Congress makes diarrhoea deaths poll issue in Orissa

April 9th, 2008 - 4:44 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

Bhubaneswar, April 9 (IANS) The Congress party is making the deaths of over a hundred persons by waterborne diarrhoea and cholera in Orissa last year its main poll issue in the Laxmipur assembly by-election to be held Saturday. The seat fell vacant after the death of sitting Congress member Anantaram Majhi on Nov 24 last year.

Political observers say the main contest in the five-cornered fight is likely between the Congress and the ruling Biju Janata Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition headed by chief minister Naveen Patnaik.

The Congress has fielded Purnachandra Majhi, son of Anantaram Majhi. BJD, backed by BJP, has fielded Bibhisan Majhi - a former legislator from the area. The chief minister is camping in the area since Tuesday.

“Hundreds of people died in the region due to diarrhoea and cholera last year. The government could not save their lives,” state congress president Jayadev Jena told a public meeting in the region while campaigning for his party candidate.

“It was Congress president Sonia Gandhi who sent relief when the state government failed,” he said.

The Congress party is highlighting various initiatives taken by the central government and exposing the failures of the state government, mainly the diarrhoea and cholera deaths, Jena told IANS.

On the other hand, Chief minister Naveen Patnaik, while addressing several rallies in the region, highlighted the failures of the central government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “The central government is always neglecting Orissa,” he alleged.

Laxmipur constituency, some 500 km from here, is part of the Kalahandi, Koraput and Rayagada districts in the KBK (Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput) region - considered as the most under-developed region of the country.

The region is often in the news for starvation deaths and distress sales of children. Job opportunities in the region are limited with the major economic activity, agriculture, generating little income.

The region witnesses outbreak of waterborne diseases almost every monsoon as rainwater slush from hilltops contaminates water sources.

Last year in August, such an outbreak claimed some 100 lives in the region, according to official figures. Non-government organisations place the toll at over 300.

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