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INDIA: Suicide of two young girls who could face hunger and malnutrition no more

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.

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

24 March 2005

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HA-06-2005: INDIA: Suicide of two young girls who could face hunger and malnutrition no more

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

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) regarding the suicides of two young girls who had suffered extreme hunger and malnutrition for a prolonged time and could do so no more. Sundari Sardar and and Phulan Sardar, from the state of West Bengal, committed suicide after having endured several days without any food whatsoever, and years with only very little. With no hope in sight that this situation would change and that food would come there way, the young girls took their lives.

This situation is not unique. Women and men in many places in India, particularly West Bengal, live in abject poverty and face dire starvation. To overcome this, more and more are resorting to drastic measures, such as what was seen in the case of Sundari and Phulan.

The AHRC urges you to write to the authorities in West Bengal and the Nadia District and bring to their attention the plight and suicides of Sundari and Phulan. Please make them aware that the women's situation is not unique and that abject poverty, malnutrition and starvation are leading to further suicides around the state. Government intervention and assistance is paramount if this situation is to improve.

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

Location: Yamsherpur, Hogalberia, Nadia District, West Bengal, India
Name of victim: Phulan Sardar, 16, wife of Dilip Sardar; and Sundari Sardar, 16, wife of Dilip Biswas
Cause of death: Suicide; Malnutrition/starvation
Place and date of death: Pulan died at her home on 12 March 2005. Sundari died at her home on 13 March 2005.

Case details:

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.

Under such circumstances, Sundari felt little hope for the future. Without food to fill her and her husband's stomach, she knew that neither would survive. On Sunday March 13, she took perhaps what she perceived as the only way out and hung herself from the ceiling in her home. Dilip returned from work that day, at 10pm, to find his young wife suspended from the ceiling. After bringing her body down, he informed his neighbours and the police of his wife's death.

Sundari's mother lodged a complaint with the local police station at Hogalberia. She noted that her daughter and son-in-law had been quarrelling for the past several days over the desperate state that they were in. The shortage of food and the constant search for it, she said, was the reason for her daughter committing suicide.

A day earlier, on March 12, Phulan Sardar, another young girl from the same village took the same course of action and hung herself. Having endured a shortage of food, extreme hunger and malnutrition for so long, Phulan decided to end her predicament and take her life.

The Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) in Tehatta, Mr Anindya Narayan Biswas, when commenting on the case of Sundari said, "this is the first case of starvation I got. Last Bulbuli Paul died who was also a betel labourer (to read more on this case, please refer to HA-04-2005). Condition of betel labourer is miserable in this locality and day by day it is deteriorating. We are enquiring whether Phulan who died just ago was also a victim of starvation".

Upon visiting the affected areas on March 14, so as to ascertain the truth of these deaths, the SDO discovered that several people were dying from starvation. People explained that they had no or insufficient means of survival and that they were receiving no relief or assistance from the government. Under such conditions, the SDO learnt that the number of deaths in the area are increasing every day. When he spoke to Mangal Sarar, Phulan's grandfather-in-law, he was informed that many villagers had written to the Gram Pradhan, village panchayet, but nobody had responded or come to their aid.

The SDO said "there are 400 people belonging to the tribal community living in this locality but out of them only four persons possess ration cards. Here, most of the people are labourers engaged with the betel cultivation. The condition of all the people is quite miserable, pathetic and wretched. Two days ago, Bulbuli Paul died due to malnutrition and lack of proper medical facilities. Then Sundari died in the prime time of her life."

MASUM has previously reported that a lot of government welfare programmes exist throughout the country to assist, amongst others, hunger victims but due to corrupt administration, some of these programmes are futile. MASUM also states that the Food Corporation of India and the West Bengal state have granaries full of grains and foodstuffs. Despite this, endless numbers of people are going hungry and many are dying. At the very least, the issue of the 'right to life' of the citizens, as enshrined in the Constitution of India (Article 21) is being violated by the government who are shirking their responsibility to assist people who are literally dying from starvation.  


SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the Chief Minister of West Bengal, District Magistrate of Nadia, and other related government officials to bring to their attention the plight and suicides of these young girls.

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Dear Mr. Bhattacharjee

Re: INDIA: Suicide of two young girls who could face hunger and malnutrition no more

Location: Yamsherpur, Hogalberia, Nadia District, West Bengal, India
Name of victim: Phulan Sardar, 16, wife of Dilip Sardar; and Sundari Sardar, 16, wife of Dilip Biswas
Cause of death: Suicide; Malnutrition/starvation
Place and date of death: Pulan died at her home on 12 March 2005. Sundari died at her home on 13 March 2005.

I am deeply disturbed to learn of the suicides of two young girls, Sundari Sardar and and Phulan Sardar, who could see no escape from the hunger, malnutrition and abject poverty that they faced. On 12 and 13 March 2005, the young girls, having endured several days without any food whatsoever, and years with only very little, hung themselves in their homes, putting an end to all their pain. Both left behind young husbands who continue to face the same plight as before.

Sundari and Phulan's plight and deaths are not unique. Starvation and poverty are ever increasing in their village and other villages like theirs. Many families simply cannot feed themselves and more and more are resorting to drastic measures, such as what was seen in the case of Sundari and Phulan.

The deaths of these young girls are a tragedy. That they could have been avoided through government intervention and assistance makes them especially tragic. I trust that you and your administration will investigate this matter and provide assistance to the girl's families. I further request you provide assistance to other poverty-stricken families who face malnutrition and starvation. Without such assistance, the deaths of further people will continue to rise.

Yours sincerely,
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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. 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 

2. District Magistrate, Nadia
Administrative Building
1st Floor, A-Block
P O Kirhshnanagar
Nadia, West Bengal
Tel: +91 34 7225 1001
Fax: +91 34 7225 2294
Email: dm-nad@wb.nic.in

3. Mr. Narendranath Dey
Minister of Food and Supplies
Government of West Bengal
Writers Buildings, Kolkata - 700001
West Bengal
INDIA
Tel: +91 33 2252 1388
Fax: +91 33 2252 2628
Email: micfoodsupplies@wb.gov.in

4. Dr. Surjya Kanta Mishra
Minster of Health and Family Welfare
Government of West Bengal
Writer's Building, Kolkata - 700001
West Bengal
INDIA
Tel: +91 33 2214 5600
Fax: +91 33 2214 5306/2215 5326
Email: micprd@wb.gov.in


PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:

1. Justice A. S. Anand
Chairperson
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 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

3. 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

4. Mr Pedro Medrano Rojas
Country Director
World Food Programme
2 Poorvi Marg,
Vasant Vihar,
New Delhi 110057
INDIA
Tel: +91 11 26150000
Fax: +9111 26150019
Email: wfp.newdelhi@wfp.org


Thank you.

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

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