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‘People eating less to cope with crisis in Odisha’s migration-prone districts’

A June 6 photo of food being distributed to migrants at a quarantine centre in Balangir district.   | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

Cash benefits dished out by the government were not sufficient for marginalised people to cope with the crisis induced by coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the migration-prone districts of Odisha, said the State unit of the Right to Food Campaign (RTFC).

The RTFC, a forum of civil rights activists involved in highlighting right to food issues, conducted a telephonic survey of social pension beneficiaries – the elderly, disabled, widows and single women – in four migration-prone districts of Bargarh, Balangir, Kalahandi and Nuapada between July 1 and 15. They were able to reach 63 respondents.

Right to Food alleges starvation death of woman in Odisha

“More than half (54%) of the sample families had resorted to eating less to cope with food insecurity and are worried they may ran out of food stock soon. Nearly a third of the families (69%) had to borrow or take a small loan from relatives or neighbours to buy food items during the lockdown. The worst situation is that 13% of the sample families had to go hungry for one or more days due to the non-availability of food at home,” said Sameet Panda of RTFC.

“The pandemic has not only turned out to be a health and economic crisis, it is slowly becoming food and nutrition crisis as well. In such a situation, where there is a restriction of movement due to lockdowns, the food security condition of already vulnerable populations such as the aged, disabled and single women tends to go worse,” he pointed out.

“When it came to food insecurity among the sample families, 16% of them had already exhausted the PDS (public distribution system) rice, and for another one fourth sample families, the rice at home would last only 2 to 7 days. And two-thirds of the families were left with no money to buy rice or food items,” said Mr. Panda.

The RTFC recommended that PDS coverage be made universal in the State at least till the pandemic passed. Advance ration must be released for the next three months, which should include basic items like pulses, salt and oil, the campaigners said. The RTFC also urged the advance payment of social security pension for six months to all pension beneficiaries.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 12:08:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/people-eating-less-to-cope-with-crisis-in-odishas-migration-prone-districts/article32232515.ece

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