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Chakma & Hajong-Inhabited Areas in Arunachal Pradesh Excluded from 'Economic Package', Rights Body Demands Probe

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Guwahati, April 29, 2020:

Chakma and Hajong communities residing in Arunachal Pradesh have been allegedly excluded from the State Government’s economic package at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered chaos, leading to an uncertain future.
This has been claimed by Delhi-based Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) and it has urged the Central as well as the Arunachal Pradesh State Governments to initiate an inquiry as to why the Chakmas and Hajongs, who have been living in the northeastern state following their displacement in the 1960s, are being denied.
The group has demanded the Government’s intervention in ensuring food to the two communities. “The Chakmas and Hajongs do not have ration cards as the State government had illegally and arbitrarily seized those through an order on October 25, 1991,” said Suhas Chakma, director of the RRAG.
As a result, the two communities have been forced to buy rice at Rs 29 per kg while other vulnerable sections have been paying Rs 5 per kg as per the economic package announced by the Arunachal Government on April 12.
“The Government announced a package on April 12. They then passed an order for Chakma-inhabited areas. So, why are you asking the Chakmas to buy the rice at Rs 29? They are not included in the Ayushman Bharat scheme or anything else. They do not receive any benefits”, Suhas Chakma, the Director of the NGO, told Inside Northeast.
The Rights and Risks Analysis Group Director said that the amount that they were charged was beyond the means of most Chakma and Hajong people, resulting in hunger and starvation of members of the community who had, in due course of time, legally become Indian citizens.
The RRAG has urged Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu to order a high level inquiry by the Chief Secretary into the COVID-19 scam at Diyun-Bordumsa, Changlang districts in the light of the non-receipt of any food ration by the Chakmas and Hajongs contrary to the claims of an unnamed local official in a local daily that free rations were distributed to the Chakmas and Hajongs.
The group had earlier written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the massive starvation among 65,875 Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh. According to the group, an unnamed local official of Diyun circle claimed that 50 quintals of rice had been distributed free of cost to the most needy Chakmas and Hajongs in Diyun area and another 50 quintals would be distributed this week, free of cost, to the most needy in Diyun.
However, Suhas said, “The said statement of the unnamed local official is false. On numerous occasions the local officials asked to submit the list of extremely poor people and a list of 1,544 families of extremely poor Chakmas and Hajongs was prepared.
These were on the verge of starvation as daily labourers were submitted to the Extra Assistant Commissioner (EAC) on 17th April 2020. Another list of 619 families on 24th April 2020 was prepared. However, no rice was distributed to any Chakma or Hajong. This proves that the rice and other facilities might have been sanctioned by the State government but never reached the beneficiaries, indicating a massive scam.”
Suhas urged, “The price of rice for those Above Poverty Line (APL) in Arunachal Pradesh is Rs 11 per kg at present. Therefore, selling of rice at Rs 29 per kg at retail rate to the Chakmas or Hajongs who do not receive any assistance and who are not included in any welfare scheme of the Government is morally and legally unconscionable.”
The Rights and Risks Analysis Group also urged the Chief Minister to direct the Deputy Commissioner of Changlang district to video record the distribution of free rations to those suffering starvation till the National Food Security Act of 2013 is implemented in their areas and implement the NFSA in the Chakma and Hajong inhabited areas.
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