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CPI(M)says man died of starvation, Tripura govt denies claim

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Press Trust of India Agartala
The opposition CPI(M) in Tripura Thursday alleged that a tribal man recently died due to starvation in Dhalai district's Purba Gobindabari village, where people have been apparently struggling to make ends meet owing to acute shortage of food, drinking water and jobs.
Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Debbarman, however, dismissed the allegations and said the claims were "politically motivated".
A six-member delegation of the CPI(M), led by Leader of Opposition and former chief minister Manik Sarkar, on Wednesday visited Purba Gobindabari, a tribal hamlet in Longterai subdivision of the district, after receiving reports of food crisis in the area, a senior party leader said.
Radhacharan Debbarma, the state secretariat member of the CPI(M), said the delegation, of which he was a part along with MLAs Ratan Bhowmik, Mubassar Ali, visited the house of Japanda Tripura, a 78-year-old tribal man who died on January 18 in Purba Gobindabari village allegedly due to starvation.
"The family consisted of eight members, including Tripura's son, daughter-in-law and five children. The family members told us that they were facing acute shortage of food and drinking water for the past three months and no jobs were available under government schemes.
"Japanda Tripura ate nothing for four days and died of starvation," he told reporters.
Debbarma, who is also the chief executive member of Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), said the family apparently received NREGA payment of Rs 1,500 on December 10, but after that there was no work for any of the members.
"Of Rs 1500, the family had to clear their debts and buy rice and dal. As there was no job available, Japanda had to die for want of food," he claimed.
The tribals in the district subsist on forest produce, harvest of Jhum cultivation and jobs under different government schemes, the senior CPI(M) leader said.
The villagers collect 'Arjun flowers' from the forest and sell it in the market to make a living, but its rate recently dropped from Rs 25 to Rs 8, he said. Arjun flowers are primarily used to make broomsticks.
"Three months beginning from December is a lean period and people living in the hilly areas face acute drinking water crisis. Last year, the Left Front government had distributed water in tankers. But this year, no such arrangements were made. So people were drinking contaminated water from rivulets," Debbarma claimed.
The chief of the tribal council also said that many remote tribal hamlets, he visited recently, are struggling to put up with a similar crisis.
"We have decided to meet Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb soon and apprise him of the situation. We will request him to take measures on war footing to save the people," he added.
In June last year, Jitendra Chowdhury, a parliamentarian and a tribal leader of the CPI(M), had alleged that tribals from Dhalai district were migrating to Bangladesh for collecting forest produce in the wake of food crisis.
A delegation, led by him, submitted a memorandum to the chief minister, seeking appropriate measures.
Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Debbarman, when asked about the allegations, said it was far from truth.
"Man days under MGNREGA have been increased to support poor tribal families. The allegations made were far from truth and politically motivated," he said.
Talking about the migration claims, he said the government had checked the matter with appropriate agencies and found it to be "incorrect".

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First Published: Jan 31 2019 | 6:05 PM IST

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