An ANI reporter visited a Birhor village last week and talked with some of the people to get their perspectives on the tragedy of a few weeks earlier when eight people died suddenly. The reporter was surprised that, in this day and age, people actually went out and foraged “by eating roots and leaves from the forest.”

She wrote, “they lead a primitive lifestyle here,” and added that sometimes they even eat poisonous leaves and roots. She mentioned that recently over two dozen people died from eating leaves and roots (eight deaths were reported in all the earlier news stories), and she concluded that their habit of foraging in the forests might lead to their extinction.

Her interviews with the Birhor, who mainly discussed their poverty, were more worthwhile. One man she talked with, named Tusu Jhagi, told her, “we have always undergone lot[s] of problems. Life has always been tough and unfair to us. Previously, we used to have problems with the banks of rivers when the flood waters used to enter our villages. Now that problem doesn’t persist any more, but our tough time [continues].”

Suva Uthalu, another Birhor, said “we even don’t have basic facilities of food, shelter and clothes, and because of lack of any mode to commute .. often we can’t take our dying people to [a] hospital. It is very tough to live here.”

One Birhor man told her that they got no help from government agencies, except occasionally food and clothing donations. They survive by managing things on their own, he said. The villagers emphasized their fear of the Naxalites, the Maoist guerrillas who terrorize rural people in the eastern states of India. The reporter quotes a local official who describes how the government plans to help protect the Birhor.