Unfortunate Kandhamal beset by more problems


As if last year’s communal violence, whose impact was felt for several months was not enough, the backward tribal dominated Orissa district is currently grappling with two more fresh troubles — repeated attacks by wild elephants and an unknown disease that has already struck twice during the last few months.

While last year’s communal riots claimed nearly 40 lives besides rendering thousands homeless, both the recent problems have taken a toll of 43 people so far in the last three months. Ironically, like last year, the state government has once again been found wanting in handling the two recent troubles.

It was a great moment of satisfaction for the Kandhamal district officials when the administration decided to wind up the last of the relief camps set up by the government for riot victims this August after all the camp inmates returned to their respective villages following restoration of peace.

However, their happiness did not last for long as the relief camps had to be set up once again, this time to accommodate villagers affected by the elephant menace. Poor villagers from interior areas of the district had been forced to flee their homes as the attacking herds of pachyderms not only destroyed their houses but also became a threat to their lives.

During the last couple of months, 10 people have been killed by wild elephants while many others have sustained injuries. The district administration has provided the victims of the elephant attacks accommodation in relief camps besides sanctioning compensation for the family of those who lost their lives.

The people, however, seem to be not happy with the steps initiated by the administration. This was clearly evident from the protest demonstrations and road blockades recently organised by the affected villagers in different places in the district. The people want a permanent solution to the menace which the administration has not been able to provide.

Experts believe that the elephants are frequently invading villages and human habitats in Kandhamal mainly because of large-scale destruction of forests. Besides the timber mafia, the rioters had also played a key role in destroying the forest wealth during the last year’s communal violence in the backward district which was once known for its thick forest cover and excellent weather.

So far as the ‘unknown disease’ is concerned, it has made life miserable for the people after it returned in early September in Daringibadi area of the district. The disease — which is yet to be identified despite several attempts made by teams of doctors sent by the state health department — had first hit the district in July.

The disease has triggered such a fear in the interior pockets that villagers have started fleeing from their homes.

This strange disease has once again brought to the fore the poor healthcare system in the backward regions of the state. It is important to note here that just a couple of weeks back another backward district of Kalahandi was under a spell of diarrhoea, which claimed 25 lives.

The Naveen Patnaik administration need to do much more on the healthcare front, otherwise it may have a severe impact on its public image. The opposition parties like the Congress and the BJP have started targeting the government on the recent health problems in Kandhamal and Kalahandi.

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