Sherpas face starvation

Sita Niraula

Taplejung, January 19:

They came here from the lap of Kanchanjunga mountain to escape cold, but in their new destination, they have been finding it hard to cope with starvation. Members of 60 Sherpa families, who migrated to Falebensi last month from Dhunsa to escape chilly weather triggered by snowfall, have been facing starvation. Stating that those who had gone to the district headquarters asking for rice had to return empty-handed, Pengi Sherpa, who migrated to Fale from Dhunsa, said, “We have been starving.”

Every winter, people of Dhunsa come here to escape chill. Talking to newsmen this week, they said, “The potatoes that we had brought with us are finished. As the security forces did not allow us to bring rice, we have been living on the flour of Uwa — a kind of grain cultivated in the Himalayan region — the only food grain available here. The people of Gyabla and Amjilesa, which lie near the district headquarters, have also been facing food shortage.

Says Dandu Sherpa, another migrant from Fale, “Since we have no rice, we have been living on flour and hot water.”

As the weather becomes warmer, the migrants will return to Dhunsa in mid-February. According to Chhiring Dandu Sherpa of Gyabla, embargo imposed by the administration on rice transport and Maoist blockade are the reasons behind food shortage. Says chief district officer of Taplejung, Raj Kumar Niraula, “Shortage of rice has also been felt in the district headquarters.” Traders say they have to receive a permit from the local administration if they want to transport over 50 kgs of rice. According to them, this rule has created shortage of rice in the market. Summing up the frustration of the migrants, an aged Sonam Sherpa says, “We moved from our homes to escape cold, but we have had to stay without food.”