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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.

UPDATE ON HUNGER ALERT UPDATE ON HUNGER ALERT UPDATE ON HUNGER ALERT

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

Update on Hunger Alerts
24 March 2005

[Re: HU-01-2005: INDIA: Total negligence by local authorities regarding the eviction of approximately 7,000 Untouchables in Bellilious Park; HA-06-2004: INDIA: Indian Red Cross ignores starvation of Kolkata evictees; UP-03-2004: An AHRC letter to the president of the India regarding eviction of Untouchables; UP-54-2003: 3 year old eviction victim died due to starvation in West Bengal, FA-27-2003: 7,000 Untouchables in Bellilious Park evicted by the government of West Bengal and the Howrah Municipal Corporation]
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HU-02-2005: INDIA: 5 year-old girl, evicted from her home by government authorities, dies of starvation in West Bengal

INDIA: Starvation; Death; malnutrition; Inaction by humanitarian organizations and government
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is deeply saddened to inform you of the death of E.M. Lachhmi, who died of starvation at the tender age of 5. Her family was one of the thousands forcibly evicted from their homes in Bellilious Park in February 2003 and have been ignored by government and humanitarian organisations ever since (see: FA-27-2003, UP-03-2004, HA-06-2004, HU-01-2005, PL-106-2004 and PL-19-2005). Further, this is not the first time tragedy has struck her family in this way; her two younger brothers also died of starvation after the evictions occurred (see UP-54-2003).

The AHRC, along with colleagues from MASUM, have repeatedly pleaded with government authorities in West Bengal and humanitarian organisations, such as the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) in Kolkata, to provide assistance for the families removed from Bellilious Park. The victims currently live in horrendous conditions at the Belgachia garbage dump and go without food, shelter, drinking water, and a proper sanitation system. Many people have also reportedly died from illness related to the poor living conditions. However, government officials and non-profit groups have yet to provide either short-term relief or longer-term steps for improving the evictee's circumstances.

At present, Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) is providing shelter, food and medical assistance to E.M. Lachhmi's remaining family members; namely her mother and two sisters. MASUM also organised a protest against Unicef and the Legislative Assembly in Kolkata on March 23, 2005. There are many more families that will suffer the same fate as Lachhmi herself if local authorities do not take action. The AHRC calls for your urgent solidarity to support the evicted families of Bellilious Park. Please send a letter, fax or email to the appropriate local officials voicing your concerns and requesting full and immediate assistance and resettlement to the victims.

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

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.

Lachhmi's mother, E.M. Parvathi, earns 15 to 20 Rupees daily working as a manual scavenger (when jobs are available). The job entails cleaning sewers and hauling away human excrement. At the age of thirty, Parvathi has been employed in this industry for many years, but as a homeless single mother, is not able to afford food for her children. At present, Parvathi also suffers from acute tuberculosis and is in need of immediate medical attention.

Lachhmi's family is now reduced to her mother, and two sisters: Durga aged 6, and Kali now 13. Durga resides with her mother at the Belgachia rubbish site, while Kali works as a maid-servant in Bombay. MANSUM is currently providing the family with temporary shelter and medical assistance. Both girls should also be returning to school soon.

Further, MASUM organised a protest against Unicef, Kolkata and the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday March 23. The day-long protest marked the beginning of a new fight against continuing negligence, ignorance and conscious ineptitude by the government and Unicef to preventable deaths in West Bengal, including those of women and children. Approximately 500 Bellilious Park victims were in attendance and voiced their grievances.

A seven-member team representing the protestors was issued nine entry passes by the Speaker's Office to meet with legislators. At the Legislative Assembly however, their attempts to meet with government officials were unsuccessful. Upon reaching the premises, a large number of policemen (approximately 50) were present along with the Marshall of the Assembly, Mr. Jayantha, and the protestors were denied entry.

Coming to know that the team was denied entry into the compound, opposition leader Mr. Pankaj Banerjee and Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Mr. Tapas Ray met with the seven representatives and listened to their complaints. The team expressed their concerns for the Bellilious Park evictees, highlighting Parvathi and her family's plight, and inquired as to why human rights activists were denied access into the people's house. Mr. Banerjee assured them that he would raise the question at the legislative assembly. Mr. Banerjee further offered to make the necessary arrangements so that E.M. Parvathi and her family would receive immediate medical care.

The protestors and representatives also visited Unicef in Kolkata and met with their chief of West Bengal, Mr. Rudolph Schwenk. The AHRC and MASUM had brought several Bellilious Park cases to the attention of Unicef Kolkata's office, however the protestor's grievances were met with disbelief, as if the office was either unaware of the victims' current living conditions or was not convinced of the facts. Mr. Schwenk did apologise for being unable to meet with representatives of AHRC and MASUM to which Mr. Kirity Roy, secretary of MASUM, responded that Unicef should be sorry for the people dying of starvation rather than for missing a meeting with the concerned groups. Yet, Mr. Schwenk could only assure that his office would follow up on the matter through the government.


BRIEF HISTORY OF CASE:

Little Lachhmi's family is not alone in their struggles for survival. 7,000 Dalits were evicted from Bellilious Park on February 2, 2003 by the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) after decades of residency (FA-27-2003). HMC had been petitioning to demolish the site and was given permission by the Division Bench High Court of Calcutta to remove the residents, deemed trespassers, because of their inability to own land as scheduled caste members. The victims awoke to an armed police force and several bulldozers taking over their homes and fled to the Belgachia garbage dump.

Two years later, no progress has been made towards rehabilitation or resettlement for the victims and thousands still reside in the dumping grounds, living hand to mouth. In the meantime, two children have died from starvation and several others are seriously malnourished and ill. The majority of the victims still have no food, shelter or drinking water. Appeals to government authorities and international humanitarian organisations by the AHRC and MASUM have also been ignored (HU-01-2005). Moreover, the families evicted from Bellilious Park are still not listed under the Below Poverty Line (BPL), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) or Schedule Caste certificate (SC) schemes.


SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send a letter to the people addressed below and urge them to take immediate action to provide rehabilitation and compensation to the evicted victims from Bellilious Park.

Sample letter:

Dear __________,

Re: Five year-old Bellilious Park evictee dies of starvation 

I am deeply disturbed to learn that yet another young Bellilious Park evictee has died of starvation. E.M. Lachhmi, aged five, died on 11 March 2005 and is the third member in her family to succumb to such a tragic end. Her brothers Shiva and Taluk also passed way from hunger and malnutrition. Lachhmi's remaining family members, her mother and two sisters, still reside at the Belgachia dumping ground and continue to suffer from various illnesses.

This is not the first time that this case has been brought to your attention. The Bellilious Park evictions occurred in February 2003 and nothing has yet been done for the rehabilitation and resettlement for these victims. I am disappointed that neither local government authorities nor international humanitarian organisations in West Bengal have provided any assistance to the victims. When E.M. Shiva died in December 2003, the matter was immediately brought to the attention of the state government and several UN agencies, including Unicef Kolkata. Had action been taken on behalf of the victims, Lachhmi would still be alive today.

On 23 March 2005, a protest was organised by the former Bellilious Park residents outside Unicef and the Legislative Assembly in Kolkata. Seven representatives attempted to meet with legislators but were only successful in speaking to opposition leader Mr. Pankaj Banerjee. Mr. Banerjee offered to support Lachhmi's family in their medical needs. The representatives also met with Mr. Rudolph Schwenk of Unicef but their grievances were met with disbelief. Mr. Schwenk only suggested he would take the matter up with the appropriate government officials.

I am appalled that after two years, not one victim from the Bellilious Park evictions has received compensation or assistance. The majority of victims still live in a garbage dump with no regular food, shelter or drinking water. How many more people need to die from starvation and other easily avoidable illnesses before assistance will be provided to the victims?

I urge you to take immediate action in providing the necessary assistance the evictees require. Further, I hope that a resettlement and/or rehabilitation programme will be implemented shortly to provide for the long-term needs of the victims.

Sincerely,


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SEND A LETTER TO:

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

2. 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

3. Justice Shyamal Kumar Sen
Chairperson
West Bengal Human Rights Commission
Bhabani Bhavan, Alipore
Calcutta-700027
INDIA
Tel: +91 33 4797259 / 5558866
Fax: +91 33 4799633
Email: wbhrc@cal3.vsnl.net.in

4. 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

5. Mr. Rudolf Schwenk
State representative - West Bengal
United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef)
219/2, AJC Bose Road
Kolkata 700 017
West Bengal
INDIA
Tel: +91 33 2287.2477, 2467, 2511 or 2287.2758 to 2287.2761
Fax: +91 33 2287.2510
Email: kolkata@unicef.org

6. Mr. Miloon Kothari
UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
Att: Ms. Cecilia Moller
Room 4-066/010
UNOG-OHCHR, CH-1211, Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9265
Fax: +41 22 917 9010

7. Mr. Jean Ziegler
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
Attn: Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Room 4-066, C/o OHCHR
CH-1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 917 9010

8. Mr. Paul Hunt
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to Physical Heatlh
OHCHR-UNOG
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
Fax: +41 22 917 90 06
Email: urgent-action@ohchr.org

9. Mr. Pedro Medrano Rojas
Country Director
World Food Programme
2 Poorvi Marg
Visant Vihar
New Delhi 110 057
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2615 0019

10. Mr. Anthony Banbury
Regional Director
World Food Programme
Unit No. 2, 7th Floor
Wave Place Building
55 Wireless Road
Lumpini, Patumwan
Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Fax: +66 2 655 4413
Email: Anthony.Banbury@wfp.org

11. Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
Chief Minister
Government of West Bengal
Writer's Building, Kolkata - 700 001
West Bengal
INDIA
Fax: +91 33 2214 5480/ 2214 1341

12. Mr. Surya Kant Mishra
Minister
Department of Health, Food and Water
Government of West Bengal
Writer's Building, Kolkata - 700 001
West Bengal
INDIA
Fax: +91 33 2214 5306/ 2357 7910

13. Mr. P.C. Patra
The Commissioner
Howrah Municipal Corporation
Mahatma Gandhi Road
Howrah -1
West Bengal
INDIA

14. Mr. S. Kishore, IAS
District Magistrate
Howrah
District Howrah 711 101
INDIA

Thank you.

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

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