Malda, March 27: The food commissioner of Bengal has sought a report from the Malda district magistrate on a starvation death that appeared in The Telegraph on January 5.
The report of Nekia Chowdhury’s death on January 1 in Naranpur had stirred the district administration, but not enough for any action that would end the sufferings of the 500 families living on an island of the Ganga, 40 km from here.
However, the notice from food commissioner K. Choudhury’s office, dated February 7, prompted district magistrate Chittaranjan Das to visit the island along with block development officer (BDO) of Manikchak Sandip Nag.
Earlier, after the receipt of the food commissioner’s letter, Das had on March 1 instructed additional district magistrate (ADM) Abdul Khalek to inform all the 11 BDOs in Malda to disburse immediately funds under poverty-alleviation schemes so that “incidents such as these” do not recur. These letters, too, had a copy of The Telegraph reporting Nekia’s death attached to them.
The ADM’s letter also said all “starvation-like” conditions should be reported immediately to the district magistrate’s office.
On his return from Naranpur today, Das said: “I had never been to the area since I took charge last year. Things there are not good at all. We will decide soon the schemes that can be introduced there and the kind of work that can be provided.”
According to Khalek, there are there are many state and central schemes to provide relief to the poverty-stricken. “And if they are not made available to them, why are we there in the administration'” said Khalek.
He said another couple on the char, Ratan and Kamali Chowdhury, was almost starving. “They are not the only ones. There are others too. I have instructed the BDOs to distribute cards under the Annapurna Yojna. They have been told to be prompt in their response,” Khalek said.
The Bechutola settlement in Naranpur where Nekia died tops the list of 28 most poverty-stricken villages in Malda district. The char is 15 square kilometres in area and is populated by over 2,500 people.
A report prepared by the district administration reveals that though there are 450 children in the two settlements of Bechutola and Dhoraitola, there are no health centres or schools on the island.