HUMAN TRAGEDY: Two die of hunger – Succour eludes garden – and this is the 21st Century progress under Bengal’s misery ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY AVIJIT SINHA
Siliguri, July 21: Two retired workers of Mujnai Tea Estate in the Dooars have died from malnutrition in the past one week, bringing to focus the condition of the brew belt where healthcare and food schemes elude dwellers.
Dhaniram Ganju, aged around 70 years, died after suffering from several diseases because of malnutrition and absence of healthcare facilities on July 15. He used to reside in a dilapidated hut at Factory Line in the garden. His death was followed by that of Kanchi Doli’s — also of the same age — who breathed her last yesterday afternoon. Both the septuagenarians were not included in the BPL category and they were not given old age pension either.
“The two had not got adequate food and developed several ailments with no treatment available,” said Ashish Biswas, the health assistant serving at Mujnai. “There are at least four-five other people who are in a similar state on the estate.”
G-Nesep, a Cooch Behar-based NGO, claimed that it had specifically told the block development officer of Birpara-Madarihat about the condition of Dhaniram and Kanchi a month back.
“We have been working on the plight of tea workers in the Dooars and held a survey on four gardens in Birpara-Madarihat block in April and May. When we collected data in Mujnai, it was found that at least 15 people, most of them retired workers, have been spending days without any medical care and enough food. After the survey, we met the BDO on June 15 and submitted a list of these people who needed help. We requested the officer to provide the workers with old age pension, food and medicine. We had specifically mentioned that some of them are in vulnerable conditions and might die any day,” said Partha Pratim Sarkar, the director of the NGO.
However, the BDO, he alleged, was nonchalant and did not take any step.
“Finding that nothing has been done on his part, we again made a list of seven people, including Dhaniram and Kanchi, and submitted a memorandum to him on July 14. It was on the very next day that Dhaniram died. While Dhaniram’s name was included in the old age pension list by the (Madarihat) panchayat on July 15, Kanchi was never considered for the scheme.We feel if the BDO had acted promptly, the two persons could have lived longer,” said Sarkar.
The deaths have spurred the administration into action. The other five persons named by Sarkar were today given food and an ex-gratia of Rs 120 each. But they have not yet been included in the old age pension scheme.
A senior citizen in the BPL category is paid Rs 500 a month under the pension scheme. There are also several other government programmes which offer food to poor people. While food grain is supplied free of cost to old and poor people under General Relief, rice and wheat are made available at Rs 2 and Re 1 per kg respectively under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana to any BPL family.
The Madarihat panchayat denied that Dhaniram and Kanchi had died from starvation.
“It is unfortunate that the letter mentioning Dhaniram’s enrolment as a beneficiary in the old age pension scheme reached us the day he died. However, I found out during my inquiry that the two had died of old age ailments and not because of starvation,’ said Nisith Pal, the executive assistant of the panchayat.
The official admitted that the duo were not beneficiaries of any government welfare scheme. He rushed to Mujnai today to inquire into the deaths and report to the BDO office.
The Mujnai estate, 150km from here, had been closed down four times in the past 10 years.
The BDO, Naved Akhtar, also said geriatric diseases had caused the deaths of the retired labourers.
“Implementation of welfare schemes for the BPL people, particularly in tea plantations, is being consistently monitored by us. It is true that two persons have died in Mujnai but it would be wrong to say they have died because of shortage of food. The BMOH (block medical officer of health) has given me a report, saying they have died from diseases,” he said.
Akhtar evaded any queries on the NGO’s more specific charge that he had not taken any step to provide succour to Dhaniram and Kanchi.
Parent in school with chopper – bully at home, bully at school or mentally ill ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Raiganj, July 21: A chopper-wielding guardian of a student today barged into the premises of a high school here after his son fell ill drinking water laced with alum.
Jayanta Roy was, however, overpowered by the teachers and security guards of Sarada Vidya Mandir and was handed over to police. A complaint was lodged with Raiganj police against him.
The father of one of the three other students, who had fallen sick after drinking the water, has lodged another complaint with Raiganj police blaming the school authorities for their negligence.
Sources said a Class V student had brought the bottle of water mixed with alum. Three of his friends had started vomiting in the classroom after drinking it.
Principal Rajeev Kumar Verma said the students were immediately taken to the Raiganj district hospital but were released after being given medicines.
The doctor who attended to the students at the emergency ward of the hospital said the boys did not suffer any serious damage because the dose of alum was low. “Alum is not poisonous. But a heavy dose may cause enteric diseases.”
Verma said around 1pm he was attracted by a noise while taking a class. “As I came out, I found the guardian, armed with a chopper, threatening everyone in the school. When he saw me, he started advancing towards me.”
The principal said the teachers tried to pacify the guardian saying that his son was safe. But he was in no mood to listen to them.
The school authorities summoned the guardian of the student who had brought the water mixed with alum. The boy’s father apologised and the student was let off with a warning, Verma said.
School gatekeeper Manoranjan Saha said Jayanta Roy had rammed into the gate of the school with his motorcycle and entered the school premises. He threatened him with dire consequence when challenged.
Roy, a retired BSF official, said he had been working in the garden with the chopper when he heard about his son’s illness. “When I heard the news, I became very nervous. It never occurred to me that I was carrying the chopper. I had no evil intention,” Roy said. He, however, denied having threatened anybody in the school.
Inspector-in-charge of the Raiganj police station Sujit Ghosh said an inquiry had begun on the basis of the two complaints.
Ration grouse – Bengal ration system needs serious rehaul ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, July 21: Two associations representing over 17,000 ration shop dealers in Bengal moved the Supreme Court today, demanding better pay and working conditions for their members.
The associations demanded a “pay commission” to fix minimum salaries, protection for the members against “mob fury” and electronic weighing machines and computers to stop allegations of diversion.
The West Bengal M.R. Dealers Association and the All Bengal Fair Price Shop Dealers’ Welfare Association claimed they were “unable to earn enough” from ration shops.
“In fact, a daily earning of a street beggar is more than the monthly income of a dealer,” the petition said, claiming that the dealer earned only Rs 3,500 per month. The associations claimed the state government had acted illegally and arbitrarily by not increasing their commission.
Below poverty line beneficiaries are entitled to get 20kg of rice and 15kg of wheat each month. However, supplies were not sufficient to meet the requirements.
The associations also urged the court to do away with family-based ration cards and instead give cards individually.
Office plunder for delay – and it understands only one language ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Behrampore, July 21: Around 400 villagers ransacked a food department office and broke computers and furniture to protest a delay in the submission process of applications for ration cards in Behrampore town today.
The villagers, who had queued up in front of the office at 9.30pm, alleged that the submission process was slow.
There were only four counters for 400 people. Matters became worse when one of the officials left his counter on the pretext of drinking water and did not return for an hour.
“A group of people barged into the office and threw chairs and tables. Others in the queue joined them and the mob hurled computers on the ground. They also overturned almirahs,” a police officer said.
Some in the mob entered circle inspector Kalyan Kumar Das’s office and tried to hit him with a chair. “But I was saved as the legs of the chair got stuck in the iron grille of one of the windows,” the food department official said.
The villagers escaped when the police arrived. However, the food department officials caught two of the protesters and beat them up with broken parts of the chairs. The duo had to be hospitalised.