Starvation claims 4 in 7 days

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  • Published 25.02.07

Alipurduar, Feb. 25: A 59-year-old woman died after days of starvation in a closed tea garden here yesterday, taking the toll there to four in the past seven days.

Families of all four have alleged that the deaths were caused by illness resulting from lack of food for a long period.

Ramjhora Tea Estate, some 75 km from here, has been closed for four-and-a-half years.

Jyotirmoy Halder, the block medical officer, admitted that most of the people on the estate are starving. “They need food before being treated for other diseases. We have told the workers to inform us immediately when any of their family members falls ill. We’ll hospitalise them,” he said.

Like Fulmani Dey, who died yesterday, her sister Juhungi Dey is suffering from what according to the administration is a starvation-like condition. “We were ready to hospitalise her, but no one from her family was ready to accompany her,” said Halder.

“We hold camps in the panchayat office twice a week. We have asked the garden workers to attend them,” he added.

The administration handed 24 kg of rice and Rs 60 each to a dozen families today under a central poverty alleviation scheme. There are around 250 families in the garden.

Bhushan Chakraborty, Jalpaiguri district’s chief medical officer, declined comment on the starvation. Instead, he said: “We are conducting camps in the panchayat office. The garden employees should visit them… otherwise it is difficult for us to attend to them.”

According to garden employees, 133 people have died of starvation and malnutrition in the garden since it shut down on August 11, 2002. Almost half the 1,000-odd worker have left for Bhutan, 12 km away, to work in dolomite factories.

Despite the chief minis- ter’s promise to the people and order to the administration, the workers at Ramjhora have not got the Rs 500 assistance for workers of locked-out industries for the past 10 months.