New York Times

May 23 1971


Three Million Links In A Chain of Misery

By Sydney H. Schanberg

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Sanitary facilities are inadequate, adding to an already severe health problem. Indian hospitals are overflowing with the wounded and sick, many of whom have to lie on mats in the corridors and aisles. Dysentery is rife. Cholera and smallpox have broken out. And much of this is taking place in difficult-to-reach border regions- Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura-where medical care In normal times is either Inadequate or nonexistent. The problem of getting enough food to these remote areas is also straining India's limited resources.

And in the one easily accessible area, West Bengal state, the refugee influx has caused food shortages and forced prices up. At the same time, refugees offering to work in the fields at any price have driven the dally wage rate down. Resentment among local poor Indians has already surfaced, and in an overcrowded tinderbox state like West Bengal, one quarter of whose 45 million population is of earlier refugee origin, this could be explosive.

Hindu-Moslem tensions are also feared. Over-all, the refugee breakdown is 60 percent Hindu and 40 percent Moslem. Though Moslems predominate in East Pakistan, the Pakistan Army appears to be striking hard at the minority Hindus, who have always been regarded by the West Pakistanis as pro-Indian and who gave overwhelming support in last December's election to the autonomy- minded Awami League party, which has now been outlawed.


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