The people living in Monigong, one of the remotest circles of Arunachal Pradesh’s Shi-Yomi district, bordering China are facing severe scarcity of food as the food supply trucks have stopped entering the district following the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
The situation reportedly is worse in Monigong as the people there depend mostly on rice distributed through public distribution system (PDS) and they now have very less left in their stock with no hope of getting more soon.
The distance from Itanagar to Monigong is around 556 km, and one has to cross the districts of East Siang, Siang and West Siang besides Assam to reach Shi-Yomi.
“Following the announcement of the nationwide lockdown on Tuesday, people of West Siang and Siang districts have gone a step further and imposed traditional lockdowns at several places which is making things worse for us,” Taling Yapik, a local of Monigong village said.
“As we depend on these two districts for most of our supplies, we are facing a huge crunch of essential items, especially rice,” Yapik added.
Yapik, who runs one of the fair price shops in Monigong, said their stock is nil and the panicked people are running around in search of rice.
“We distributed rice through PDS a month ago and have not been able to do so after that,” he said.
“Depending upon the strength of a family, one gets anywhere from 5-35 kg of rice for a month,” he added.
“So one can imagine the situation here,” he lamented, adding that they are yet distribute the same for December and January as it has not been supplied by the contractors till now.
Yapik said besides the scarcity of food, the people of Monigong are also worried about what would happen to them if some medical emergency arises.
“Besides depending on West Siang for essential items like food, we also depend on the district for all our medical needs and take our patients to the district hospital at Aalo (the headquarters of West Siang), but due to lockdown we are now left wondering on what would happen now as there are no vehicles here,” he said.
Yapik said though Monigong has a health centre, it, however, has not seen a doctor after the last one left around a year ago.
“There is only a health assistant in the health centre and there are no medicines at all,” he said.
Lingdum Hemi, the gaon bura (village chief) of Hemi village had a similar story to tell.
Lingdum said as there are no pharmacies in Monigong, they rely on the Aalo hospital which is around 209 kms away (takes around 8-9 hours due to the terrible condition of the road) for all their medical emergencies.
“Thankfully no one has gone seriously ill at present, otherwise it would be difficult for us,” he said.
On food scarcity, Lingdum said their stock of rice is over and they have no other hope other than to wait for the government supply.
Replying to what would happen if the supply comes late he said, “Most of the villagers here have stopped growing rice so we may eventually die.”
Lingdum said that food items were dropped through a helicopter sortie on Friday, but it was only for the government officials.
“We thought the sortie would include something for us all well but we were left disappointed,” he said.
All Shi-Yomi District Students’ Union president, Badur Hemi, said it was very disheartening to learn that the district authorities were least prepared in this grave hour of Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
Hemi alleged that unlike other districts of the State, there is no proper medical facility available in Shi-Yomi.
“The quarantine facilities here are only on paper. Moreover, due to lockdown the transportation of essential items has been blocked in Aalo (West Siang) and Kaying (Siang). This has resulted in acute scarcity of essential items,” Badur said.
The student leader further alleged that the situation has further worsened due to the absence of district authorities like the Monigong extra assistant commissioner (EAC) and Pidi circle officer from their place of posting.
“The people of Shi-Yomi are going through a very tough time due to the lockdown, therefore, we the government and authority concerned to look into the matter seriously and immediately,” he said.
Kiran Rinya, the president of All Shi-Yomi District Youth Association said they too are deeply saddened by the lacklustre attitude of the officers concerned.
Rinya said he had his executive members to carry out a field survey a few days ago during which they took stock of preparations made by the administration and heath department of the district in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We came to know that there was no thermal scanning conducted in the main check gate and people were moving freely. Also the quarantine center at Tato had not been prepared,” he said.
Rinya said besides these, there are several other problems being faced by the people of the district which are yet to highlighted or reported.
Local legislator P D Sona, when contacted, said he has already given out the necessary directions to the deputy commissioner and assured that the food crisis would end soon.
Acknowledging the scarcity of rice, especially in Monigong, Sona said: “Monigong has some peculiar problems as the authorities normally use choppers to drop ration but it will be looked into soon.”
In terms of the lack of thermal scanning at the check gate, Sona, who is also the state Legislative Assembly Speaker, said the necessary equipments have arrived and the scanning process would start from Saturday.
Deputy commissioner Mito Dirchi could not be contacted for his comments.
Monigong EAC Sadung Gyadu denied reports of any food crisis and said everything was normal.
Gyadu, who, according to Rinya is presently in Itanagar, said the rice distribution in Monigong had take place a week ago.