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Monday, June 09, 2014  
People Keep Dying; Rayagada's Killer Diarrhoea becomes a political agenda in Orissa
"Rayagada is almost every year visited by Diarrhea at the advent of rainy season. People of the poorest blocks like Kashipur are always promised for roads and drinking water. But with the passing of rainy season the promises fade away. 3 years back in 2007, when the district was visited by cholera and at least 200 people died of the epidemic, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik promised pure drinking water and roads to all villages of Kashipur Block. The promises are yet to be fulfilled."
Basudev Mahapatra
   

Orissa’s poor and tribal dominated Rayagada district is still not seeing an end to the fury of Cholera.

Every day, patients are being admitted to the hospitals. As per local sources, there have been about 100 deaths in the district due to Diarrhea and Cholera. Hospitals are full with patients.

‘Diarrhea has been ruling over our village since last one and half months. There have been seven deaths in our village. Patients are still being carried to Kashipur, Tikiri, Koraput and Rayagada hospitals’, said a villager of Bahardulki village of Kashipur.

Even though there has been regular deaths in Kashipur, Bishamkatak and Rayagada Blocks of the district and local sources claim at least 100 deaths by now, the figures recently given by the administration are much low than what has been anticipated before. As per the departmental nodal officer Dr Bikash Patnaik, there have been only 39 deaths so far in Rayagada district with 204 villages affected by diarrhea.

But the leaders of Congress party like see a complete different scene on the ground while visiting the district. The Working President of Orissa PCC Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mahapatra said in a press conference that, ‘at least 96 deaths have occurred in the district as a result of diarrhea only. The government is not only hiding the fact but betraying people by not admitting its failure in protecting the tribals of kashipur and other blocks of rayagada from diarrhea and cholera’.

Much late in realizing the gravity of the situation, the Health Minister and Health Secretary of the state made a visit to the district on 14 and 15 September. However, to him the situation is still not grave and the minister reposes his faith on the administration and the remedial measures. Replying to a question is the government and health ministry of Orissa failed to protect the lives of tribals of rayagada, Health Minister Prasanna Kumar Acharya said that, ‘Now is the time to check the problem. We can analyze the success and failure later. Now our primary concern is to do the best to remove the lacunae in the system and check it from spreading to more villages’.

However, Rayagada is almost every year visited by Diarrhea at the advent of rainy season. The people of poorest blocks like Kashipur are always promised for roads and drinking water. But with the passing of rainy season the promises fade away. 3 years back in 2007, when the district was visited by cholera and at least 200 people died of the epidemic, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik promised pure drinking water and roads to all villages of Kashipur Block. The promises are yet to be fulfilled.

About 25 years back, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his wife Sonia Gandhi visited Kashipur being moved by the news of starvation deaths due to hunger and malnutrition. Then the high profiled couple was carried with a fan-fair by the poor tribals of the block with the hope that the issues and problems of the district would vanish with the return f the Prime Minister.

Rajiv and Sonia returned from kashipur leaving a few promises for the poor tribals which are yet to be fulfilled. However, when people are dying of diseases and are living with acute misery, Congress leaders in the state are busy making politics out of it and blaming the government led by Naveen Patnaik. Working President Lalatendu condemns the government saying that, ‘3 years back the Chief Minister promised water, road and proper PDS to support the poor families of Kashipur. None of the promises are fulfilled yet. RWSS has been asked to repair the tubewells only after the outbreak of cholera. There is no road to most villages of Kashipur. And, BPL families get rice once in two months. Many families are unable to bring the rice as they have to walk down 15 KMs to get it. In the rainy season, most roads become un-utilisable and villages remain marooned’.

However, congress leaders don’t dare to make a question to Madam Sonia Gandhi on the promises she made to the people of Kashipur and why she has not yet visited the place to see if her promises are realized?

On the other hand, the Health Minister and the secretary show their concern by a two days visit and a false declaration that things are in control when every day new villages are being included in the list of affected and deaths have almost become a regular affair.

It’s really shocking to come across the fact that even today in India misery of people during an epidemic is seen from a political perspective. Putting aside the plight of people there has been a political blame game started in Orissa where the opposition parties point fingers at the government and the health minister compares the number of deaths with other states or countries with a greater satisfaction as it is yet to become the highest in the world. Be it swine flu or diarrhea in Rayagada, the health Minister of Orissa always come up with the usual question – ‘America is the most developed country, don’t people die there of diseases like this?’. Many see such an attitude of the Health Minister of Orissa as the reason behind spread of the disease.

The offence and defence game by almost all political parties and leaders make no sense to the poor people of Kashipur, Bisamkatak and Rayagada blocks as they are falling into the fangs of Diarrhea and cholera almost every day and there is hardly any hope or relief to them who still drink water from open sources like streams and canals, live in an unhealthy atmosphere. And the realities are, no all weather rods are made for them and they have to walk for kilometers to reach at the market, hospital or the PDS distribution centre.

 

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