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INDIA: Fire destroys homes and the lives of many families

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.?

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

21 March 2005
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HA-05-2005: INDIA: Fire destroys homes and the lives of many families

INDIA: Starvation; malnutrition; death; government inaction and neglect
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding a horrific fire that?ripped through the Koilasava village in Kushinagar, Uttar-Pradesh, leaving 40 Mushhar families with nothing but the clothes that they wear and damage to the huts and contents of many other village families. Despite the severity of the fire and the large-scale destruction that it caused, fire-fighting assistance did not arrive until five hours after the first outbreak. Additionally, though government officials went to the village on the day after the fire and offered minor compensation to the victims, the overall government inaction and neglect of this village leaves its members most vulnerable. This is a village that has lost 40 children to hunger and malnutrition in just the past two years. Government assistance, therefore, is paramount to the village's future.

The AHRC urges you to write to the relevant authorities listed below and bring to their attention the plight of the Koilasava village. Further, we ask you to press that government assistance be provided to the victims in the area so as to prevent further impoverishment and death from starvation from occurring.

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

Location: Village of Koilasava, Kushinagar District, Uttar-Pradesh, India
Victims: 40 Mushhar families have lost their homes and contents, whilst others within the village have suffered damage to their huts.
Date of incident: 3 March 2005

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.?

The families of the 40 huts that were completely destroyed have now lost everything. They have lost their homes, their clothes, their foods, and their cooking equipment. All that is left are the clothes upon their backs. They are now forced to live in open areas without sufficient assistance to rebuild their lives and homes.

Though government officials went to the village on the morning after the fire, they provided a mere Rs. 1,000/ to each family who had lost everything, and Rs. 500/ to each family whose homes had been damaged.?Such assistance falls well short of the amounts that are required for the families to rebuild, with several families losing between Rs. 2,000/ to Rs. 6,000/. The government could rebuild the houses under the "Indira Awas Scheme', which is given to landless people in the village, but it has chosen not to. As a result, the villagers of Koilasava remain homeless and their future look bleak.

This, however, is not the first time the government has neglected the people of Koilasava village. During the past two years, this village has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Hunger and malnutrition have caused the death of 40 children in the village and the plight of the Mushhars in general remains well known. The government has chosen to ignore this situation, as too has much of civil society and many aid agencies.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and other related officials condemning their neglect and urging them to provide assistance to the villagers of Koilasava.

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Dear Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav

Re: INDIA: Fire destroys homes and the lives of many families

I was saddened to hear of the news of fire engulfing the village of Koilasava in Kushinagar, Uttar-Pradesh, leaving 40 Mushhar families with nothing but the clothes that they wear and damage to the huts and contents of many other village families. I was, however, angered that despite the severity of the fire and the large-scale destruction that it caused, fire-fighting assistance did not arrive until five hours after the first outbreak. Additionally, though government officials went to the village on the day after the fire and offered compensation to the victims, the amounts fall well short of what is required if the village is to rebuild. A mere Rs. 1,000/ was offered to each family who had lost everything, and Rs. 500/ to each family whose homes had been damaged.?Many families have, however, lost their homes and their entire contents with financial losses estimated at between Rs. 2,000/ to Rs. 6,000/. Hence, the Rs. 1,000/ or the less amount of Rs. 500/ are entirely insufficient if these people's lives are to be restored.

The government could rebuild the houses under the "Indira Awas Scheme', which is given to landless people in the village, but it has chosen not to. As a result, the villagers of Koilasava remain homeless and their future look bleak.

The overall government inaction and neglect of this village leaves its members most vulnerable. This is a village that has lost 40 children to hunger and malnutrition in just the past two years. It also suffers from general impoverishment and a distinct lack of food. Government assistance, therefore, is paramount to the village's future.

I urge you therefore to make the plight of the Koilasava villagers a top priority. Sufficient government assistance must be provided to the villagers so that they can rebuild their homes and lives. Providing token compensation will not suffice. Monies for long term accommodation and sustainability must be afforded. Villagers should be provided with ration cards and immediate relief in terms of food aid. Land should be provided for agricultural purposes and a long-term program to eradicate hunger and malnutrition be established. Without this, further deaths from starvation and malnutrition will inevitably occur and general impoverishment will continue to grip the lives of the Mushhar people.

I look forward to your intervention in this matter.

Yours sincerely,
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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: + 91-522-2230002/2239234
Email: cmup@up.nic.in


PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:

1. Justice A. S. Anand
National Human Rights Commission
Sardar Patel Bhaven, Sansad Marg,
New Delhi 110 001
INDIA
Tel: + 91 11 23346244
Fax: + 91 11 23366537
E-mail: ionhrc@hub.nic.in or chairnhrc@nic.in

2. Justice Ramesh Chandra Lahoti
Chief Justice of India
Supreme Court of India
New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2 3383792/3381508

3. Justice A P Mishra
Chairperson
Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission
6-A Kalidass Marg
Lucknow
27 Park Road
Allahabad
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Tel: + 91 532-2726742
Fax: + 91 532-2726743
Email: uphrc@sancharnet.in

4. Mr. Jean Ziegler
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 9179010
Email: sect.hchr@unog.ch

5. Professor Arjun K Sengupta
Independent Expert on human rights and extreme poverty
c/o Mr Renaud Detalle
Room 4-040
OHCHR-UNOG
Palais Wilson
Rue des Paquis 52
1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
Tel: +41-22-917 9831
Fax: +41-22-917 9010
Email: rdetalle@ohchr.org


Thank you.

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

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