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INDIA: UNICEF still avoiding responsibility in providing assistance to starving women and children in West Bengal

On April 8, 2005, two staff members from Unicef's Kolkata office met with Mr. Kirity Roy, a secretary of Masum, at Masum's office in Howrah. Mrs. Negi and Mr. Suman visited Masum and inquired about the current status of starvation among victims from Jalangi, Murshidabad (see: HA-02-2005) and Bellilious Park. At the meeting, the Unicef representatives were provided with 412 individual family complaints filed by victims from the Jalangi in Murshidabad district who lost their homes and cultivated land. The victims currently have nothing and are not under any government poverty alleviation schemes or humanitarian assistance programmes. The two representatives were also provided with a list containing the details of the victims forcibly evicted from Bellilious Park. Masum further suggested the representatives visit the Belgachia dumping ground where many of the evictees currently reside. However they indicated that they would do so at another time. An unnamed media source did report Unicef visiting with some victims at the dumpsite, though we have not received sufficient information to confirm this.

UPDATE ON HUNGER ALERT UPDATE ON HUNGER ALERT UPDATE ON HUNGER ALERT

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

Update on Hunger Alerts
21 April 2005

[Re: HU-02-2005: 5 year-old girl, evicted from her home by government authorities, dies of starvation in West Bengal; HA-02-2005: Starvation deaths occurring in Murshidabad district, 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-04-2005: INDIA: UNICEF still avoiding responsibility in providing assistance to starving women and children in West Bengal

INDIA: Starvation and malnutrition; Inaction by humanitarian organizations and government
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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 Unicef's interest and involvement in the starvation and malnutrition of several communities in West Bengal. The AHRC, along with staff from Masum, have repeatedly pleaded with the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) in Kolkata, to provide assistance to the families removed from Bellilious Park. The victims currently live in horrendous conditions at the Belgachia garbage dump and go without food, shelter, drinking water, and a proper sanitation system (see: FA-27-2003; UP-54-2003; HA-06-2004 and HU-02-2005).

Unicef Kolkata has been in communication with the AHRC and Masum since they declined to met representatives of the two organizations in February (see: HU-01-2005; AHRC-PL-11-2005 and AHRC-PL-19-2005).

Masum organized a protest outside Unicef's Kolkata office on March 23, 2005, which was attended by 500 victims from across West Bengal, and met with Unicef staff members (see: HU-02-2005). On April 8, 2005, two Unicef staff members also visited Masum's office and again restated Unicef's commitment to starvation cases in West Bengal. However, to date, no action has been taken by Unicef in regards to the Bellilious Park victims or other persons suffering hunger in the state to whom Masum has drawn its attention.

The AHRC urges you to write to Unicef in Kolkata, New Delhi and abroad pressing them to act on their stated commitment to provide assistance for starvation victims. While the dialogue is appreciated it is futile; people in West Bengal will continue to die if they do not receive assistance immediately. 

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

On April 8, 2005, two staff members from Unicef's Kolkata office met with Mr. Kirity Roy, a secretary of Masum, at Masum's office in Howrah. Mrs. Negi and Mr. Suman visited Masum and inquired about the current status of starvation among victims from Jalangi, Murshidabad (see: HA-02-2005) and Bellilious Park. At the meeting, the Unicef representatives were provided with 412 individual family complaints filed by victims from the Jalangi in Murshidabad district who lost their homes and cultivated land. The victims currently have nothing and are not under any government poverty alleviation schemes or humanitarian assistance programmes. The two representatives were also provided with a list containing the details of the victims forcibly evicted from Bellilious Park. Masum further suggested the representatives visit the Belgachia dumping ground where many of the evictees currently reside. However they indicated that they would do so at another time. An unnamed media source did report Unicef visiting with some victims at the dumpsite, though we have not received sufficient information to confirm this.

During the visit, Unicef restated its commitment to providing assistance to starvation victims and informed Masum that they have requested more information from the District Magistrate of Howrah, District Magistrate of Murshidabad and Foreign Ministry. They also informed that they would contact them within the month to discuss any developments in the matter.

To date however, no assistance or ration cards have been provided to the Bellilious Park evictees, Jalangi victims, or E.M. Parvathi (see: UP-54-2003 and HU-02-2005), a former Bellilious Park victim who lost much of her family to starvation. At the protest, opposition leader Mr. Pankaj Banerjee committed himself to providing Parvathi with assistance and a ration card. She and her family however, are yet to receive any aide.

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

Sample letter:

Dear __________,

Re: Call for Unicef's immediate action

I am deeply disturbed to learn that after months of dialogue, Unicef has taken no action and provided no assistance for starvation victims living in West Bengal. I was informed that despite communication and meetings, most recently on April 8, 2005, between Unicef (Kolkata and country head office), the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), and Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), Unicef still has not acted in accordance with their stated commitment to helping starving people. Instead, representatives at the Kolkata and India head office have merely stated they are investigating the matter with local authorities and have reconfirmed their interest in starvation cases.

At the last meeting, 412 individual family complaints from the Jalangi district as well as a complete list of names of Bellilious Park evictees were delivered to two Unicef representatives from the Kolkata office. Further, I was also made aware that there have been no confirmed visits by Unicef officials to the Belgachia dumping ground, where the majority of Bellilious Park evictees now reside. I am shocked to hear that no assistance has been provided to starvation victims in West Bengal as yet.

While I appreciate the communications that Unicef has had with the AHRC and Masum concerning starvation in West Bengal, I am saddened that no assistance has been provided to the victims. It is my understanding that Unicef is now undertaking a thorough investigation into this matter and I eagerly wait for action to be taken by the humanitarian organization. I urge you to take immediate action in providing the necessary assistance the evictees require. Further, I hope that a resettlement and/or rehabilitation programme will be implemented shortly to provide for the long-term needs of the victims.

Sincerely,


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SEND A LETTER TO:

1. Mr. Rudolf Schwenk
State representative - West Bengal
United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef)
219/2, AJC Bose Road
Kolkata 700 017
West Bengal
INDIA
Tel: +91 33 2287.2477, 2467, 2511 or 2287.2758 to 2287.2761
Fax: +91 33 2287.2510
Email: kolkata@unicef.org

2. Mr. Cecelio Adorna
India Country Representative
United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef)
73 Lodi Estate
New Delhi 110 003
India
Tel: +91 11 2469 0401
newdelhi@unicef.org 


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. Paul Hunt
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to Physical Heatlh
OHCHR-UNOG
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
Fax: +41 22 917 9010
Email: urgent-action@ohchr.org

4. Mr. Pedro Medrano Rojas
Country Director
World Food Programme
2 Poorvi Marg
Visant Vihar
New Delhi 110 057
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2615 0019

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
Fax: +66 2 655 4413
Email: Anthony.Banbury@wfp.org


Thank you.

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