Arunachal village facing acute food crisis amid COVID-19 lockdown
Itanagar: While the nation fights coronavirus by being under lockdown, there are many who are fighting not just coronavirus but hunger too. Villages in the country’s remote Shi-Yomi district of Arunachal Pradesh bordering China is staring at an acute food shortage.
People living in Monigong, one of the remotest circles of Shi-Yomi district are facing severe scarcity of food as the food supply trucks have stopped entering the district following the nationwide lockdown.
Monigong is the worst hit as the people here depend mostly on rice distributed through public distribution system (PDS) and stocks are fast depleting.
The distance from Itanagar to Monigong is around 556 km, and one has to cross the districts of East Siang, Siang and West Siang besides Assam to reach Shi-Yomi.
“Following the announcement of the nationwide lockdown on Tuesday, people of West Siang and Siang districts have gone a step further and imposed traditional lockdowns at several places which is making things worse for us. As we depend on these two districts for most of our supplies, we are facing a huge crunch of essential items, especially rice,” Taling Yapik, a local of Monigong village said.
Yapik, who runs one of the fair price shops in Monigong, said that their stock is nil and the panic-stricken people are running around in search of rice.
“Depending upon the strength of a family, one gets anywhere from 5-35 kg of rice for a month,” he said.
Yapik said that besides the scarcity of food, the people of Monigong are also worried about what would happen to them if some medical emergency arises.
“Besides depending on West Siang for essential items like food, we also depend on the district for all our medical needs and take our patients to the district hospital in Aalo (the headquarters of West Siang), but due to lockdown we are now left wondering on what would happen now as there are no vehicles here,” he said.
Yapik said though Monigong has a health centre, they have not seen a doctor after the last one left around a year ago.
“There is only a health assistant in the health center and there are no medicines at all,” he said.
Lingdum Hemi, the gaon bura (village chief) of Hemi village had a similar story to tell.
Lingdum said as there are no pharmacies in Monigong, they rely on the Aalo hospital which is around 209 kms away (takes around 8-9 hours due to the terrible condition of the road) for all their medical emergencies.
“Thankfully no one has gone seriously ill at present, otherwise it would be difficult for us,” he said.
On food scarcity, Lingdum said their stock of rice is over and they have no other hope other than to wait for the government supply.
Replying to what would happen if the supply comes late he said: “Most of the villagers here have stopped growing rice so we may eventually die.”
Lingdum said that food items were dropped through a helicopter sortie on Friday, but it was only for the government officials.
“We thought the sortie would include something for us all well but we were left disappointed,” he said.
All Shi-Yomi District Students’ Union president, Badur Hemi, said it was very disheartening to learn that the district authorities are least prepared in this grave hour of Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
“The quarantine facilities here are only on paper. Moreover, due to lockdown the transportation of essential items has been blocked in Aalo (West Siang) and Kaying (Siang). This has resulted in acute scarcity of essential items,” Badur said.
The student leader further alleged that the situation has further worsened due to the absence of district authorities like the Monigong extra assistant commissioner (EAC) and Pidi circle officer.
Kiran Rinya, the president of All Shi-Yomi District Youth Association said they too are deeply saddened by the lacklustre attitude of the officers concerned.
Rinya said that his executive members carried out a field survey a few days ago to take stock of preparations made by the administration and heath department of the district in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “We came to know that there was no thermal scanning conducted in the main check gate and people are moving freely. Also the quarantine centre at Tato hasnot been prepared,” he said.
Local legislator PD Sona, when contacted, said he has already given out the necessary directions to the deputy commissioner and assured that the food crisis would end soon.
Acknowledging the scarcity of rice, especially in Monigong, Sona said: “Monigong has some peculiar problems as the authorities normally use choppers to drop ration but it will be looked into soon.”
In terms of the lack of thermal scanning at the check gate, Sona, who is also the state legislative assembly speaker, said the necessary equipment have arrived and the scanning process would start from Saturday.
Deputy Commissioner Mito Dirchi could not be contacted for his comments. Monigong Extra Assistant Commissioner (EAC) Sadung Gyadu denied reports of any food crisis and said everything was normal.