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Posted Online on Sunday 02, October 2005 14:11 IST

Tragedy at Jalangi 

[The Statesman, 27 Sep 2005, Editorial]

Probe should bring long-term remedy

It is like history repeating itself in Murshidabad. Some years ago, the Left Front government had tried desperately to shake off the embarrassment of starvation deaths in Amlasole village in Midnapore with explanations that didn't stand up to scrutiny. Now there is confirmation from no less a source than a probe panel comprising former judges of the Mumbai. Delhi and Kolkata high courts that grinding poverty extends from the south to the north. This is not something that will do credit to any government that dreams of another industrial revolution. Yet the stark reality is that victims of erosion of the Padma in the border districts a long-standing scourge are going without food and shelter. When starvation deaths were reported in this newspaper in February, the CPI-M responded, predictably, with shock and disbelief. Now we have it from the judge heading the inquiry that "human rights are being grossly violated here. The area is worst-hit by starvation and yet the government (both state and central) did not take any effective step to solve the food crisis, malnutrition, starvation etc...''. There could not be a more scathing indictment. The Marxists, already coping with rising tempers over the proposed conversion of agricultural land, may have to engage in more damage control.

That will not absolve it of its share of responsibility for the tragedy at Jalangi. In fact, the shattering revelations may not have come to light had it not been for the initiative taken by human rights organisations. If the administration now wakes up to its duty, it will be after a long period of callousness. More cynical observers could suggest that the Marxists are consciously indifferent towards a district that is dominated by the Congress and where the CPI-M has tried without success to cut Congress MP Adhir Chowdhury to size. But considering the fact that the Congress and CPI-M, for all practical purposes, share power at the Centre, it is surprising that the suffering in the riverine areas should have been allowed to persist. The inquiry report could bring immediate relief. A long-term remedy should be the real objective. 
[ The Statesman, 27 Sep 2005, Editorial]

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