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INDIA: Indian Red Cross ignores starvation of Kolkata evictees

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

15 December 2004

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HA-06-2004: INDIA: Indian Red Crross ignores starvation of Kolkata evictees

INDIA: Starvation death, malnutrition, humanitarian organization inaction
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission has previously reported on the forced eviction of thousands of people from their rightful homes in Bellilious Park, Kolkota, India since July 2003. As of present, nothing has been done to rehabilitate or compensate these people, a number of whom have starved to death and a large number of whom are seriously affected by malnutrition. After writing numerous reports and letters to the proper authorities regarding this situation, our organization also turned to humanitarian organizations for help, including the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS). However, remarkably the IRCS wrote back to the AHRC declining to offer any assistance to the affected persons.

The AHRC has again pressed the state chairman of the IRCS to act on this case. We urge you to do the same in order that his organization intervene and assist the Bellilious Park evictees.

Urgent Appeals Desk -- Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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DETAILED INFORMATION:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) received a reply from the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) on 3 December 2004 in regards to a letter sent by the AHRC detailing the eviction of some thousands of persons from Bellilious Park, Howrah, greater Kolkata, West Bengal. The circumstances of that eviction were detailed in an original urgent appeal (FA-27-2003). The starvation of a young child due to the eviction was described in subsequent updates (UP-54-2003, UP-03-2004). A brief reminder on the case can also be found below.

In his letter to the AHRC, R. N. Sengupta, the chairman of the IRCS in the state of West Bengal, says that

"any human distress is of concern to the Red Cross Society...But, since in West Bengal, there is an organization for looking into the violation of human rights in any form viz the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, we have thought it desirable to send the papers to the Chairman, West Bengal Human Rights Commission for taking necessary action in the matter...".

In a letter to the chairman, the AHRC has replied that clearly the IRCS is evading its responsibility in a matter of direct concern to it as a member of an international network aiming to promote "humanitarian principles and values" and "health and care in the community". In fact, these very words were taken from the IRCS website. It added that the West Bengal Human Rights Commission has for a long time been informed about the case but done nothing.

The AHRC also made a press release expressing its disappointment at the response of the Red Cross to the urgent need for its intervention to assist the victims of the Bellilious Park eviction (AHRC-PL-106-2004).?


BRIEF REMINDER OF THE CASE:

On 2 February 2003, thousands of people (all Dalits, known as "untouchables" under the Indian caste system) were forcibly and illegally evicted from a piece of land at Bellilious Park, 129, Bellilious Road, Howrah by the administration with active participation from a huge armed police force. After the forced eviction, the people have been living in horrendous conditions at the Belgachia garbage dumping ground. The largest group is situated next to a septic lake in which even human body parts and aborted fetuses have been seen floating, before being fished out by dogs. A number of persons are known to have died from illnesses brought about by these living conditions, from starvation and from malnutrition-related illnesses. Until now, the West Bengal State government has not provided any compensation to the victims and has failed to resettle those who are currently living in miserable conditions. Attempts to involve humanitarian organisations like the Red Cross have so far also proved futile.

The complete and detailed background to this situation can be found in articles in two periodicals of the AHRC and its sister organisation, the Asian Legal Resource Centre: Human Rights Solidarity (Vol. 14 # 4, July 2004) and article 2 (Vol. 3 # 4, Aug 2004).


SUGGESTED ACTION:

The AHRC urges you to write to the Indian Red Cross Society and send copies to the proper authorities to voice your outrage at the unnecessary and inhumane condition in which this Dalit community is forced to live in. We would particularly encourage members of other Red Cross Societies worldwide to raise your concerns directly with the chairman over his inaction.

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Dear R. N. Sengupta,

Re: Indian Red Cross Society ignores starvation and poverty of Kolkata evictees

I have received news from the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), regarding your organization's neglect of the plight of a Dalit community numbered in the thousands who were forcibly and illegally evicted from Bellilious Park, Howrah, greater Kolkata, West Bengal. The AHRC has already sent a letter detailing the conditions of these evicted people along with substantial documentation to you and yet you and your organization have passed off the responsibility to others. Despite your reasoning of another organization's existence that specifically looks into violations of human rights, this is no reason for your own humanitarian organization to fail to take the needed steps in this particular situation.

The evicted families have still not been rehoused, are living beside garbage dumps and on the open street, without any access to water and any basic sanitation system. The largest group is situated next to a septic lake in which even human body parts and aborted fetuses have been seen floating, before being fished out by dogs. A number of people have already died as a result of the horrendous and inhuman conditions in which they are forced to live; starvation and malnutrition-related illnesses are rampant and continuing up until today.

As stated in your website's mission statement, the Indian Red Cross Society aims to promote universal principles and values, along with health and care in the community. Based on this, I urge you take responsibility regarding the evicted Dalit community of Bellilious Park and take steps to alleviate the conditions of these people. I look forward to hearing a positive response and actions to be undertaken.

Sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTER TO:

Shri Rathindra Nath Sengupta
Chairman
Indian Red Cross Society
West Bengal State Branch
5 & 6 Government Place North
Kolkata 700 001
INDIA
Fax: +91-33- 2210 3385


PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:

1. Mr. Ashok Bhattacharya
Minister-in-charge
Urban Development & Town & Country Planning Department
Government of West Bengal
Kolkata, West Bengal
INDIA
Tel: +91-33-22145497
Fax: +91-33-2214 5480 / 3853
E-mail: micma@wb.gov.in or 6241@writerscal.gov.in

2. Mr. Gopal Mukherjee
Mayor
Howrah Municipal Corporation
Howrah
West Bengal
INDIA
Fax: +91-33-2660 3214

3. Justice J. S. Anand
National Human Rights Commission
Sardar Patel Bhaven, Sansad Marg
New Delhi 110 001
INDIA
Tel: +91-11-2334 0891 / 7065
Fax: +91-11-2334 0016
E-mail: nhrc@ren.nic.in

4. Chief Justice of India
Supreme Court of India
New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Fax: +91-11-2338 3792 / 1508

5. Mr. Jean Ziegler
UNCHR Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
c/o Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Room 4-066
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Palais Wilson,
Rue des Paquis 52, Geneva
Switzerland
Fax: +41-22-917 9010
Email: sect.hchr@unog.ch

6. Mr Anthony Banbury
Regional Director
World Food Programme
Unit No. 2, 7th Floor
Wave Place Building
55 Wireless Road
Lumpini, Patumwan,
Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Tel: +66-2-6554115
Fax: +66-2-6554413
Email: Anthony.banbury@wfp.org or Bkk.unescap@un.org

7. Mr Pedro Medrano Rojas
Country Director
World Food Programme
2 Poorvi Marg,
Vasant Vihar,
New Delhi 110057
INDIA
Tel: +91-11-26150000
Fax: +91-11-26150019
Email: wfp.newdelhi@wfp.org


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme -- Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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