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INDIA: Elderly woman dies of hunger after being denied food assistance in Uttar-Pradesh

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.

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

6 September 2005

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HA-20-2005: INDIA: Elderly woman dies of hunger after being denied food assistance in Uttar-Pradesh
INDIA: Starvation death; government neglect and inaction; age discrimination 
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received disturbing news of the starvation death of a 65 year-old woman in Sonbhadra, Uttar-Pradesh. Punvasia, an elderly tribal woman (adivasi), died on June 12, 2005 after suffering months of hunger and malnutrition when her government-allocated ration card expired.

Starvation and malnutrition has been an ongoing problem in the district. The AHRC asks for an immediate investigation into the case. Furthermore, we hope that the district magistrate of Sonbhadra and other relevant authorities are held responsible for their inaction.

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

Location: Domaria (Padari) Village, Sonbhadra District, Uttar-Pradesh
Victim: Punvasia (aged 65), wife of the late Meghan

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.

In order to provide for her livelihood, Punvasia worked as a casual labourer and also received rations through the government-run Annapurna Yojna programme (card no. 3233), a system providing food assistance to senior citizens. Her card had been valid from January 2002 until March 2005, when the victim stopped receiving food through the Public Distribution System (PDS).

During the three months prior to her death, Punvasia suffered from severe hunger and malnutrition as she was unable to receive food through the PDS. In early June, she became part of the food-for-work scheme and began working as a pond digger in Padari Kala. She worked in the area for three days, however was not given any food.

On June 12, Punvasia finally received a food coupon (no. 3006) for one day's work, and visited the contractor asking for the food which was due to her through the scheme. The contractor refused, and the victim turned around to trek the long road home. However, Punvasia did not make it home, and died of hunger before reaching her village. It had been more that three months since she had eaten a proper meal, despites pleas made by both the victim and her neighbours for food assistance. As a senior citizen, Punvasia's desperate situation was ignored by government officials in the district.


BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Punvasia's death is just one of the many starvation deaths that have occurred in Sonbhadra. As the hunger crisis persists in the district, victims continue to suffer and eventually die.

In July 2005, a mother and her three young daughters were still suffering from severe hunger despite several pleas to the local government, asking the authorities to provide food assistance. Please see HA-17-2005 for details.

In September 2004, several cases were reported to the District Magistrate and Chief Minister of Uttar-Pradesh regarding starvation in Sonbhadra. Some 40 villagers had walked over 40 kilometers from their villages during the monsoon season in order to voice their hunger concerns at the district headquarters in Robertsganj. The victims also showed what they were eating, which mostly consisted of leaves and roots from the forest. Please see HA-1-2004 for a detailed account of the hunger situation in the district.

 

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the District Magistrate of Sonbhadra and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, voicing your concerns over the hunger in the area and requesting that immediate assistance be provided to victims to ensure that no more starvation deaths occur. Furthermore, please ask that the appropriate authorities be reprimanded for their inaction in Punvasia's case, which ultimately led to her death.

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Dear ____________

RE: INDIA: Elderly woman dies of hunger after being denied food assistance in Uttar-Pradesh

Location: Domaria (Padari) Village, Sonbhadra District, Uttar-Pradesh
Victim: Punvasia (aged 65), wife of the late Meghan

I am shocked to have learned of the unfortunate death of Punvasia, a 65 year-old adivasi woman from the Sonbhadra district, Uttar Pradesh. On June 12, 2005, while returning home empty handed from a public distribution facility, Punvasia died of starvation. Her neighbours and family confirmed that she had been suffering from severe malnutrition and hunger.

According to the information I received, in March 2005, three months prior to her death, Punvasia's Annapurna Yojna card expired (no. 3233) and she was unable to obtain food through the Public Distribution System. As a casual labourer who lived alone, Punvasia had to struggle to provide for her own livelihood. In June, she began working as a pond digger and through the food-for-work programme, was supposed to earn food through this system. However, after three days of work, all Punvasia received was a coupon for one day's work.

On June 12, 2005, Punvasia made the trip to redeem her coupon but was refused any food assistance by the contractor. The victim was so malnourished and hungry that she did not make the trip home; Punvasia died while returning home empty handed from the public distribution facility.

I am deeply saddened to hear of the total neglect of the local government in providing assistance to this elderly woman. She had rightfully owned a ration card and I am puzzled as to why it was not renewed. Further, I am extremely disappointed to know that even upon entering a food-for-work scheme, she did not receive the food assistance that was owed to her. Punvasia's death could have been prevented if it were not for the apathy of the government to help the victims of starvation and ensure that food assistance mechanisms were working properly, in particular with concern to the elderly. Finally, this is not the first instance of hunger being reported in Sonbhadra and I am saddened that since September 2004, nothing has been done to address the needs of the starving people in your jurisdiction. How many more starvation deaths must occur before the local government will act appropriately?

I urge you to investigate this starvation death promptly, and to condemn the local authorities' inaction. I further hope you will safeguard the people of Sonbhadra's right to food, as you are obligated to under international law, to ensure that another starvation never occurs under your administration.
 
I look forward to your intervention in this matter.

Sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Alok Kumar
District Magistrate
Sonbhadra
Collectorate
Robertsganj
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA

2. Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: + 91 52 2223 0002/2223 9234
Email: cmup@up.nic.in


PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:

1. Justice A.P. Mishra
Chairperson
Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission
6-A Kalidass Marg
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Tel: +91 52 2272 6742
Fax: +91 52 2272 6743
Email: uphrc@sancharnet.in

2. Justice A. S. Anand
National Human Rights Commission of India
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Tel: +91 11 2338 2742
Fax: +91 11 2338 4863
Email: covdnhrc@nic.in, ionhrc@nic.in

3. Chairman
National Commission for Scheduled Castes
5th Floor, Loknayak Bhawan,
Khan Market,
New Delhi-110 003
INDIA
Tel: +91 11 2 463 2298 / 2462 0435
E-mail: chairman-ncscst@ncscst.nic.in

4. Mr. Jean Ziegler
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
c/o Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Room 4-066, OHCHR, Palais Wilson,
Rue des Paquis 52, Geneva
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 9179010
Email: sect.hchr@unog.ch

5. Mr. Gian Pietro Bordignon
Country Director
World Food Programme
2 Poorvi Marg, Vasant Vihar,
New Delhi 110057
INDIA
Tel: +91 11 2615 0001
Fax: +91 11 2615 0019


Thank you.

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

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