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INDIA: Three members of one family starve to death in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Vishambhar, a weaver, lives together with his surviving children in a thatched hut, after his wife and two children died in April and May 2005. His wife Jigna died on April 16 and his 16-year-old daughter Soni died on April 21 due to starvation and hunger-related diseases. On May 21 his two-month old son also died from starvation. He and the others that are still alive are facing imminent death for want of food.

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

9 June 2005

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HA-12-2005: INDIA: Three members of one family starve to death in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

INDIA: Starvation death, denial of right to livelihood, government inaction and neglect
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received new information from the People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR) in Uttar Pradesh concerning three starvation deaths in one family during April and May 2005. The surviving members are also facing imminent death due to starvation.

The AHRC urges you to write to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh stressing your concerns for this family and others going hungry in the Varanasi area. The government should be actively involved in providing adequate assistance to ensure that starvation deaths do not occur.

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

Persons affected: Vishambhar, son of Ramnandan, and his three surviving children
Location: Sankarpur village, Chiraigoan police post, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh          
 
Vishambhar, a weaver, lives together with his surviving children in a thatched hut, after his wife and two children died in April and May 2005. His wife Jigna died on April 16 and his 16-year-old daughter Soni died on April 21 due to starvation and hunger-related diseases. On May 21 his two-month old son also died from starvation. He and the others that are still alive are facing imminent death for want of food.
 
Vishambhar lost his job as a weaver due to a market downturn in the last four years. Since then, the government has failed to give even minimum assistance to weavers like him, as required by law. Instead of providing Vishambhar a red ration card, for those in the worst situation, it has given him a white card. Meanwhile, Vishambhar has no land or any other way to get some food.
 
After several media reports on this case, the administration gave Vishambhar a meagre ration of 50kg of wheat and 20kg of rice, which will only last for a few months.
 
Vishambhar's case is not an isolated one. There are many more cases of starvation deaths which are either unreported or have facts suppressed by the administration. However, Vishambhar has submitted an affidavit to the District Magistrate in Varanasi to plead his case.

His plea:
1. Give orders to issue Vishambhar a red card, food for work, and place him under other support schemes.
2. Absolve him from liability to repay the loan amount under such schemes.
3. Take appropriate action against the negligent authorities for the death of his newborn son, and against the panchayat (village) secretary and others for taking no action to prevent starvation deaths in the village.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

After visiting the village, the PVCHR representatives sent a petition to key persons in government and other agencies. Please support their petition by also sending a letter to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh on this case. A sample letter follows.

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Dear Mr. Yadav

Re: Three starvation deaths in one family in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh; others facing imminent death

I am deeply disturbed to hear of the deaths of two children and their mother due to acute malnutrition and hunger related illnesses in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. 

According to the information I have received, Vishambhar, a weaver, lives together with his surviving children in a thatched hut, after his wife and two children died in April and May 2005. His wife Jigna died on April 16 and his 16-year-old daughter Soni died on April 21 due to starvation and hunger-related diseases. On May 21 his two-month old son also died from starvation. He and the others that are still alive are facing imminent death for want of food.
 
Vishambhar lost his job as a weaver due to a market downturn in the last four years. However, he was not issued a red ration card, only a white card. However, Vishambhar has no land or any other way to get some food.
 
I understand that after several media reports on this case, your administration gave Vishambhar a meagre ration of 50kg of wheat and 20kg of rice, which will only last for a few months. This is by no means sufficient. Vishambhar has now submitted an affidavit to the District Magistrate in Varanasi to plead his case, as follows:

1. Give orders to issue a red card, food for work, and place him under other support schemes (ie: Indira Awash Yojana scheme).
2. Absolve him from liability to repay the loan amount under the said scheme/s.
3. Take appropriate action against the negligent authorities for the death of his newborn son (ie: ICDS Department), and against the panchayat (village) secretary and others for taking no action to prevent starvation deaths in the village.

I would like to remind you of your obligations under international and national law to all people residing in the state of Uttar Pradesh to respect, protect and fulfill the right to food. Accordingly, I urge you to order a thorough investigation of the case, and to establish the prevailing conditions in the children's village with a view to preventing further starvation among children and other residents there.

Finally, I urge you to order a separate investigation into the alleged negligence of the village authorities, and any other concerned state officers, with a view to holding them liable for their breach of these obligations to the two children concerned. In this regard, I would like to stress that the right to food can be made effective only through enforcement of the right by way of criminal action against persons or agencies responsible for the violations.

Yours sincerely

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: + 91-522-2230002/2239234
Email: csup@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 Shri R.C. Lahoti
Chief Justice of India
1, Tilak Marg
New Delhi-110001
INDIA
Tel: +91 11 23388922, 23388942
Fax: +91 11 23383792

3. Justice A P Mishra
Chairperson
Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission
6-A Kalidass Marg
Lucknow Uttar Pradesh
INDIA

OR

27 Park Road
Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Tel: + 91 532-2726742
Fax: + 91 532-2726743
Email: uphrc@sancharnet.in

4. Mr. Jean Ziegler
UNCHR, 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
Fax: +41 22 917 9010
Email: sect.hchr@unog.ch

5. Mr. Anthony Banbury
Regional Director
World Food Programme
Unit No. 2, 7th Floor
Wave Place Building
55 Wireless Road
Lumpini, Patumwan,
Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Tel: +66-2-6554115
Fax: +66-2-6554413
Email: Anthony.banbury@wfp.org or Bkk.unescap@un.org

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

7. Dr. N.C.Saxena and Mr. S.R.Sankaran,
Commissioners,
Supreme Court of India
SAMYA, R-38A, 2nd floor,
South Extention - part 2,
New Delhi - 49
INDIA
Email: commissioners@vsnl.net

Thank you.

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

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