Experts’ report on Malkangiri kids death evokes mixed reaction

Bhubaneswar/Malkangiri: A day after the central expert team claimed that ‘Bana Chakunda’ (Cassia Occidentalis) seeds is another cause of children’s death in Malkangiri beside Japanese Encephalitis (JE), the issue evoked mixed reactions.

Sources said the tribal people consume the raw and roasted seeds of the forest plant. The tribal people also use the root, seeds and leaf of the plant as a medicine for worm, stomach ache and fever.

Even as the government accepted it as forest produce which is mentioned in the gazette notification, doctor termed the seeds poisonous. “The seeds of ‘Bana Chakunda’ are poisonous. It affects three systems of the body-liver, muscle and brain. Affecting brain is called Encephalopathy”, deputy superintendent of Capital Hospital Bijay Mohapatra said.

However, OUAT professor Basudev Behera accepted it as medicine for some disease, but advised against excess consumption. “This plant is generally used as medicine for skin disease, cough and some other disease. However, excess consumption may affect the hepatic system of the body”, said Prof Behera, who is heading the department of Agronomy of OUAT.

On the other hand, Adivasi Mahasangha, a tribals outfit, did not buy the argument that deaths are due to the consumptions of seeds of ‘Bana Chakunda’. The tribal body claimed the reason of the mass death is something else and demanded an inquiry.

“I don’t believe that a child of six-month to 2-year old is known to ‘Bana Chakunda’ as a food or medicine”, tribal activist Ghanasyam Madkami said.

Meanwhile, Malkangiri district administration vowed to take massive steps for awareness. “We will take measures to aware people that they would not consume the seeds of this plant for any treatment purpose”, Malkangiri ADM Kalyan Sarkar said.

Notably, central expert team yesterday revealed its finding that Japanese Encephalitis (JE) was not the only killer in the tribal-dominated district and that 64 kids succumbed to Encephalopathy caused due to the consumption of ‘Bana Chakunda’ (Cassia Occidentalis).

“Anthraquinone is the suspected toxin found in a plant called ‘Bana Chakunda’ in Odia or Cassia Occidentalis. We found toxin from the urine sample of a few tested children, which indicates that the children ate seeds of the plant,” head of the expert team Jacob Jonn had told reporters on Friday in Bhubaneswar.

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