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Report: More Than 450 People Dead of Starvation in Eastern State

December 29, 1991

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ More than 450 people have starved to death in the eastern state of Tripura, where heavy rains have wiped out recent crops, a report said Sunday.

United News of India quoted a leading local politician as saying that more than 300 deaths alone were reported in Chawmanu, the most isolated district of Tripura state, in the last three months.

Heavy rains that wiped out the crops and a breakdown of public distribution system has led to ″near-famine conditions ... almost all over Tripura,″ Shyazma Charan told reporters.

Charan is president of the Tripura Upajati Juba Samity Party, a partner in the governing coalition in Tripura state.

The small state, 900 miles southeast of New Delhi, is bordered by Bangladesh on three sides. A major portion of this state is hilly and mainly jungles inhabited by numerous tribes.

Famished tribespeople traveled this weekend from far-flung areas to Tirthamuk in southern Tripura, where authorities were dispensing rice and dried fish.

But even as hundreds waited in line, the food ran out, the agency said. Only 70 people received the rations.

″We have no food, no work. My ailing husband who told us that he was going to fetch some rice and money eight days ago is yet to return,″ a weeping Swarna Laxmi Chakma told reporters.

Elsewhere, the town of Chandraham Para in eastern Tripura was deserted after most residents fled in search of food, the agency reported.

Rupdhan Tripura, a farmer who returned to the village from the jungles with an empty basket dangling on his back, said that to keep alive he has eaten seeds meant to be sown for the next crop. ″Now there is no hope for another harvest,″ Tripura said.

He told the news agency that his 6-year-old son Raimuni had died of hunger.

Another tribesman, Rabindra Debbarma, said he’d sold his 1-month-old daughter to a neighbor for $2 so that he could feed his dying wife. ″But I could not save her,″ Debbarma told reporters in Agartala, the state capital.

The state government said it has set up a high-power committee to start relief work.

About 75 percent of India lives in villages where poor peasants barely eke out a living. According to official estimates about 30 percent of India’s 844 million people earn just enough to eat once a day, sometimes not even that.

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