Include Chakma, Hajong tribals in COVID-19 relief aid: Centre

Aizawl/Itanagar, May 1 (IANS): The Union DoNER Ministry has asked the Arunachal Pradesh government to include the 65,875 Chakma and Hajong tribals in the COVID-19 and lockdown related relief aid, officials and NGOs said on Friday.

Different organisations have criticised the Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh governments for depriving the Chakma and Hajong tribals in the COVID-19 and lockdown related relief aid in the two northeastern states. Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga, however, has denied the accusation.

DoNER Ministry's Joint Secretary Rambir Singh in a letter to the Arunachal Pradesh Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar said that Suhas Chakma, Director of the Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG), has sought the intervention of the Prime Minister against massive hunger and starvation during national lockdown among 65,875 Chakma and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh.

"This is due to their exclusion from economic package for vulnerable section in these difficult times of Covid-19 pandemic," Singh in his letter quoted the letter of RRAG, a New Delhi based rights group.

The DoNER Ministry Joint Secretary in his letter, which is available with IANS, requested the Arunachal Pradesh Chief Secretary to take up the issues on priority.

RRAG Director Suhas Chakma in a statement said: "The food relief has been provided to about 40 per cent of the extremely poor Chakmas and Hajongs like the daily wage labourers under the Diyun circle (under Changlang District of AP) on April 30. Hundreds of families under Diyun circle are still suffering from starvation."

He said: "For the last 56 years, Chakmas and Hajongs faced discrimination as a matter of state policy and their exclusion from the COVID-19 economic package, which is the humanity's largest humanitarian crisis in recorded history, exposes this state policy. It is not only at Diyun circle but in other areas such as Miao, Chowkham, Kharsang, Bordums, the Chakmas and Hajongs are facing massive food shortages because of their exclusion."

"Because of discrimination and exclusion in the last 56 years, overwhelming majority of the Chakmas and Hajongs have been reduced to daily wage labourers and these people require relief under the COVID-19 the most," said RRAG Director.

There are accusations of discrimination in another northeastern state Mizoram too.The Mizoram Chakma Alliance Against Discrimination (MCAAD) leader Paritosh Chakma said they urged Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga to include hundreds of Chakma tribals from Mizoram who have been stranded in various parts of the country due to the COVID-19 related lockdown and provide them relief under the Chief Minister's Relief Fund.

"Though the Mizos stranded in different parts of the country are getting financial and other supports from the Mizoram government but the Chakma tribals are deprived," said the MCAAD, another Delhi based organisation.

Paritosh Chakma said that over 1,000 Chakmas, comprising migrant workers, travellers and students from Mizoram stranded in Delhi, Bengaluru, Tamil Nadu and other states.

"We are writing letters once again to Mizoram Chief Minister and Chief Secretary to extend government financial and other assistances to the stranded Chakmas in different states in the country," Paritosh Chakma told IANS.

According to MCAAD, Chakmas of Mizoram constitute 8.8 per cent of Mizoram's total population of 1.1 million.



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Title: Include Chakma, Hajong tribals in COVID-19 relief aid: Centre

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