2005 Hunger Alerts
UPDATE (India): Government action inadequate in providing rehabilitation to displaced hunger victims and continued starvation death in Murshidabad, West Bengal
In late October, it was reported to the AHRC that the block administration of Murshidabad had proposed a rehabilitation programme for displaced hunger victims from the Dayarampur, Parashpur and Taltali villages who currently have no land or means to provide for their livelihoods due to the Padma River erosion. In the middle of the Padma River lies an island, a piece of land made by the river itself many years ago, that was given to landless tillers in 1974 by the governor of West Bengal under the West Bengal Land Reform Act 1955. The government has now proposed that the displaced villagers from Jalangi be relocated to this piece of land.
PHILIPPINES: Unfairly sacked farm labourers in Mindanao forced to eat poisonous frogs and corncobs due to abject poverty and lack of food
At least seven families of former labourers who were dismissed in 2003 from their jobs at the Sarangani Agricultural Company Incorporated (Saci) banana plantation for protesting against the company over land claims are suffering from hunger and have been forced to eat poisonous frogs in order to survive.
According to a September 23 report in The Irrawaddy online news service, the head of the World Food Programme in Burma, Bhim Udas, has said that in recent months the government authorities have delayed granting of permits for distribution of food in areas where the WFP has been working for over a decade. Udas reportedly said that the WFP had to wait for three months to get permits to Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships, where it is distributing food for around 300,000 people. He also said that the government was deliberately restricting supply of food to the region.
The AHRC earlier reported how Vishambhar's wife and two of his five children died of starvation and hunger-related illness in April and May 2005 after he lost his job due to a long-term downturn in the weaving market. Despite the changed economic situation destroying entire communities like the village of Sankarpur, state government agencies have failed to give social security and food assistance as required by law. In Vishambhar's case he was not given the card for government rations to which he was entitled. Only after several media reports on the deaths of his wife and children did the administration give him a pitiful handout, consisting of 50kg of wheat and 20kg of rice. Meanwhile, his surviving children were taken to a nearby social welfare facility run by a non-government group.
UPDATE (India): Starvation deaths continue despite government's commitment to provide food assistance in West Bengal
On September 4, 2005, the villagers of Jalangi, Murshidabad rejoiced at the good news; over 500 names, submitted by Masum, were added to about 20 ration dealer shops throughout the district. This meant that for the first time, the hunger victims in Jalangi would benefit from subsidized food through the Public Distribution System (PDS). Men, women and children in the area ran to the ration shops, eager to celebrate the seeming victory.
UPDATE (Philippines): Three children die at evacuation centre due to hunger; adequate food urgently needed for starving evacuees
The AHRC has received a report from United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), a human rights organization based in Cotabato City, Mindanao, that three children died at an evacuation centre for persons fleeing fighting on the island this 28 August 2005. Two of the children were identified as one-year-olds Nurhuda Kaling and Babaykan Kasan. The third victim was not named. All the children reportedly died from diarrhea caused by lack of nutritious food and potable water supply. At the time they fell ill they did not get any medical attention.
INDIA: Villagers exploited by employment in slave like conditions due to lack of food and terrible living conditions
The Chamar tribe in Kodwari village of Mirzapur District in Uttar Pradesh, India is facing extreme conditions due to lack of food and inhuman living conditions. The environment is devastated by environmental degradation and currently huge granite quarries plunder granite from the land thereby adding up to an acute shortage of water. There is no accessible health care system and the local administration has ignored the victims when it comes to subsidized food assistance. Education for children is out of the question.
Three displaced families now residing in a village in General Santos City, Mindanao, are suffering from malnutrition and poverty. The families, who are ethnic minorities originally from farmlands in South Cotabato, now engage in collecting and selling reusable garbage at a dumpsite for a living. They live in desperate conditions, and are also lacking in potable water and sufficient medical assistance.
Bighna Bhuiyan, who was unable to sustain either himself or his family due to abject poverty, committed suicide in Bhuiyanpara Village by hanging himself from a tree on August 21, 2005. Bighna and his family of six lived in a mud house. In order to earn a living Bighna worked as a day labourer. However, it was often difficult to find work, especially during the monsoons and Bighna found it increasingly hard to provide adequate food for his family. As a consequence, Bighna soon began to suffer from various disorders related to malnutrition.
Punvasia, aged 65, died of starvation on June 12, 2005 outside her village home in Sonbhadra, Uttar-Pradesh. She was the wife of the late Meghan, and had three sons (Brahma, Bishnu, and Mahesh) and two daughters. All children were married and thus, Punvasia lived alone and supported herself.
PHILIPPINES: Starvation and hunger threaten hundreds of displaced villagers following intense fighting in Maguindanao, Mindanao
Hundreds of villagers in Barangay Ahan, Guindulungan, Maguindanao are facing threats of starvation and hunger after they were unable to harvest their crops when fighting between soldiers and bandits broke out in early July this year. Out of desperation, the villagers also refused to leave their homes and farms despite the sporadic air strikes and mortar shelling, for they feared that should they leave, they would have no available means to provide for their livelihoods.
INDIA: Family struggles to provide for their livelihood as government continues to destroy homes in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra
In 2003, the Maharashtra State Farming Corporation (MSFC) destroyed the homes of Ramesh and many of his fellow villagers. As a result of these hut demolitions, Ramesh and his family now have no home, no food and no means to provide for their own livelihoods. They struggle as casual labourers to scrounge up enough to support themselves. They also now live in constant fear that their efforts to rebuild their lives will be destroyed again by the MSFC and other authorities. In the meantime, their struggle for land continues.
Rajkumari is a 30 year-old mother of three daughters, Usha, Rita and Sangeeta. She is a dalit (scheduled caste/'untouchable') woman with no land and lives with a physical disability. Her husband, Lal Chand recently developed a psychiatric disorder and abandoned his home. Currently, no one knows where he is and his family has lost their only source of income.
At least three families of indigenous people belonging to Dulangan Manobo tribe in Kulaman Valley, Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao, are presently experiencing severe starvation and hunger. They are among the 3,408 people whose crops have been destroyed by rat infestation and severe drought, which began in September 2004.
INDIA: Tea plantation workers and their families suffer night blindness due to malnutrition in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal
In recent years, tea garden labourers in West Bengal have suffered from serious starvation and hunger-related problems. For the last three years, night blindness caused by malnutrition has spread rapidly in the Raimatang tea garden, in the Dooars area Jalpaiguri district. According to pharmacist Shibshankar Datta, at least 250 tea garden labourers are currently suffering from the disease. The disease is caused by the lack of nutritious foodstuff experienced by the labourers. It affects the full realization of their right to life, which the state government of West Bengal is responsible to protect. Moreover, the management of the tea garden, which is responsible to provide food to their employees, has not paid them their wages regularly, ignoring the fact that they do not have access to sufficiently nutritious food.
There has been starvation and hunger in the province of North Cotabato, Mindanao and several neighboring municipalities in Central Mindanao region following a severe drought that began early this year. It destroyed the farmlands and farm crops of many farmers in Pigcawayan and nearby provinces of Cotabato. Most of the tenant farmers, who have been living in abject poverty, have had to find other work or borrow money from their relatives and merchants, to meet their needs.
The Kumarpukur village, located only 17 km from Kolkata, is situated on fertile lands that provide fruits and vegetables for the city on a daily basis. However, 529 indigenous people currently residing in the village are suffering from extreme hunger and malnutrition. The villagers are also lacking several other basic facilities that include food, water, education, health care facilities and electricity.
Vishambhar, a weaver, lives together with his surviving children in a thatched hut, after his wife and two children died in April and May 2005. His wife Jigna died on April 16 and his 16-year-old daughter Soni died on April 21 due to starvation and hunger-related diseases. On May 21 his two-month old son also died from starvation. He and the others that are still alive are facing imminent death for want of food.
INDIA: Tribal people's livelihoods threatened due to the confiscation of their land in Chitrakoot, Uttar-Pradesh
In 1991 the Revenue Department, in consultation with local Panchayats (village governments), gave a land entitlement to 46 landless Kol adivasis (indigenous tribal people) and other villagers in Ailaha Badhaiya, Chitrakoot. After precise measuring and mapping, the land was handed over to these families individually.
After a long period of fighting, several government officials came to E.M. Parvati's home and delivered 3 BPL cards to her and her two daughters, Kali and Durga (BPL no. 174240, 174241 and174242). With much excitement, Parvati and her daughter went to collect food using their BPL cards. However, upon receipt, Parvati realized that the foodgrains were inedible. The rice was rotten and not fit for human consumption.
Mr. Tilangi Mushhar, age 40, died on March 11, 2005 due to complications from taking medicine on an empty stomach. Tilangi, a landless daily wage labourer employed by a brick kiln in Kushinagar, earned approximately Rs. 40/- per day with the help of family members. He was married and had three sons and two daughters, all under the age of 15. The family lives in a small hut and is illiterate, as was Tilangi.
The Social Development Foundation (SDF) reports that Suddhu Rawat, aged 43, and his family are living in appalling conditions due to the nature of his employment. Mr. Rawat can no longer support his family and, his wife and eldest son (aged 18) have needed to find employment. Nonetheless, the family is struggling against hunger and malnutrition and the children don't have finances to attend school.
INDIA: UNICEF still avoiding responsibility in providing assistance to starving women and children in West Bengal
On April 8, 2005, two staff members from Unicef's Kolkata office met with Mr. Kirity Roy, a secretary of Masum, at Masum's office in Howrah. Mrs. Negi and Mr. Suman visited Masum and inquired about the current status of starvation among victims from Jalangi, Murshidabad (see: HA-02-2005) and Bellilious Park. At the meeting, the Unicef representatives were provided with 412 individual family complaints filed by victims from the Jalangi in Murshidabad district who lost their homes and cultivated land. The victims currently have nothing and are not under any government poverty alleviation schemes or humanitarian assistance programmes. The two representatives were also provided with a list containing the details of the victims forcibly evicted from Bellilious Park. Masum further suggested the representatives visit the Belgachia dumping ground where many of the evictees currently reside. However they indicated that they would do so at another time. An unnamed media source did report Unicef visiting with some victims at the dumpsite, though we have not received sufficient information to confirm this.
The last of the huts were destroyed in January 2005 by the Maharashtra. State Farming Corporation (MSFC) employees. Since the crops and huts of the adivasis were destroyed in the previous cropping season, the adivasis had to look for their livelihoods elsewhere. The MSFC employees took advantage of this and destroyed the majority of huts while the adivasis were working outside the area. The community was unable to put up the huts again because they were busy working as cultivators in other fields. This was not the case earlier, before the corporation destroyed over 1,000 acres of their farming land. Previously the adivasis could easily provide foodstuff for their entire community with their own food stuff. During this season however, only 16 people could cultivate their land. Further, the crop supply was under frequent threats by officials, and once by police. However, the adivasis managed to protect their crop.
Further to our Hunger Alert, HA-07-2005 issued on April 11, 2005, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) would like to provide you with the following pictures depicting the current living conditions of the adivasis living in camps under the Bardoli Sugar Factory in Surat, Gujarat.
The Bardoli Sugar Factory, under the Co-operative Societies Act, is governed by the Registrar and provides living accommodations for its adivasi workers. Mr. Manilal and Ms. Shilaben are both adivasis contracted to work under the Bardoli Sugar Factory. Both are landless and live in camps provided by their cooperative society employers. Traditionally, they are basket weavers by profession however, in order to earn enough to live, both became sugarcane cutters. Mr. Manilal states, "Otherwise my family members and I would die of starvation".
MASUM reports that Sundari Sardar, a 16-year-old tribal girl, was married to Dilip Biswas just three months ago. Dilip was a daily labourer working at the betel cultivation. He often went out in search of additional work and income, but regularly returned home having earned nothing. As a result, Sundari and Dilip often went without food for several days at a time and both suffered extreme hunger and malnutrition because of this.
INDIA: 5 year-old girl, evicted from her home by government authorities, dies of starvation in West Bengal
E.M. Lachhmi, aged five, died of starvation on 11 March 2005. She had not eaten for days. At the time of her death, her family had already lost their father to tuberculosis, and two younger brothers to starvation (UP-54-2003). E.M. Shiva died at the age of three in December 2003 of starvation while younger brother Taluk died in November 2004 from illness related to severe malnutrition and sub-human living conditions within one month of his birth.
On 3 March 2005 at around 8pm, a young girl in the Koilasava village was preparing her family's night meal. The flames from the burner set some nearby dry leaves alight causing a fire to spread quickly through the hut. The fire then spread to nearby huts, causing complete destruction to 40 of them as well as serious damage to others.?
MASUM reports that Ms. Bulbuli Paul, a 25 year-old mother of two sons and almost nine months pregnant with her third, died in the early hours of March 9, 2005 of malnutrition and starvation. She was brought to the Karimpur Rural Hospital on the evening of March 8, 2005 complaining of breathing problems and weakness due to lack of food. The hospital did not have the resources to treat her and she was referred to the Saktinagar District Hospital. Further, medical officer Dr. R.N. Biswas noted that the rural hospital only had one ambulance to service the entire community and many times could not transport critical patients. The family however, lacking the Rs. 600/- ambulance fee, could not afford to transport Bulbuli to the hospital. She died shortly thereafter.
MASUM has received reports that for many years, villagers in Anahar have been subjected to extreme conditions of poverty and starvation, leading to many deaths. The village has already been reduced to 28 families and 15 more residents are dangerously close to death. Local and state authorities have thus far taken no action in providing assistance, programmes, or funding in alleviating the situation.
On a recent visit to the Murshidabad district of West Bengal, colleagues of Masum were shocked to hear reports of numerous recent starvation deaths among villagers there, about which the authorities appear to be doing nothing. Some of the reports that Masum has received are as follows:
The State government of West Bengal is to commence a road expansion project funded by the Central Government. The planned project involves the widening of 21 kilometers along Budge-Budge Trunk Road, located in the South 24 Paraganas district. Several thousand families currently live along this road and the expansion will mean the destruction of their homes and lives. District administration is currently sketching a plan to evict the families who have resided beside the road for many decades. However, no proposals for resettlement or compensation for the victims has been included in the eviction plan.
INDIA: Total negligence by local authorities regarding the eviction of approximately 7,000 Untouchables in Bellilous Park
Staff from the AHRC and MASUM met with the Mayor and Commissioner of Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) on 10 February 2005, two years after the eviction of about 7,000 Untouchables in Bellilous Park which took place on 2 February 2003. Accompanying them were around 50 former residents of Bellilious Park, including men, women and children.