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Kashipur hits headline again: Flood followed by Cholera and a Trail of Death

"It’s almost 20 years since a PM visited the place to see the misery of tribal people living in Kashipur. Thousands of Crores of rupees have been spent for the development of Kashipur. But this epidemic like situation brought to the light that tribals of Kashipur are still deprived of getting disinfected drinking water."

Basudev Mahapatra : August 29, 2007

Kashipur – the block in Rayagada district of Orissa that is quite known for acute poverty and starvation deaths, now hits the headlines again for trailing epidemic following the flash flood early this month.

Vansadhara, Nagabali and Kalyani Rivers, called the lifeline of Rayagada, turned disastrous to the people of Rayagada with rain water gushing in breaching the road links leaving many hamlets and blocks almost marooned. The flood situation gripped most part of the district for almost a week.

The hope of marooned tribal communities with water receding after the floods turned furious with the outbreak of cholera and diarrhea in the most backward and impoverished Kashipur block taking 100s of lives in its trail.

Once the news reached the headquarters, State and Central specialist teams visited the place and collected water samples for testing which confirmed the presence of Cholera germs in most of the samples.

As it happens in a situation like this, political parties in the government and opposition sent their teams and Chief Minister as well as Opposition Leader visited the place more to handle it for political purposes than managing the crisis and allowing the tribal people of Kashipur for a breath of relief.

Other than Kashipur, Dasmantpur of Koraput is also facing a similar situation where rotten cow meat taken as food by local tribals is said to be the major reason with contaminated water as the next one.

More than 200 people died in both the places although government sources maintain it less than 100. After all political and bureaucratic drama, Chief Minister’s denial for taking it as an epidemic would have given partial relief to some of the bureaucrats but dissatisfaction to thousands of tribal people who are still scared with killer cholera.

After his visit to some affected villages and hospitals of Kashipur and Dasmantpur and discussion with the district authorities, CM Naveen Pattnaik said that the situation is in control and assured people of Kashipur that drinking water sources would be disinfected within ten days. And he confirmed before the media persons that “it has not yet become an epidemic”.

Same day, the other dignified visitor in Kashipur was Opposition Leader of Orissa Legislative Assembly and former Chief Minister Janaki Ballhav Pattnaik who claimed it an epidemic in Kashipur and said, cholera broke out in the state after almost 40 years which shows how careless this government is in taking minimum public health measures. As the leader of opposition, he named it the failure of Naveen government in ensuring basic health facilities to tribal people.

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Not only cholera, Malaria followed it as the next danger to the tribal people of Kashipur. Now Malaria patients in numbers are coming to the hospitals and doctors don't seem much bothered with it as they believe Kashipur is a malaria endemic zone and Malaria is a regular feature here. But it's the district administration that takes it as a positive sign because this is the first instance where patients are visiting hospitals for treatment instead of opting for witchcraft and community practices.

This is the second major problem that occurred in Kashipur during the Naveen regime. In 2001, Kashipur witnessed large-scale starvation death. However, this was also not the first incident where Kashipur’s misery came to notice for the first time.

In the later half of 1980s, Kashipur hogged the national media for its shameful starvation deaths, child sale, acute poverty, health hazards and high infant mortality which made the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visit Kashipur with wife Sonia who is now the chairperson of ruling coalition UPA. (Ref Article: Kashipur: Loaded with Political Promises, Section Link: Politics)

It was since then that Kashipur is considered to be a place of issues by the politicians. Lot of declarations are made on its ground and lots of politician’s promises fly on air. But the administration seems vaery prompt and active till the dignified visitors are in place. Once they leave Kashipur, it’s no different from any other ordinary day.

It’s almost 20 years since a PM visited the place to see the misery of tribal people living in Kashipur. Thousands of Crores of rupees have been spent for the development of Kashipur. But this epidemic like situation brought to the light that tribals of Kashipur are still deprived of getting disinfected drinking water.

As the tribal people of Kashipur say, some people die of diarrhea and snake bite every year during rainy season. Politicians come and go leaving many promises that never realise. We are still in the same condition as we were 20 years back. It truly explains itself the political will for development of tribal, poor and unprivileged communities of our society.

 

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