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Hunger Death: Another Birhor Tribal succumbs to starvation

By Jitendra 10/29/11
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RANCHI – The death of Ratni Birhor, a member of diminishing tribe, Birhor tribe, due to starvation has raised serious concerns over the functioning of Government. Ratni, 55, died on 18 Sept, 2011 at her village Tilra of Ichal block of Hazaribagh district. It was just 6 km from the Block office and 15 km from away from district headquarter.

Her death has exposed the failure of state govt.’s developmental schemes and also that NGOs, working in the village. Though NGOs like Adim Janjati Sangharsh Morcha and International Action Aid were working in the village, their work remained confined to walls. Both NGO’s have been getting sufficient funds from govt. and from international organizations as well. One of the targeted six points of their interventions was to encourage grain banking as well as increasing income in every house hold.

The condition of MGNREGA and PDS were appalling. Ratni’s Job card revealed, neither she got even single day of work nor any grains from PDS outlet in last four months as her ration card notified. She was not the beneficiary of old-age-pension scheme too.

The roof of her cemented house, constructed under govt.’s housing scheme was leaking. She had struggled a lot to keep herself safe during entire rainy season; and aftermath she died of sheer negligence.

After learning the news of starvation death through local media, govt. officials stealthily placed grains in her house to cover up the starvation death, says Gopinath, a social activist based in Ranchi. A fact finding team led by Gopinath of Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee (JMACC) spilled number of facts in this regard.

Mahavir Bilhor and Titni Birhor are another couple, now, sick. Perhaps, both will be the next Ratni Bilhor, if the proper care is not provided!

The village was glaring example of govt.’s apathy. The village has no medical facility, no regular distribution of grains from PDS. The 12 deserving Birhor families have no BPL card.

This primitive tribe leads nomadic life. ‘Its’ population is on decline’ says Gopinath. ‘Birhor, a hunter gatherer, is one of the nine primitive tribes listed out of state’s total inhibiting 32 tribes on the basis of their more backward socioeconomic status and other sociological traits in the state’ added Gopinath.

Besides Birhor, some other Primitive Tribes Group includes Asur (Iron Inventor), Korba, Hill Kharia, Mal Pahariya, Sauriya Paharia, Parahriya and Sabar also lead a nomadic life.

Jharkhand has 32 tribes, of which nine have been declared as primitive tribes. Their population is just 0.80 per cent (193,287) of the state’s 26.90 million population. The state government runs 10 schemes for them, among others, to provide jobs to youth who complete their schooling, food and housing but despite this, the population of the primitive tribes is declining and hunger deaths are reported, officials admit.

Deaths of at least 20 primitive tribals in Jharkhand in 2008, attributing the deaths due to food poisoning while social workers say malnutrition caused the deaths. Two members of Birhor tribe in Koderma district and eight members of Birhor tribe and nine of Baiga tribe in Hindiyakala village of Chatra district alone had died.

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