Infant deaths in Odisha’s Nagada: The inside story

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Jajpur/Kaliapani, Jul 21:

The Juanga families of Nagada in Chingudipala panchayat under Sukinda block in Odisha’s Jajpur district have now enough food to sustain them for at least a fortnight, thanks to compassion splurged on them by politicians from different political parties who have been making a beeline to their village ever since media reports brought to light the saga of misery and malnutrition with the death of 19 infants in a short span of time.

Nagada malnutrition

Though it may sound little odd to our ears, the 19 infants who lost their lives to malnutrition can be called martyrs of Nagada, who through their ultimate sacrifices have drawn the attention of the powers that be to the plight of the community.

What has been exposed is how children of Nagada were deprived of the benefits of nutrition and healthcare under Integrated Child Development Scheme run by the government through Anganwadi kendras.

The nearest Anganwadi Kendra set up by the government is at a distance of eight kilometers from Nagada. An Anganwadi Kendra has been established at Guhiasala in 2007 which is eight kilometers away from Nagada.

The Anganwadi Kendra exists in pen and paper but doesn’t exist in reality.

What makes one wonder is when officials, politicians are unable to traverse the hilly terrain with dense forests and are returning midway, tiny tots and pregnant women have been visiting this Anganwadi Kendra for years traversing the same path to avail benefits of Anganwadi.

A little probing has revealed that the Anganwadi Kendra for Guhiasala operated for namesake in the house of one Satyabhama Dehury at Deogaon, a village at the base of the hill located at a distance of seven kilometers.

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Similarly, Tala Nagada village is situated at a distance of 11 kilometres through hilly forest tracts from Deogaon.

Besides, Tumuni and Guhiasala are located at distances of seven and six kilometers respectively from Deogaon. As per government documents Nagada and Tumuni are at distances of seven and nine kilometers respectively from Guhiasala Anganwadi Kendra.

According to government statistics, nutritional food supplements, vaccines, and other materials have been provided for years together to 45 children aged between 1 to 6 yrs of age of Guhiasala village,  19 from Tumuni, 55 from Nagada and three from Naliadaba totaling 122 children and to 158 in the age group of 6-18 yrs.

As per government records Guhiasala, Naliadaba, Upara Nagada, Majhi Nagada and Tala Nagada have a combined population of 576 persons comprising of 85 Juanga families.

None from these villages till date have been covered under MAMATA Yojana and Janani Surakshya Yojana as per government statistics.

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Occasionally, Anganwadi workers provide dry food stuff to Juanga tribals who come down from the hills to visit the weekly bazaar at Kaliapani on Saturdays to buy their provisions for the week.

Anganwadi workers have even admitted this to local MLA from the ruling BJD Pritiranjan Ghadai. Now the question is who were being served cooked food in the Anganwadi Kendra.