By Sujit Chakraborty,
Agartala : In search of livelihood, around 600 tribals of northern Tripura went to Bangladesh as they were unable to survive in the northeastern state in view of the huge crisis on the foods and rural jobs fronts, CPI-M Chief Whip in Lok Sabha Jitendra Chowdhury has said.
“Around 600 tribals of three villages of mountainous Gobinda Bari areas of northern Tripura went to Bangladesh as they were unable to survive in the state in view of the huge crisis of food and rural jobs,” Chowdhury told IANS.
He said the tribals went to Mayani reserve forest in Chittagong Hill Tracts of southeast Bangladesh to collect seeds, fruits of wild plants, various herbs and wild potatoes.
“After collecting the produce, they dried them there and returned to their villages in Tripura to sell them in the markets at a very low price,” the Communist Party of India-Marxist central committee member said after visiting the interior areas of northern Tripura.
However, Director General of Police Akhil Kumar Shukla and Dhalai District Magistrate Vikas Singh separately told IANS that they had no such information.
“Around 75 km India-Bangladesh border along eastern Tripura is yet to be fenced due to various reasons. Sometimes people from both sides of the border try to cross over. The Border Security Force has maintained a strict vigil on the border,” the police chief said.
When contacted, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator from the Chawmanu assembly constituency, Shambhu Lal Chakma, said that there is no food crisis in the tribal areas.
“Always, even during the Left Front rule also, some tribals went to Bangladesh for ‘Jhuming’ (slash and burn method of cultivation in the hills). Jiten babu is now making this a political issue,” Chakma told IANS on the phone from northern Tripura.
The CPI-M leader said that after the two-month-old BJP government assumed office, rural jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) have been reduced to a large extent. The supply of subsidised rice under the Public Distribution System has also become irregular, causing a serious crisis in the rural and interior areas.
Tripura, which until fiscal 2015-16 had occupied the top spot in the country for seven consecutive years in providing jobs under MGNREGA, has provided 33.68 average days of employment per household so far during the 2018-19 fiscal, Union Rural Development Ministry record show.
MGNREGA mandates 100 days of work in a financial year to at least one member of each rural household — but this has never been achieved in any state. The scheme aims to generate rural assets and create rural infrastructure like roads, ponds and water reservoirs.
“The previous Left Front government had introduced 33 social pensions benefiting over four lakh poor, destitute and aged people. The BJP government recently stopped these schemes,” said Chowdhury, who is also the National Coordinator of CPI-M backed Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch.
“Due to the attacks and terror unleashed by IPFT (a part of the ruling coalition), a serious situation has developed in the interior areas. The IPFT is forcing the tribals to take their membership or leave the area. The socio-economic and ethnic situation in the hilly areas would further deteriorate if the state government does not take immediate suitable steps in the mixed and tribal dominated areas,” Chowdhury said.
The Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) denied the allegations.
The Left leader said that he explained the situation in a letter to Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb.
After a series of skirmishes between the BJP-IPFT workers in many places in Tripura, the leaders of both the parties have formed a five-member coordination committee to prevent this from recurring.
Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Debbarma, who holds the Rural Development and Finance portfolios, told IANS that there is no crisis of food or rural jobs across Tripura.
“Through video conference I have talked with the District Magistrate and Collector and the work under MGNREGA is going on as usual,” Debbarma said.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)