Tribals in bordering villages of Dhalai district, 100 km from Agartala, are crossing into Bangladesh in search of food and jobs, opposition CPI(M) leaders claimed Tuesday. They added there were reports of a severe malaria outbreak in the region as well.
In a memorandum to Health Secretary Samarjit Bhowmik, the party urged the government to immediately set up special health camps in affected villages, make arrangements for free medicines and laboratory tests, install or repair defunct drinking water sources and provide employment to locals.
Addressing a press conference, former Scheduled Caste (SC) welfare minister and MLA Ratan Bhowmik said a Left Front delegation visited interior rural hamlets in the district last Sunday and were told by villagers of a malaria outbreak and a shortage of food and drinking water and people being jobless.
“Some people have died there. Villagers told us they died of malaria. But we couldn’t confirm the reports with medical officers. However, there is severe unemployment. MGNREGA and all other government livelihood schemes have fallen facedown. People are crossing the India-Bangladesh border looking for Gandhaki, an organic resin-like substance,” Ratan Bhowmik told reporters. He addressed the media along with MLA Pravat Chowdhury and other party leaders.
Bhowmik said tribals were too poor to travel to hospitals for treatment. “Financial problems are the biggest crisis for them. There has been no work for the last 4-5 months,” the leader claimed.
The delegation had visited Chowmanu, East Gobindabari, West Gobindabari, Rajdhar ADC village, among others.
CPI(M) Lok Sabha MP Jitendra Chaudhury had first raised the issue of livelihood breakdown in the hilly terrains of Tripura in June 2018 and claimed tribals had started crossing the international border for work.
The ruling BJP, however, has denied these allegations. “These are baseless allegations. They are a part of deep-rooted conspiracy,” BJP spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharya said.
Dhalai Chief Medical Officer was unavailable for comment.