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Friday, 20 April, 2001, 20:49 GMT 21:49 UK
Probe into Rajasthan deaths
Rajasthan farmer
Rajasthan has been hit by a third year of droughts
By Narayan Bareth in Jaipur

The authorities in the west Indian state of Rajasthan have ordered an inquiry into the deaths of five people from tribal groups in the southern district of Banswara.

Opposition members have been protesting in the state assembly that the deaths are due to starvation, which the government denies.

Rajasthan location map
In an interview with the BBC, the state minister for relief, Parsadi Lal Meena, said that they had made sure that every village had an adequate store of wheat.

But one opposition leader who has visited the district said that several houses did not have enough grain.

Rajasthan has been badly hit by drought for the third year running.

Members of the opposition Janata Dal party had recently said that the deaths of five people in Banswara were triggered by hunger rather than illness.

Starvation ruled out

But Mr Meena says senior district officials clearly ruled out death by starvation in their initial reports.

Mr Meena also said that his government had made adequate provisions some time ago to store wheat at the headquarters of every village cluster for distribution.

The issue disrupted proceedings in the state assembly on Thursday with protests by three members of the opposition Janata Dal party, who represent the predominantly tribe-dominated Banswara district.

The state leader of the Janata Dal party, Fateh Singh, said that at least seven people had died in the district due to hunger in the last few days.

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See also:

01 May 00 | South Asia
Drought threatening livestock
26 Apr 00 | South Asia
India dismisses drought fears
25 Apr 00 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Struggling with drought
24 Apr 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Poor management of resources
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