Postcards from the Republic of Hunger

People of Balangir district of the infamous KBK region of Odisha want food, not government schemes to provide food


Prasanna Mohanty | March 29, 2010

Starvation deaths and Orissa have become synonymous. It does not raise eyebrows anymore. Nobody loses sleep over them, least of all the local administration. A series of reports has appeared in a national daily pointing out that about 50 people have perished to hunger in Balangir (one of the three districts infamous as KBK, along with Korapur and Kalahandi) alone in the past two to three years. Not even a perfunctory inquiry has been ordered. The local media has, more or less, ignored the tragedy. If at all, the issue is being debated by civil society groups but the bone of contention is that the figure might be exaggerated. The state human rights commission has made a bold move to visit the affected areas but its report will take some time.

A quarter of a century ago, when starvation deaths first shook the nation’s conscience, big plans were made and a lot of money was pumped in to provide food and reduce poverty in the KBK region. A long-term action plan (LTAP) was made, which was then rechristened with some modification as a Revised LTAP plan. Then came the Biju KBK plan. The KBK districts were reconstituted into eight districts to improve administration. All that planning is meaningless now because all that has been done on paper. There is nothing on the ground to show.

The KBK region continues to languish in poverty, particularly Balangir. A huge chunk of population migrates out every year in search of work. Though there are no official records, civil society groups put the figure at 100,000 (of a total population of about 15 lakh). Most of them go to Andhra Pradesh to work at brick kilns. They go half-fed, suffer from various diseases because of poor nutrition and die young. According to Umi Daniel of a non-governmental agency, Aide et Action, South Asia, who studies problems of migration and related issues, the average life expectancy of the migrants is 40 years.

The government has various schemes to ensure that nobody goes hungry. Subsidised ration is provided to BPL and APL families. Then there are ICDS, mid-day meal scheme, Antyodyaya Anna Yojana and Annapurna Yojana to take care of the needy. But a large number of these migrants, who qualify as BPL families, don’t get any benefit. The BPL list has not been updated since 1997. No BPL also means they are denied other benefits like pension for widows (one has to fill in the BPL card number in the form), Indira Awas Yojana and other such schemes. The food-for-work carried out under the KBK plan has been discontinued. Work under NREGS is hard to come by because the average number of days of work is less than half the mandatory 100 days. And since the migrant families are mostly landless and the state has poor irrigation facilities, it is that much harder for them to work in the fields as farm labourers. Months leading to the monsoon are, therefore, the toughest to survive.

The central government may be working towards a right to food bill but these migrants of Balangir are doomed to die young--to disease and starvation, thanks to an inept government and years of negligence and absence of alternative sources of employment.



Other News

COP28 discusses climate resilient development in Himalayas

Impacts and implications of Climate Change Vulnerability in the Himalayan Region and ways of creating ‘Climate Resilient Development in Indian Himalayan Region by making mountain communities green and resilient were discussed the side event hosted at the India pavilion at the UN Climate Conference CO

Air Pollution: What needs to be done to tame the silent killer

Air pollution in Delhi has been in headlines, as every year in recent times. Mumbai too has suffered from air pollution, despite being a coastal city. Apart from many other metros such as Bangalore and Kolkata, tier-I and -II cities and rural areas also have high pollution levels. Every year reports and st

Free food grains for 81.35 cr beneficiaries for five years

The central government will provide free food grains to about 81.35 crore beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) for a period of five years with effect from January 1, 2024, the cabinet decided on Wednesday. Terming it as a “historic decision”, a

“I wrote ‘Survival at Stake’ to provide food for thought about solutions”

Survival at Stake: How Our Treatment of Animals Is Key to Human Existence By Poorva Joshipura HarperCollins, 328 pages, Rs 499 With science now recognising animal consciousness, intelligence, emotion, and even morality, there must rise an awareness of

‘Bon Voyage’ through the Arctic: Exploring new horizons for India

India`s tryst with trade through the Arctic regions, including the Northern Sea Routes (NSR), has become an impact-making endeavor recently. The Arctic of yore is now a pivot – point of geopolitics, of climate change discussions, and for economic opportunities; 40% of oil and gas reserves said to be

Demystifying Contemporary Finance Theory and other lessons in investment

Investing Decoded: Simple Path To Building A Portfolio In Millions By Anirudh Rathore Penguin India, 320 pages, Rs 499

Visionary Talk: Amitabh Gupta, Pune Police Commissioner with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now


Current Issue


Facebook Twitter Google Plus Linkedin Subscribe Newsletter