin any work because of the monsoon,” she said.

Villagers, however, are not buying any of these reasons. “When Amlashol and starvation deaths figured prominently in the media, we had government officers and NGOs rushing to help us. But over the past five months, not a single development project has been taken up,” said Tamal Das of Amlashol.

funds flow

Money that has remained unspent in Binpur-II block:

  • Rashtriya Samabikash Yojana: Rs 50 lakh

  • Food for Work: Rs 1.5 crore

  • Construction of seven health sub-centres: Rs 31.5 lakh

  • MPs’ local area development fund: Rs 60.5 lakh

  • MLAs’ fund: Rs 6 lakh
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