DIPAYAL: Starvation looms large in Bajura and Bajhang this Tihar, even as the government airlifted foodstuffs with the aid of a helicopter.

Local residents said they received just a 10 kilogram of rice ahead of the festival and are left with nothing to eat, let alone celebrate the Tihar.

The story of food shortages in the districts goes back to the Maoists' insurgency era, when several District Food Depots were destroyed, making it harder for the government to store food stuffs.

The food depots, that got destroyed a decade ago, still remain in their battered state, far from being renovated by the government.

The dilapidated state of the road has worsen the situation further as no additional stock of food could be supplied to the districts, where children and adults alike are surviving only on god's mercy.

Desparate people, often in hungry stomach, walked three days on bare foot to reach the district headquarters. At the end of the ardous journey, they found that they could only collect a mere 10 kilogram of rice from the District Food Corporation depot. People of Kada and Bungal areas of Bajhang district are among the worse-hit, without a grain of rice left to eat, let alone celebrate the Tihar.

Local resident of Chhana VDC in Bajhang, Birendra Khadka said whatever small amount of food items distributed by the district depot is hardly enough to feed his family members.

Khadka said he received a mere 10 kg of rice after walking for two days to district headquarters. "Half the food is consumed on the three-day walk," Khadka, who had reached Dipayal for buying essentials, told The Himalayan Times.

People of Kada VDC of Bhajhang have begun to rely on Taklakot of Tibet for the supply of their food stuffs after the local depots went empty. A staffer at the food corporation, Jagat Khadka, informed that they were facing difficulty in distributing food in the rural areas after the depots were destroyed in the armed conflict a decade ago.

''We are now distributing food for 11 VDCs from Kolti depot and to 16 VDCs from Martadi depot,'' he said.

Chief of District Food Depot in Bajura, Amarchandra, blamed on the geographic difficulties to reach out to the people. He informed that they had been distributing same quantity of rice (500 quintals) for many years. "The quota has not increased there after even as the population has risen to four-fold."

Meanwhile, displaced food depots of inner Terai of Dadeldhura district has not been restored yet. Similarly, two depots of Accham district are awaiting a repair.

Amarchandra further added that even the approved quota of food items could not be transported to the districts due to seasonal floods and rain that has battered the roads.

Food for poor used for alcohol

MUGU: The food that is being supplied by the District Food Coroporation to Mugu, one of the worse food-scarce districts in the mid-west, has been illegally converted to alcohol by the local hotelliers.

The shortages of food in the district has been attributed to the hoteliers in the district headquarter-Gamgadhi, who have been using the food grain to prepare alcoholic drink, said Narabir Rawat, Chairman of Mugu Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

The district food depot has been distributing foodstuffs to the government staffers, police personnel and the locals of five rural VDCs of the district under a quota system. But Rawat said the locals were not getting their quota.

According to district food depot, though they have approved 11,000 quintals of rice for the district in the fiscal year 2008/2009, not all the food has reached the target population in the district, and the local depots.

Khreekot, Sorukot and Pulu depots of the district are virtually empty of food stocks, he said.

Premsingh Niruwa, a local resident of Shreenagar-6, lamented,"There is not even a grain of rice left in my house for the Tihar.""The hoteliers used our rice in preparing alcohol,'' he alleged. — HNS