Thirteen-year-old Laxman Jani died of diarrhoea last month in Kandabeda Padar village of tribal-dominated Koraput district. But his name does not figure in an official list.
"Laxman's name is not there in the list of diarrhoea victims prepared by the district administration," the boy's father Lada Jani told IANS. While residents claim the waterborne disease has killed as many as eight people in their village over the past one month, government records show that only two people succumbed to the illness.
AdvertisementSimilarly, 18-year-old Minju Disari, a resident of Katra Amba village, died of diarrhoea Aug 16 but his father Nila Dishari claims that government records show he died of malaria.
People allege that the state government is deliberately keeping the cholera and diarrhoea death toll low in order to minimise the amount of compensation.
"I have a list of hundreds of people who died of diarrhoea over the past one month in villages under the Dasmantpur block. Many of them do not figure in the government list," legislator Taraprasad Bahinipati told IANS.
Other regions under the grip of cholera and diarrhoea fall under the Kashipur block in Rayagada district and Thuamulrampur block in Kalahandi district.
These areas witness the outbreak of waterborne diseases almost every monsoon. The cause has been the same over the years - rainwater slush from hilltops contaminating water sources.
"The total number of deaths due to the diseases so far is 142. Of these, 62 were in the district of Rayagada, 43 in Koraput and 27 in Kalahandi," an official of the state health control room at Bhubaneswar told IANS.
"No deaths have been reported from these regions for the past one week although there are a few cases of attacks. Hospitals have only received sporadic diarrhoea cases and all of them have been treated," he said on condition of anonymity.
But locals claim that deaths caused by diarrhoea and cholera continue unabated. "The government figures are totally false. In Koraput alone, more than 250 people have already died," Bahinipati said. Ramachandra Ulaka, the legislative assembly member from Rayagada, said: "In my district alone more than 100 people have died.
"The administration is deliberately showing the fresh deaths as deaths due to other diseases. The old men have been shown to have died from old age-related complications, others have been shown as having died of fever or other diseases.
"The government is not disclosing the real deaths because it does not want to take the blame. Besides, it also does not want to pay any compensation," he alleged.
However, government officials deny the allegations. "We don't hide the real figure of death. The death toll given by us is correct," Rayagada district collector Bhaskar Jyoti Sharma told IANS. "There is no further spread of disease in Kashipur. There are only sporadic cases of cholera and diarrhoea," he said.
Cholera and diarrhoea outbreaks have been wreaking havoc for one and a half months in the three districts - known as the most underdeveloped parts of the country and often in the news for starvation deaths and child trafficking.