GUWAHATI: The Centre has directed Arunachal Pradesh government to take up as a "matter of priority" the alleged exclusion of 65,875 Chakmas and Hajongs from the state's "economic package for vulnerable sections in these difficult times of COVID-19 pandemic".
On Tuesday, the human rights body Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) had highlighted the issue and sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention.
In a statement, the RRAG said the directive to the Arunachal government was issued by the Ministry for Development of North Eastern Region (DONER).
"On 29 April 2020, Mr Rambir Singh, Joint Secretary of the DONER Ministry in a letter made available to the RRAG on Friday had directed the Chief Secretary of Arunachal Pradesh Mr Naresh Kumar to address hunger and starvation as a matter of priority," the statement said.
RRAG director Suhas Chakma said: "The food relief has been provided to about 40% of the extremely poor Chakmas and Hajongs like the daily-wage labourers under the Diyun circle till yesterday. A list of 1,544 families of extremely poor Chakmas and Hajongs was submitted to the Extra Assistant Commissioner (EAC) on 17th April 2020 but about 60% of these beneficiaries have been reduced arbitrarily to a little over 600 families. Hundreds of families under Diyun circle are still suffering from starvation, and the RRAG once again today urged the PMO to ensure that no one goes hungry."
He claimed "for the last 56 years", the Chakmas and Hajongs have been faced with discrimination as a matter of State policy and it was "exposed" in the people's exclusion from the COVID-19 economic package.
"It is not only at Diyun but in other areas such as Miao, Chowkham, Kharsang, Bordumsa etc, the Chakmas and Hajongs are facing massive food shortage because of their exclusion. Because of discrimination and exclusion in the last 56 years, the 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," Chakma said.
On April 27, the RRAG had sought the PM's intervention alleging the Arunachal government did not provide any relief to the Chakmas and Hajongs. It alleged the government had issued a notification on April 14 to sell rice at Rs 29 per kg in the open market under which Chakmas and Hajongs had to buy while the same rice was being sold by Food Corporation of India at Rs 22 across India and the Arunachal government at Rs 11 per kg for the Above Poverty Line families.