Vol. XLIII No. 04 January 27, 2019

Meanwhile in Tripura

Rahul Sinha

The Dark Days of Starvation Deaths Return

JAPANDA Tripura (65) has seen it more than twice in his life. The last time when it struck hundreds of his alikes had come out in search of food. That was during the Congress-TUJS coalition government.  Hundreds of them from Thalchharra, Rajdhar, Malidhar, Natinmanu or his own village Gobindabarri either died because of starvation or fled the village. Japanda Tripura of Naisaram Parra of Gobindabarri village was ill. He had fever for the last few days. On top of that, there was not a single grain of rice in the house. There’s no work in MNREGA. It’s a lean season. The jhoom crops are yet to be harvested.  The ration shop doesn’t dole out food grains if you don't have money. Then even if you had a little, you have to have your finger prints matched before you can buy your own quota of rice. The village committee is not concerned. They had to sell the job card of MNREGA in November at a mere Rs 3500 and the ration card at Rs 8500. So the family of Japanda Tripura could not buy rice for four days since January 15.  Before he died, Japanda Tripura had no wish left but to swallow a handful of rice. His family however could not afford that. 

Starvation death is not a new phenomenon in the hills of Tripura.  In the last 25 years, people had forgotten this fact. But the worsening situation in the tribal areas is speeding up fast towards a major humanitarian crisis.  Another 25 families in the Naisaram Parra are literaly starving. CPI(M) and the GMP have been talking for months about the disastrous situation and demanding that the government must immediately provide food and jobs in the tribal areas. But the government is busy playing its own violin that all is well. On January 14, a CPI(M) delegation visited the area and demanded immediate government intervention. But the BDO of Chhawmanu, on the previous day, made a mockery of the situation as he reported that Japanda Tripura's death was not due to starvation but because of consumption of hooch. The BDO might have reported so, to be in the good books of the government. But the crude fact is, a family which has no rice to eat, can't produce hooch from rice. The district administration is reported to have given instructions to help the family but that is yet to reach the family.             

Suku Gaurr: Another Victim of the Jungle Raj

Hooliganism is the new go of the day in the jungle raj prevailing in Tripura and Suku Gaurr is the latest victim of it. On November 7, Suku Gaurr, a group D employee in the civil secretariat was attacked by local BJP hoodlums as he could not fulfill their demand of donation for Kaali Puja and Diwali.  The goons burst a firecracker on his head. After prolonged treatment, he came back home but never recovered and died on January 18. Leader of opposition, Manik Sarkar visited the house of slain Suku Gaurr at Tanti Parra of Durjoy nagar in Agartala. The widow of Suku Gaurr, Radhamani Gaurr burst into tears while she described how her husband suffered all these days. The family now doesn’t even have enough money to perform his ‘shraddh’. Police didn’t even care to visit the house even 48 hours after the death. Two of the prime accused are roaming free after getting bail. The local BJP hoodlums are keeping an eye on who is visiting the family. The family is receiving threats to withdraw the police case. Later, talking to the media, Manik Sarkar said we demand a proper inquiry into the incident and culprits must be punished. Otherwise the people will lose whatever little faith they still have on the rule of law. He also demanded that the government should provide a job to a member of the family and extend a helping hand so that the widow with her school-going son and daughter can manage to live a life of dignity.