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Four die of mango kernel poisoning in Orissa

While several villagers have migrated in search of jobs, many who have stayed behind fight hunger on a daily basis

Four tribal villagers in Orissa have died and four taken seriously ill after eating mango kernel gruel. The deaths were reported from Butedi village, 130 km from the headquarters of Kandhamal district.

Three of the victims died in the village itself on September 14; one succumbed in hospital on September 15.

Chief district medical Officer Dr Arakhita Jati said that post-mortem reports indicated that all the victims had consumed gruel prepared from mango kernel powder and that the cause of death was food poisoning.

Southern and western parts of Orissa are in the grip of a famine-like situation with people being forced to depend on wild roots, mango kernel and the meat of dead animals for sustenance.

Lingaraj, secretary of the Orissa Krushak Sangathan, a farmer body, points out that about a dozen people have died over the past few weeks in the villages of Mirjapank and Mumbali after eating contaminated food.

A district official requesting anonymity added: “We have sent health officials to the village to take stock of the situation. The administration is taking steps to help the destitute and starving poor.”

This year's drought has robbed many locals of work, with agricultural activities grinding to a virtual halt. Several villagers have migrated in search of jobs; those who have stayed behind face an everyday battle with hunger.

In 2001, poisoned mango kernel was responsible for the death of 25 people in Orissa's impoverished Raigada district. The incident provoked sharp criticism of the government.

Source: Indo-Asian News Service, September 18, 2002