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Caught between hunger & wild plants

Alternative to vegetables (poisonous mushrooms) leads to death in Northeast
Digboi legislator Suren Phukan meets villagers.
Digboi legislator Suren Phukan meets villagers.
Picture courtesy: Rajesh Upadhyay

Manoj Kumar Ojha   |   Doomdooma   |   Published 05.05.20, 07:13 PM

Several deaths have been reported in the Northeast following consumption of poisonous wild mushrooms by poverty-stricken families as an alternative to vegetables which they could ill-afford during the lockdown.

Two among a family of four died at Digboi in Tinsukia district of Upper Assam last week while the other two are still hospitalised. A pregnant woman, Purnima Sarma, from the same area under Golai gaon panchayat, is also hospitalised after consuming wild mushrooms. Two others, Jitu Barua and Anima Barua, are also hospitalised in Charaideo district of Assam after consuming this.

Five persons died in West Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya last week after consuming wild mushrooms collected from a nearby forest.

In the family of four, Mani Sonar, 34, and her son Bhavesh, 4, died after consuming wild mushrooms gathered from nearby forests. Mani’s husband Ajit and her daughter Sarita, 12, are still under treatment at Assam Medical College and Hospital in Dibrugarh. Purnima is also hospitalised at the AMCH.

A relative of the Sonar family said, “The family had brought mushrooms from the nearby jungle and all of them ate it. After that they started suffering from vomiting, diarrhoea, giddiness and nausea. As their condition started deteriorating, they were taken to Digboi civil hospital, where, after preliminary treatment, they were referred to Tinsukia civil hospital and then to Dibrugarh.”

A local resident said, “Mani’s family is among the poorest of the area. They are daily wagers and are jobless during the lockdown. They collected whatever vegetables they could, including mushrooms, from the forest for survival.”

However, the mother and son’s post-mortem report is still awaited to ascertain the cause of death. Sugandha, a daily wager, said they were getting enough rice from the government. “Legislators, government officials and others are helping needy people like us but the help doesn’t reach every cottage.”



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