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INDIA: Food provided through government assistance only fit for pigs in West Bengal

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.

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM
Update on Hunger Alerts

5 May 2005

[Re: HU-04-2005: INDIA: UNICEF still avoiding responsibility in providing assistance to starving women and children in West Bengal; HU-02-2005: 5 year-old girl, evicted from her home by government authorities, dies of starvation in West Bengal; HU-01-2005: Total negligence by local authorities regarding the eviction of approximately 7,000 Untouchables in Bellilious Park; HA-06-2004: 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-05-2005: INDIA: Food provided through government assistance only fit for pigs in West Bengal

INDIA: Starvation and malnutrition; Government neglect
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received further information from Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (Masum) on the current status of E.M. Parvati and her remaining family members. Parvati, along with her two surviving daughters, were among the thousands evicted from Bellilious Park in February 2003 (please see FA-27-2003). Many of the victims currently live in horrendous conditions at the Belgachia garbage dump and go without food, shelter, drinking water, and a proper sanitation system. It is at this dumping ground that Parvati lost her two young sons, 5 year-old daughter, and husband to starvation, malnutrition and hunger-related illnesses (please see UP-54-2003 and HU-02-2005).

According to the latest information, E.M. Parvati and her two daughters finally received Below Poverty Line (BPL) ration cards in order to gain food stuff in late April 2005. However, the grain available for collection with the card has turned out to be unfit for human consumption. Thus, Parvati and her family still live in hunger and extreme poverty.

The AHRC urges you to write to the relevant government officials below informing them of the sub-standard level of food assistance that is provided with the BPL cards and pressing them to investigate the situation further. Additionally, the appropriate assistance should be provided to the family and other evictees of Bellilious Park.

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

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.

Once Parvati returned home, she stored the grains inside her hut. However, because she does not have a door on her hut, pigs in the area came into her house and ate all the rotting rice she had stored.

It should also be noted that while BPL cards were given and successfully used by Parvati and her family, the identities on their cards do not match their real names. Their cards read M. Parvati, M. Nakalama and M. Durga while their real names should be E.M. Parvati, E.M. Kali and E.M. Durga.

The food assistance provided by the government-run BPL scheme in West Bengal is inadequate, and is much better suited for animal consumption. A report written by Tapas Pramanick in the Dainik Statesman on May 3, 2005 confirmed that the food distributed was inedible. The report also noted the March 23, 2005 protest outside Unicef and the Legeslative Assembly where Parvati voiced her grievances.

Finally, the article also indicated that in an interview with Mr. Gopal Mukherjee, Mayor of the Howrah Municipal Corporation, the mayor stated that no Bellilious Park evictees were dying of hunger. He claimed that the evictees earn Rs. 4,000 – 5,000 /- per month and therefore could not understand how anyone was dying of hunger. This is clearly not the case given the hardships and loss of lives that Parvati and her family has endured.

 
BRIEF HISTORY OF CASE:

The original Bellilious Park eviction details can be found at the following link: FA-27-2003.

E.M. Parvati has lost three children and her husband due to hunger-related illnesses since the eviction. To see the full details of E.M. Parvati and her family's situation, and the deaths of her loved ones, please see UP-54-2003 and HU-02-2005.

It has been two years since the thousands of Bellilious Park residents were evicted from their homes. Many now live in a dumping ground and are living in extreme poverty and hunger. Until now, they had not received any form of assistance from government or humanitarian organizations. To understand the ongoing nature of this case, the victims' struggles and their plight in getting assistance and compensation please see (UP-03-2004; HA-06-2004; HU-01-2005; HU-04-2005; AHRC-PL-11-2005 and AHRC-PL-19-2005).


SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please send a letter to the officials addressed below and urge them to take immediate action to provide rehabilitation and compensation to starvation victims from West Bengal.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

Re: Food provided by government assistance not fit for human consumption

I was informed that E.M. Parvati and her two daughters, Durga and Kali, recently received Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards allowing them access to food distributed by the government-run scheme. The family, along with thousands of others, was evicted from Bellilious Park in February 2003 and currently lives in a garbage dump. Parvati has since lost three children and her husband to starvation and other related illnesses and the situation of the family has been very grave. I was happy to hear that BPL cards were finally granted to the family.

While the ration cards are much appreciated, I also learned that the food assistance provided by the scheme has been unacceptable, fit more for pigs than human beings. Upon collection, Parvati found that the rice distributed was rotten and inedible. She stored the grains in her door-less hut and pigs invaded the area, eating up the rotten grains.

A news report from the May 3, 2005 edition of the local Dainik Statesman confirmed the poor quality of the grain. The article further referenced the March 23, 2005 protest held outside Unicef's premises, where Parvati and many other evictees voiced their grievances and pleaded for assistance. The news article also reported that officials at the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC), the association that organized the Bellilious Park eviction, still do not believe that starvation deaths among the evictees are occurring.

Mr. Gopal Mukherjee, Mayor of HMC, was cited as saying that no evictees are dying of hunger and instead, claimed that many were earning up to Rs. 5,000/- per month. Thus, he could not understand how starvation deaths could be occurring. Given the example of Parvati and her family however, and the deaths and hardships they have endured, this is clearly not the case.

I urge you to investigate this matter further and ensure that the food assistance being provided by the BPL scheme is suitable for human consumption. While assistance is appreciated, the scheme is futile if it does not provide nutritious food to victims of poverty. Further, I urge you to press upon the authorities of the Howrah Municipal Corporation to provide compensation and rehabilitation to the Bellilious Park evictees. Finally, I stress it should be common knowledge by now that the individuals who lost their homes and livelihoods in the evictions are indeed in a dire situation, and that starvation deaths are, have been and will continue to occur if the appropriate assistance is not granted.

Sincerely,


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SEND A LETTER TO:

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

2. Mr. Biswanath Choudhury
Minister of Social Welfare Department
Government of West Bengal
Writer's Building, Kolkata - 700 001
West Bengal
INDIA
Fax: +91 33 2214 5452
E-mail: micjail@wb.gov.in

SEND COPIES TO:

1. 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

2. 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

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

4. Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
Chief Minister
Government of West Bengal
Writers Buildings, Kolkata - 700001
West Bengal
INDIA
Tel: +91 33 2214 5555 (O) / 2280 0631 (R)
Fax: +91 33 2214 5480 / 2214 1341
Email: cm@wb.gov.in , cm@writerscal.gov.in

5. Ms. Nandini Chakraborty,
District Magistrate, Howrah,
Post Office & District Howrah.
Pin Code - 711 101
Fax: +91-33-2660 3367


Thank you.

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