Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Naxal corridor: Infants bear brunt of Red Terror

NDTV Correspondent, Tuesday March 16, 2010, Ranchi

Security forces may be moving into Jharkhand's jungles but there are areas where few can reach. In these areas, the government is completely absent and the collateral is huge. Over 200 newborns died in just three blocks of one district alone, a Maoist stronghold.

The journey into Arki block of Khunti district in Jharkhand is arduous, jagged roads through dense forests. It's about 90 kilometres from Ranchi but the administration ceases to exist once you leave the roadhead.

This is a Maoist territory and as the camera crew enters Kochang village, they are told not to shoot. Cadre members, on the move, are camping in the neighbouring forests. Fear is widespread.

Dulari Hembrom, a villager says, "The health worker doesn't get any facilities here. She will come if she gets medicines from the government. But she doesn't, so she doesn't stay here."

The impact has been serious.

In the last one year 222 newborns have died in just three blocks in Khunti district. In Kochang village alone 6 newborns and their mothers died in the same period.

Newborns often die due to the complete absence of health facilities in the area. No government official ever visits these areas. Since there is no transport available, women often reach hospitals when it's already too late.

Karni Devi relative of one of the victims, says, "When we realised we could not do anything, the men went to look for some vehicle. The family was with her. But by the time the vehicle reached our home, she had died."

"The mid-wives don't know much, that's why so many women die", adds Juliani Mundu, the village health worker.

It is this despair that is being tapped into by Naxals and widening their footprint.

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