3rd Fact-Finding Report on “Nagada Village- Epicentre of malnourished children” under Jajpur district, Odisha
Eight Months passed, since the issue of death of 23 malnourished children in Nagada village under Jajpur district, Odisha touched headline of media in July 2016 and later on generated huge reaction and public protest against Govt. negligence and indifferent attitude towards food security and welfare of the tribal children in a small village which is just 15 kms away from Tata Mines area i.e., mineral rich belt of the state. After public protest, the State Govt. constituted a Task Force under chairmanship of Dr. A.B.Otta, Revenue Divisional Commissioner , Central Division and undertook a lot of programme / activity like distribution of water filter to each family, conducting medical camp, providing nutritious food to the children, distribution of ration card under AYY to all the families, distribution of forest land patta to the deserving families, distribution of food materials, setting up of Solar Light, supply of pipe water and dug-well, opening Anganwadi centre and primary school, construction of road etc. to save the people from hunger and food insecurity.
It is needless to mention here that When the issue of death of children was highlighted in media, a fact-finding Team of Right to Food Campaign, Odisha had immediately visited Nagada village on 15th and 16th July 2016 to assess the situation of alleged infant death due to malnutrition, reason of infant deaths and rise of hunger and malnutrition in said village, socio-economic condition of Juang tribes, status of implementation of food security Programme and necessary steps required to be taken up in future to combat the problem. The Team has made a lot of recommendations to the State Govt. along with filling complaint to NHRC seeking its intervention in order to give justice to Juang tribes. Then, on 5.8.16, a 7-member Fact-finding Team had visited Nagada village to monitor performance of Govt. officials and their intervention to address the issues of hunger and malnutrition, development work, if any taken by Govt. for the socio-economic development of Juang tribes. During that time, the team observed that though the Govt. had put some effort, it was far from satisfaction. However a Monitoring Report was presented to State Govt. and RDC to take further steps to save tribal children from malnutrition and huger.
Visit of Fact-Finding Team
A 4-member Fact-finding Team of Right to Food Campaign, Odisha had visited Nagada village, habitation of Juang tribes ( Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group) on 17.2.17 with the objective to assess the socio-economic condition of Juang Tribes, health condition and nutritional standard of the children, status of development work, changes, if any in the life of the people after intervention of the Govt. etc. The Team members were Pradip Pradhan, Smt. Sanjukta Panigrahi, Sri Kalanadi Mallik, Dalit Activist, Debendra Rout, local volunteer. Earlier, the road to Nagada was rocky and inaccessible. But during visit of the team, there is little bit improvement in the communication to the village due to construction of new road by the Govt. However, The Team takes two hours to reach Nagada village. The Team members visited Tala Nagada, Majhi Nagada, Upara Nagada, met villagers, interacted with women, inspected Aganwadi Centre and health condition of the children, assessed impact of the Govt. programme, their food security situation etc.
Findings of the Team
A. Malnutrition – Still looms large
The public outcry following death of 23 Juang children in Nagada due to malnutrition forced the State Govt. to intervene in order to check malnutrition among Juang children and ensure food security to the tribals in the month of August , 2016. The intervention of the Govt. and private agencies to address the problem of the people includes opening special health camp in Nagada village, distribution of ‘Energy Dense Nutrient Rich Food’ to the children, special treatment of malnourished children by medical staff, engagement of number of ICDS officials to monitor health and nutritional status of the children, conducting awareness programme on health etc. Malnutrition was found checked and health condition of the children improved during that time. Before going to Nagada, the fact-finding Team has pre-conceived the idea of looking at nutritional status of the children which was area of concern for the State Govt. But during visit, the Team members noticed a number of malnourished children in the village. The team members enquired to know from the villagers about food and other support service given to the children to increase their nutritional status. Sukei Pradhan, one of the women interviewed who was holding her malnourished child said that her child was getting 8 egg and two packet of Chhatua per month through Anganwadi Centre. If the children are receiving their entitlements under ICDS programme, then why the children are still malnourished. Team members also thought of why the child is still malnourished, if THR (Take Home Ration) is properly provided to him. When enquired about consumption of food by them in their home, Sukei said that they were taking just rice and salt as food. Due to lack of food, she could not provide required nutritious food to her child. So it was observed that supply of the food by Anganawadi centre is not enough to increase nutritional standard of the children in Nagada village. While visiting households, the team members noticed six children suffering from acute malnutrition. Similarly, the Team members also met Goura Pradhan, aged around 70 and asked him about food consumed by them. He said that they were consuming only rice ad salt, as they do not have anything to eat. Due to lack of employment and income, the tribals could not take required food. Supply of 35 kg rice under TPDS is no doubt a boon for them. Somehow, they manage to live with only rice and salt and occasionally vegetable which is considered as their staple food. As the parents could not take good nutritious food, the children will obviously suffer from malnutrition.
While interviewing with CDPO, Sukinda block, she said that presently there are four each severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) in Nagada village. Responding query about steps taken for special treatment of malnourished children, she said that the parents had been advised to get their children admitted in NRC (Nutritional Rehabilitation Centre), they were unwilling to bring their children to NRC.
2. Functioning of Aganwadi Centre
The State Govt. has opened two Anganwadi centre in Uppar Nagada and Tala Nagada. The Team members visited both the centres and found that it was running in their houses. No infrastructure has been developed for running Aganwadi Centre in both hamlets. Two Anganwadi Worker-cum-helpers namely Laxmi Pradhan and Kamala Pradhan have been appointed to prepare cooked food and feed to the enrolled children in the centre and distribute THR (egg and chhatua). The activity of the Aganwadi centre is confined to only providing food to the children. Anganwadi Worker staying in Deogaon village occasionally visits for monitoring of the centre in a month. No pre-school education is provided to the children. The Team did not find any complaint from the parents about quality of food served to the children.
3. Problem of food security- Still ignored by the authority
Food insecurity is the biggest problem for the villagers of Nagada. The tribals use to remain half-fed or in hunger and face acute food scarcity due to lack of employment and income. During first visit of the fact-finding team of Right to Food Campaign, Odisha in July 2016, it was observed by the team that they used to consume rice, salt and jungle leaves as food item. Vegetables hardly find in their food menu. The Team was of the view that unless food insecurity of the tribals is addressed, malnutrition cannot be checked. While submitting report to the Govt., the team has made recommendation to take steps to ensure food security of the people through income generation activity, employment generation, promotion of agriculture and horticulture, cultivation of vegetables, allotment of land to them, supply of subsidised or free food items atleast for one year etc. At the primary stage, the State Govt. has distributed rice, dal, oil to each household free of cost from august 2016. It continued for two months and closed. All the households have been allotted ration card under Antodaya Anna Yojana and receiving 35 kg rice per month. No agriculture promotion activity has been undertaken by Govt. in the village. The Team did not find any income generation activity for the people in the village. Rather Goura Pradhan complained that many labourers who had worked in construction of road three months back, have not been paid of their wages till yet. There is absolutely no income generation activity undertaken by the Govt. in order to provide employment to them.
4. Distribution of Forest Patta- Patta with no land
As per Forest Rights Act 2006, each tribal family residing in and around of the forest area and depending on forest for livelihood is entitled to get forest land. Juang tribes, PTG of Nagada village living in forest areas for decades together deserve to get the forest patta land. But the State Govt. had not allotted any forest land Patta to the families in the village. After the child death issue cropped up and allegations made against Govt., the district administration took steps to distribute forest land patta to the families. During visit, the team came across the people holding forest land patta. But they do not have idea about land which has been allotted to them. Neither the Forest officials nor Revenue officials have demarcated and identified the land meant for them. They are holding patta without owing any land.
5. Drinking Water- Still problem persists
While on the way to Nagada, the team came across a dug-well at Naliadhaba which has been repaired and looks good. But while testing water, it was found giving very bad smell. On query about use of water, the villagers said that they were not using dug-well water for drinking purpose. Similarly, in Nagada village, the team across a number of pipes spread over the village for supply of water to the Households but found defunct. The people are still depending on stream water for drinking purpose. So, tall claim of the State Govt. supplying drinking water to Nagada village was found false.
6. Status of Primary School- Still not functional
On the way to Tala Nagada, the Team members met Sushant Satapathy, Assistant Block Education Officer (ABEO), Gobardhan Pradhan, ABEO and Chandramani Mohanta, Cluster Resource Centre Coordinator (CRCC) who had come to monitor the function of Alternate Primary school opened in the village. Responding query about status of primary school, they said that total no. of 79 out of 99 children have been enrolled in the school. Two teachers Dillip Dandapath and Jaganath Tudu have been appointed in the school. The school is running in temporary shelter. Though six months have passed, the authority has not been able to construct permanent school building in the village. As reported by the villagers, the teachers are not regular in attending the school. The school is not full-fledged school but alternate primary school being operated under Primary School, Deogaon.
7. Road connectivity- Why high profile road in Nagada?
Absence of road connectivity to Nagada was biggest problem for which the Govt. officials and people’s representative hardly visit this village. When the issue of malnutrition was raised, the Govt. officials, media and Civil Society organisations face a lot of difficulties to go to Nagada. At the primary stage, there was demand to ensure road connectivity to the village at the earliest. During visit, the Team inspected on-going construction of road leading from Deogaon to Nagada. Two lane high profile road with sanctioned amount of Rs. 15 crores is being constructed to Nagada by a private Hyderabad-based company Hygriba Construction Private limited . Million-dollar question is raised why such a huge fund has been sanctioned for construction of road to a particular village which is never shown in any tribal area of the state. There is apprehension that in the name of road connectivity to Nagada , this road is constructed in the interest of Mining companies in order to facilitate mining operation in this area. Similarly, Around 12 lakh rupees have been spent for road connectivity from Upara Nagada to Majhi Nagada and Tala Nagada. During interaction with the villagers, the Team members received allegation of denial of wage to the villagers who have worked as labourer in construction of road work.
8. Kerosene Ghotala
While inspecting six ration cards, the team members found that each family has been given 3 to 5 litre of kerosene per month since September, 2016. On query about receipt of kerosene, the villagers like Manguli Pradhan said that due to financial crisis, they could not purchase kerosene. The Team is of the view that the dealer has misappropriated the kerosene by manipulating the ration card. As per rough calculation, around Rs. 50,000.00 has been misappropriated by dealer in the name of distribution of kerosene to the HHs within period of six months.
Analysis and Recommendations
A. It is fact that food insecurity leads to malnutrition and chronic hunger which resulted in starvation death. Due to abject poverty, Juang people of Nagada village continue to suffer from hunger and malnutrition. That’s why most of the children were found malnourished in July, 2016 and died due to malnutrition. The primary task of the Govt. was to address issue of malnutrition and ensure food security of the tribals which was demanded by Civil Society Groups and media. To check malnutrition, the State Govt. took numerous steps starting from special treatment to providing nutritious food to the children. No doubt, the number of malnourished children got reduced. To ensure food security of the tribals, the State Govt. provided free of cost required quantity of rice, dal, Chuda, Guda etc. to each family for two months. Now it is closed. During visit of the team, on query of food consumed by them, they said that rice, salt and jungle leaves are only food item in their food basket. Due to lack of income, they do not have purchasing power to purchase any vegetables or other items for consumption. It shows that food insecurity still looms large. So in view of this prevailing situation, the team recommends to State Govt. to undertake income generation activity through promotion of agriculture and horticulture programme and employment generation through NREGA to ensure food security of the tribals. Goatery, poultry and other agriculture-based activity should be taken up to ensure income of the villagers.
B. As the village still witnessed number of children suffering from malnutrition, the team recommends to Govt. to provide special nutritious food barring THR provided under ICDS i order to increase nutritious standard of the people.
C. Though huge money has been spent, the villagers are not getting safe drinking water. The concerned Govt. agency should be directed to ensure it and disciplinary action should be taken against the officials responsible for it.
D. Infrastructure should be developed for running Anganwadi Centre and Primary school in the village.
E. Forest land allotted to the people should be identified and demarcated at the earliest and physically handed over to the people. It is recommended that each Household should be allotted atleast five acres of land for their livelihood.
F. Huge quantity of kerosene has been misappropriated by manipulating ration card of the villagers. It should be enquired and money to be recovered from dealer and block officials.
Signature of Team Members
Pradip Pradhan Sanjukta Panigrahi
State Convener Social Activist and member
Right to Food Campaign, Odisha Right to Food Campaign, Odisha
M-9937843482 M- 9238598756
Kalandi Mallik Debendra Rout
District Convener Social Activist
Right to Food Campaign, Odisha M-7381939027