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Fact finding report of starvation deaths in Bihar


Case Studies in hunger deaths at Jehanabad and

Nalanda districts in Bihar

 

                 Summary of incident in Jehanabad district

Three people died in Rattubigha tola (Dhuriari village) of Ghosi block in Jehanabad district due to acute hunger during 10-14 August, 09. The deceased were Kunti Devi, Charittar Dom, and Janardan Mahto. Two of them belonged to the Dalit communities (one of them Mahadalit), and one to the Extreme Backward Caste (EBC) community.

 

Incidentally, Jehanabad and Nalanda are among the 26 districts declared drought-hit by the Bihar Government.

 

Hunger Monitoring Team for Fact Finding Report

Hunger Free Bihar Campaign, organized by several action groups fighting for the constitutional right of "livelihood with dignity", formed a Hunger Monitoring team and visited the villages of Rattubigha in Ghosi block (Jehanabad) and Jhawantola in Nursarai block (Nalanda). The following members were involved in the team:-

1.                  Mr. Pramod Kumar Singh - State Convener, Hunger Free Bihar Campaign

2.                  Mr. Mukhtarul Haque – State Convener, Bachpan Bachao Aandolan

3.                  Mr. Vimal Kant  - Janadhikar Manch

4.                  Ms. Shahina  The Hunger Project

5.                  Mr. Satyanand – Human Rights Law Network

6.                  Mr. Shoumojit Banerjee – Correspondent, The Hindu

7.                  Ms. Anita Kumari, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (Bihar)

8.                  Ms. Pramila Kumari, social worker

Fact finding Report

Rattu Bigha is primarily a Maha Dalit hamlet of about 75 households, out of which 51 families are Maha Dalits and while 10 are other Dalit families (Paswan). Majority of dalits and BPL families have stated that govt agencies failed to provide any job to them under NREGS.  Most of the villagers in the tola were malnourished and suffered from other hunger-related diseases. According to records extracted from the BDO, the hamlet has a total of 20 Antyoday cards, 53 red cards and 2 Annapurna Yojana card holders. Villagers stated they have not been provided subsidized food grains for the past several months by the PDS dealer Anil Sharma.

 

A note on two of the victims

Kunti Devi, who died on 10th of August, is survived by her husband Mahendra Paswan and two sons (Lalmohan Paswan and Paras Pasan), both of whom used to live separately from their parents.

 

Mahendra Paswan has 4 hens and owns a buffalo on contract basis which entitles him to a share of profits from the bovine's produce. He was completely landless and the sole bread earner of his family who had no source of livelihood except his traditional artisan (bamboo basket making).

 

No Food grains received under Antyoday cards

There is no availability of rations in fair price shop at regular basis. Rations have abruptly been stopped by block supply officer/dealer ever since the order to provide villagers with 25 kilos of food grains on their TPDS and AAY cards (instead of the earlier 35 kg.) was issued by the Government of India.

 

Since June 2008, not a single family has received regular supply of food grains under their Yellow (Antyoday) cards, which entails the villagers to buy rice at Rs.2 and wheat at Rs.3 per kilo. The coupons continue to remain with the villagers, but the dealer claims "shortage of food grains" and keeping the shop closed for most of the time. This has been attested by villagers/ TPDS/AAY card holders eg- like Amrit Manjhi (food coupen no. 5546), Vim Manjhi (5560) and Moti Manjhi (5556). Their AAY cards that have no delivery entry since last year.

 

Charitter Dom's AAY card and coupons were available with him. Despite he was deprived from subsidized food grains by the dealer. His food coupon no. 15938 for June '08 till May '09 and coupon no. 16133 from June '09 till August 2010 and onwards- continue to remain with his kin as a sordid souvenir of his desperate condition.

 

His son Ajay Dom, who is living separately from the family, holds a TPDS card (No. 0016133), but he never lifted ration from under the PDS.

 

Now, among BPL families, an AAY card holder is considered to be poorer than a TPDS card holder.

 

The question here arises that how has the father been issued with an AAY card, while the son gets a TPDS card? Are the authorities implying that the son is better off than the father, even though both are members of the same family?

 

Dom's dependant wife was given one quintal food grain (wheat & rice) and also 1500/- for his funeral on 14.08.09.

 

In the case of Kunti Devi, she was not given ration even after producing Antyodaya Ration Card. Moreover the card was confiscated by the BDO, Rakesh Ranjan , ust two days after her death.

 

Supreme Court order of 2 May, 2003

PDS control order 2001 defines "diversion" as "unauthorized movement or delivery of essential commodities released from central godowns but not reaching the intended beneficiaries under the Public Distribution System".

 

Accordingly, to prohibit this diversion, the SC on May 2, 2003 directed the states to cancel the FPS license of those dealers who do not keep their shops open throughout the month during the stipulated period, fail to provide grain to TPDS and AAY cardholders strictly at BPL and AAY rates and no higher rates, make false entries in the BPL/AAY cards and engage in black-marketing.

 

No workday entries in NREGA job cards

One of the deceased, Charittar Dom's NREGA job card reads thus: card no. 0079, issued 2.02.2006, workday entries: 0. So, Charitra Dom dies jobless on an 10th August despite his job card being issued in February,6, more than three winters ago. While Charitra Dom was fortunate enough to be issued with a job card, Kunti Devi (who died on the 11th august) and Janardhan Mahto alias Janardan Singh), who died on the 13th, were bereft of one.

 

According to Santosh Paswan, he has applied for a Job card in 2008, but has not received it as yet. Other people like Vim Manjhi, Amrit Manjhi, Sanjeevan Manjhi, Banwari Manjhi, Ganga Manjhi, Mohan Manjhi, Birju Manjhi, Jamun Manjhi, Sajan Manjhi, Surendra Manjhi, Salendra Manjhi, Upendra Manjhi, Arjun Manjhi, Sanjeet Manjhi, Jitendra Manjhi, Koushlendra Paswan, Bhushan Paswan, Navlesh Paswan, Jugeshwar Paswan, Baleshwar Paswan, Nagina Paswan and Udresh Paswan and others have said that Rs.30 was taken from them to get their photos clicked.

 

In reality, it is the Government of India that bears expenses for the photographs.

 

Sanctioned relief amount under Indira Awas Yojana not given

Apart from Charittar Dom, none of the deceased were ever availed of the benefits under the Indira Awas (Shelter) Yojna. According to Dom's wife, Ex- mukhiya Arvind kumar, instead of the expected Rs 35,000 under the scheme, gave only Rs 10,000  which was spent on Bricks (5000 pieces). As a result, the bricks continue to lie in Dom's hut till this day. No action was taken against the Ex- Mukhiya Arvind kumar by BDO.

 

Moreover, there is no entry in his passbook (no.4290), issued by a local Punjab National Bank branch of his having ever received the 10,000 rupees.

 

Earlier, about 4 years ago when six houses were gutted and all sufferers were assured to get Indira Awas by the government, but not a single home is ready as of today under IAY. None of sufferers have been given money till date, while 6,000 bricks and 12 bags of cements were supplied through contractor instead of the proper channels.

 

It was also observed that no money has given to the mason for the half – built houses as yet.

So, the sufferer has effectively been saddled with the mason's debt as well.

 

Flaws in Mid-day Meal Scheme

It was observed that the MDM scheme was virtually dysfunctional in the village. Food is only served for about 8-10 days a month. Moreover, the cook, Bimal Devi, has been dismissed for speaking up against the school administration.

According to her, she was pressurized by headmaster to procure firewood from the students, and was dismissed when she refused to do so.

 

Widespread prevalence of untouchability  

During the visit, it was observed that untouchability was rife in Rattu Bigha. In a violation of MDM norms, there is no evidence is a dalit cook to serve the school children under MDM. Instead, a non-dalit cook has been appointed. 

 

 

Benefits under Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) not granted

 The village Aanganwadi remains open for barely 6-7 days a month. A meager ration of one kilo rice, usually aldulterated with pulses, is served to pregnant women and children. In reality, the authorities are supposed to provide the women and children with more rations than the aforementioned figure, while the rice and pulses are mint to be distributed separately. 

 

 

Benefits under National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS) not granted

Jhapas Manjhi (age 65 yrs), Nathun Manjhi, Hari charan Manjhi (age 73 yrs) and Sugiya Devi(70yrs) W/o- Materan Manjhi are still deprived from the benefit of  NOAPS although all of them are Mahadalits.

 

Immediate relief not granted on time

Under the Kabir Antyeshti Yojana, family members of the deceased are entitled to Rs. 1500 for performing their last rites. The mukhia / panchayat secretary is supposed to hand over this amount to the kin of the deceased immediately after the death of the person. But in Rattu Bigha, the mukhia or BDO, Rakesh Ranjan, had not done so until 16.08.09, and that too only when our hunger monitoring team reached the village. No dependant of any of the deceased has been given the Rs 10,000 benefit under NFBS as of 27.08.09.

Meanwhile, the BDO and other block officials quickly went on a form-filling drive, catching hold of villagers and filling forms under various schemes.

 

Claims of Government authorities

Sub divisional magistrate, Ramesh Kumar Sharma, denied that the people had died of starvation, and cited illness as the cause.

He said that "There was absolutely no question of their dying due to starvation as we have allotted a quintal of food grains to every panchayat in the district specifically to meet such emergencies."

But the villagers have stated that the deceased, despite holding BPL and Antoday AnnaYojana cards, did not receive rations during the previous several months.

 

Rakesh Ranjan, block development officer of Ghosi Block, said that if the villagers had been "deprived of government allotted food grains, then it was likely they had died due to starvation".

 

As of 22nd August BDO said that he has already dispatched the submitted forms of NFBS by the dependents of deceased to the respective authority for the benefit of Rs 10,000 each. State govt officials expressed before media persons that measures have been taken by the state government to provide Rs 1.26 crore for food grains to below poverty line (BPL) families.

The newly appointed District Magistrate Palika Sahni said that stern action would be taken against middlemen. She confirmed that the dealer had been absconding and she had already instructed the SDM to camp in the village. The DM said that as the food grains allotment last year was inadequate, many villagers were still left with their food coupons. Efforts were being made to identify the gaps and villagers were now being given food grains on priority.(But the statement related distribution of food grains among villagers was not found correct by the fact finding team, only deceased families got one quintal of food grains after the death of three villagers.

  


Summary of incident in Jhawantola village in Nursarai block of Nalanda district

Phulmati Devi, aged 40 years, and her one year infant Sugan, died of hunger at Jhawantola village in Nursarai block of Nalanda district on 12th August,09. The deceased belonged to the Musahar caste of Maha Dalit community and was a farm labourer.

 

Fact Finding Report

There are 35 Maha Dalit Musahar families and 40 Dalit (Paswan) families residing in this tiny village Jhawantola in Nursarai block of  Nalanda district.

 

The Despite being 'yellow-card' holders, Maha Dalit families in the village were out of work for months and were not provided rations. Her mother in law, named --   -- – was also died of the same cause on 11/07/09. 

 

For his mother's funeral, Shrawan Kumar (husband of Phulmanti Devi), was not given any monetary relief by the administration.He was given a sum of Rs. 3000/- during death of his wife and child.

The Rs 10,000/- due under National Family Benefit Scheme has been given to him on 14th August by the block officials.

 

However, he has still not benefited under Indira Aawas Yojana.

The local administration, in order to escape its accountability, has suddenly issued a job card to Shrawan Manjhi just after the death of his wife and child showing the date of issuance as 05.05.09. The card has no entry of any of the workdays and payments made.

His Father, however, has been getting old age pension of Rs 200/month under NOAPS.

 

Benefits under National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS) not granted

Ramdev Manjhi (75 yrs), widow Surji Devi (74 yrs), Chandra Kalo Devi (74 yrs), Ganauri Manjhi (70 yrs) still continue to be deprived of the benefits under NOAPS.

 

At the spot, villagers also came up to us and said that they were being systematically deprived of the benefits of different social security schemes that they are entitled for such as Disabled pension, old age pension, widow pension, the benefits of NFBS and Janani Suraksha yojna  and several others.

 

Villagers also revealed that the dealer Fakhruddin continues to engage in hoarding rice, an activity to which the Mukhiya, Saeed Ahmad, turns a blind eye to.

 

Conclusions

As is evident from the study, hunger death incidents in remote interiors are usually slurred over, unheard of and blatantly ignored across the state.

Intentions and actions continue to be wildly divorced in the Bihar administration, as the victims continue to suffer in silence owing to stark apathy shown by local government authorities. Their problems are further compounded due to caste equations, which continue to raise their ugly head in these hamlets.

Why is it that the government fails to interlink the problem of hunger with starvation, malnutrition and disease?

Why is it that that the failure of the service delivery mechanism is usually found to be the main cause of the problem?

Will hunger wait till this backlog is belatedly filled by providing villagers with rations only after deaths have occurred?

There is a great need to raise awareness, sensitize government officials, strengthen the service delivery mechanism and ensure prompt action on poverty-related issues like food/social security and employment guarantee schemes in the state.

The Hunger Free Bihar Campaign thus strives to cut through this thick fog of bureaucratic apathy, while bringing the plight of these people to public eyes.

 

Documented by: Shahina, Vimalkant, Soumen, Satyanand, Shoumojit and Pramod

 

For comments and further enquiries write to:

Pramod Kumar Singh

State Convenor

Hunger Free Bihar Campign

Director, Vidyasagar Samajik Suraksha Seva Evam Shodh Sansthan

A-22, R D Tower, New Punaichak, Patna – 800023, Bihar ( INDIA)

Tele/ Fax - 0612-2281197, 09431419356, 

 Email – hungerfreebiharcampaign@gmail.com,

              WNTA,Bihar< pat_wnta@dataone.in>

 

 

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