Sahebganj, Jharkhand: The remote hills of Chuha Pahar village in Jharkhand saw a minister’s visit for the first time ever.
Following an NDTV expose, Jharkhand minister Saryu Roy decided to visit the village after it was reported that mid-day meals don’t reach Paharia adivasi children due to absence of teachers and rampant corruption in the area.
This forces them to fall back on traditional practices and hunt and eat rodents, squirrels, rabbits and boars. These hunts are not only dangerous dangerous, but the animals carry infections.
Government schemes, basic healthcare facilities, ration, mid-day meals, and even agriculture loans get lost on the way up to the villages. The agents of corruption know that nobody will possibly come and check, given the remoteness of the address and the fear and inhibitions of the Paharia adivasis.
“Our department has decided that for Paharias and other primitive tribes, we will ensure that 35 kg of ration reaches the doorstep of every family every month. Ration will be distributed through POS machines, and no one will be able to manipulate that,” Mr Roy told NDTV.
“We have made a call centre. The number is 1800 212 5512. Except Sundays, anyone can complain between 10:00 am to 05:00 pm,” Mr Roy said, adding, “We are also installing electronic weighing machines at every ration shop which will be connected to the POS machine and if the ration dealer weighs lesser quantity of ration, the machine will refuse it.”
The issue had also come under the radar of a Supreme Court Commission. Following this, the state adviser, Supreme Court appointed commissioners on food cases also visited the area with the minister.
“A very important Supreme Court hearing is coming up in which chief secretaries of 26 states have to answer on these issues. Now that the PM is coming here, and the Supreme Court hearing is coming up too, we hope the corruption will be addressed on a priority basis,” Mr Roy told NDTV.
NDTV also caught up with Pinki, the focus of our first story, who had shown us the tail of a squirrel she had for lunch when she should have been at school and eating her mid-day meal.
Pinki was thrilled to see herself on a TV screen and informed us that she had been eating at school for the past few days. Her diet included khidchi, rice, dal and eggs.
“Nobody came here before and no one knew what the outcome was when and if something was investigated. When all the authorities came here after the NDTV report, there was a change in the surrounding villages too. Schools are open and students are getting their mid-day meals now,” says Shikha Paharin, a community correspondent with Video Volunteers.
For children like Pinki, life has changed. Their school is now providing them mid-day meals which the government has earmarked for them.
While they may continue with the traditional practices like hunting, the government has promised that the food supplies will reach the right beneficiaries.