Nagada Child Deaths
The Nagada village of Chingudipala Panchayat of Sukinda block in Jajpur district, Odisha caught headlines of the state and national media due to continuous child deaths in July-August, 2016. Now five to six months have already passed. A six-member team of the “Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakha Sangathan” (GASS) visited the place on 4th February 2017 to know about on-going programmes of the government in addressing malnutrition problems of Nagada village. The team visited villages such as Upara Nagada, Majhi Nagada, Tala Nagada and Naliadaba villages of Chingudipala panchayat. Two months back the GASS team had gone to Malkangiri district where more than one hundred children died in few months due to Japanese Encephalitis (JE).

It was the month of July 2016 that a two month – old son of Laxmi Pradhan of Tala Nagada suffered with red boils in his entire body including mouth followed with heavy fever, loose motion and vomiting. The child stopped breast feeding and he died within 48 hours. This similar symptoms were noticed at other children of age group varying from 2 months to 4 years mainly of Tala Nagada and Majhi Nagada hamlets. Within few weeks, that disease spread to  a number of children and most of them died within two to three days of sufferings. The state government confirm such deaths as 19. The team agrees to the fact that it was due to malnutrition those children became prone to diseases and died instantly.

In discussing with the women of these hamlets, it was revealed that the pulse-polio programme of the government, of India had not reached to Nagada upto 2016. When negligence and apathy of the state government came into severe criticism then only two mini-agnanawadi centers were opened. Now Laxmi Pradhan and Kamala Pradhan of that Nagada village who lost their child in recent past have been assigned with food distribution work of Anganwadi Center without any formal training. The government has not yet posted even an Anganwadi Worker there on a permanent basis.

Mr Naveen Pattnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha formed Task Force comprising various bureaucrats to address the situation. As part of such Task Force, Mr Bishal Kumar Dev, IAS and Secretary of Department of Women and Child Development had said that health camp would run permanently at Nagada. But the Fact Finding team did not see any such health camp in Nagada village. But there are women and children who are suffering from fever but are not getting medical attention, the team found. The nearest government run bedded hospital, Community Health Center, is at Sukinda, 50km away from the village. The only Nutrition Center which was opened at Tata Mines Nursing Home, Kaliapani in August with help of the government was stopped in October, 2016. Mr Manoj Ahuja, Principal Secretary of Agriculture and Cooperation had said that Nagada villagers would get ration items, rice and kerosene, of double amount. But this continued for two months and was stopped in October, 2016. The villagers said that they are only getting 5kg of rice per head under new Food Security Programme.

The whole intention of the government in addressing the problems of Nagada village is quite doubtful. Nagada is a revenue village and its latest survey and settlement was done in 1980s. As per the Record of Rights, out of total 761.45 acres of geographical area only 19.38 acres of land has been designated as private land where as 6l8.6 acres as forest land. The Juanga tribals are coming under Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group. When the government’s negligence in implementation of Forest Rights Act, 2006 came into question after recent incident the revenue department initiated process of distribution of pattas under Forest Rights Act hurriedly. The team members observed that few families have received 8 decimal of land as homestead in Sal forest having same Khata Number 6 and Plot number 174. Those families failed to identify whose land belongs to them when the team members enquired. That means the revenue department has not followed the process properly. Though the government claims that it is encouraging Juanga tribals to adopt agriculture as their main livelihood but it has not given land pattas properly. As per the FR Act those families are entitled to get 8 to 10 acres of forest land for cultivation. Those villagers also expressed that they depend on forest for 8 to 9 months for their livelihood.
Golak Bihari Nath,
Working President, GASS,
Bhubaneswar, Odisha

Vol. 49, No.47, May 28 - Jun 3, 2017