8 months on: Salt, rice mainstay of Nagada villagers

Kaliapani: Even as eight months have passed since malnutrition deaths in hilltop Nagada village under Sukinda block in Jajpur district were reported, tribals in this area depend on salt and rice for their survival as benefits of welfare schemes still elude them.

The state government was embarrassed after news spread that 22 kids of primitive Juang tribe had died due to alleged malnutrition in these villages. It was claimed that lack of food resulted in malnutrition among the kids. The incident triggered widespread uproar in the country and drew flak from various quarters.

Even though eight months have since passed there are no signs of development in the hilltop villages. Life for the tribals is as it used to be.
The visits by several Union and state officials and announcement of various welfare schemes for the village failed to bring in any substantial changes in their lifestyles. The tribals were found rooted to their age-old practice of eating rice with salt.

In its bid to escape flak, the state government announced various developmental schemes and directed the line departments to implement them in the hilltop villages of Chingudpal panchayat under the block.

As a result, government officials and various voluntary outfits paid repeated visits to the villages and distributed free food items, drinking water, solar light, cots, medicines, water filters and items of daily use to the tribal villagers. Even cooked food was distributed to these villagers for over three months.

Five months later, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik visited the Sukinda valley and gave away land pattas to villagers, Rs 15,000 to three self-help groups. He also assured construction of a regular road to the hilltop villages December 25.
Since then two months have passed but the kids in Nagada villages were found eating rice with salt. The tube wells installed in the villages are in broken conditions while the solar lights have become defunct.

The tribal residents are living a life of deprivation and obscurity due to lack of livelihood opportunities. This has pushed them into distress. Half the money they earn from collecting firewood is spent on liquor.

Even the steps taken by the Livelihood Mission to provide cooked food to children have stopped. As a result, the kids are still eating salt and rice to kill their hunger.  PNN 

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