Where People Starve to Death: Odisha, India

A 9-year-old child, Dhira Nag, kept her 55-year old grandmother Sua Dei alive by sneaking home food from her school’s mid-day meal. However, Sua Dei ultimately died of starvation in Bolangir district in December 2015, sparking a row in the Odisha Assembly. While most media houses focussed on politicians misbehaving, few chose to comment on the history of starvation in Odisha. 
One of India’s most backward districts, over 75% of Bolangir’s population comprises of marginalized communities. Primarily dependent on agriculture, the citizens have been suffering due to drought and have been forced to migrate to other states in order to eke out a livelihood. Hunger is not new in Odisha – close to a 1000 people die of starvation in neighbouring Koraput annually, while Kalahandi, despite being one of Odisha’s top producer of grain, saw several deaths due to starvation year after year. Reports indicate that there are close to 50,000 people on the verge of starvation. 
The citizens of Odisha are caught in a stranglehold of failed implementation of existing government schemes, changing weather conditions combined with crippling corruption – forcing thousands to either migrate, or die slow, painful deaths. And while we wait for administration to admit that deaths due to starvation are a harsh reality for their people, Dhira lives on in Bolangir, alone. 

Satyanarayan Banchhor reports from Bolangir, Odisha, India for IndiaUnheard 


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