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INDIA: Corrupt village administration likely to cause starvation deaths in Shankarpur village

Shankarpur village is under the jurisdiction of Chaubepur police station in Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh. This village has been in the news since 2005 when three members of a family died from starvation in the village. For further information Please see HA-12-2005, UA-173-2007.

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

Hunger Alert



24 August 2007
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HA-010-2007: INDIA: Corrupt village administration likely to cause starvation deaths in Shankarpur village

INDIA: Corruption; right to food; administrative inaction; caste based discrimination
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from its local partner the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights [PVCHR] in Uttar Pradesh and the Dalit Foundation based in Delhi regarding the continuing corruption of the village administration in Shankarpur village. It is alleged that the current village head, Mr. Sundar Yadav, is denying distribution of food grains to the poor community in the village. It is also alleged that those who are denied food belongs to the scheduled caste/tribe community in Shankarpur. There are also several other allegations of corruption against the village head, which is allegedly not investigated by the district administration. It is suspected that the denial of food might lead to acute starvation in the community and may result in starvation deaths in near future in the village.

CASE DETAILS:

Shankarpur village is under the jurisdiction of Chaubepur police station in Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh. This village has been in the news since 2005 when three members of a family died from starvation in the village. For further information Please see HA-12-2005, UA-173-2007.

Nothing much was done by the Varanasi District Administration to starvation in Shankarpur village. The village head Mr. Sundar Yadav is reported to be a corrupt person, using his influence and authority to channel food grains intended to be distributed for the poor to be sold in private for higher margins. It is alleged that the Village Secretary and a few officials at the local Block Office [administrative office] are helping Yadav to continue his corrupt practices.

It is alleged that ever since Yadav was elected as the head, he had started to abuse the lower caste community of the village. It is alleged that several persons have faced the brunt of the corrupt practices by the village head.

For example, soon after getting elected as the village head, Yadav dismissed four women from the Dalit community, who were working at the local school. The dismissed women were replaced by women from the Yadav community of the village. It is alleged that the arbitrary dismissal of the women from the school was prompted by caste prejudices. The dismissed women being from the scheduled caste community, it was alleged by the village head that the food they cooked would be polluted and not possible to be consumed by the children from the upper caste Yadav community. The women were employed under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the vacancies, which according to a state government order has to be filled up from the scheduled caste or scheduled tribe community.

The Dalit women who were dismissed complained to the Varanasi District Magistrate on November 3, 2006. The Magistrate however did not initiate any steps to reinstate the dismissed employees. Since then they have filed four complaints to the Magistrate on November 22, January 15, 2007, January 31, and June 22 respectively. None of these complains were investigated by the Magistrate. On July 7, 2007 an application was filed by the PVCHR on behalf of the dismissed employees to the Basic Education Officer under the Right to Information Act, 2005 requiring for information regarding the action taken upon the complaints filed by the dismissed employees with the District Magistrate. However, this authority also failed to respond to the application.

Soon after the dismissal of the employees at the school, the village head started canceling ration cards issued to the members of the lower caste. After the cancellation of old cards, Yadav started issuing cards to those whom he believed had voted for him in the village election. Those who lost their card, particularly from the lower caste community, when approached the village head asking why their cards were canceled and demanding for new cards, Yadav threatened them and abused them by shouting at them that the members of the lower caste has no right to get free ration.

Based on this, those who lost their ration card in Shankarpur submitted a complaint to the Commissioner of Varanasi, the District Magistrate, the Additional District Magistrate [Supply] and to the Block development Officer. Prior to this complaint, the villagers had filed a complaint regarding arbitrary cancellation of ration cards to the Chief Development Officer of Varanasi on January 9, 2007 and also to the District Magistrate on January 21, 2007.

As of now there are many Dalit families who are denied food in Shankarpur. For the past two years they are facing acute starvation as they are poor, being not allowed to leave the village without the village head’s permission, cornered to isolated portions within the village and forced to live according to the conditions stipulated by the village head.

Of the families referred to above, eight are from the Musahar community, thirteen from the Khatic community, four from the Dhobi community, three from the Gaund community, eight from the Chamar community and forty-seven from the Rajbar community. All these communities are either scheduled caste or scheduled tribe.

Shankarpur village was declared as Ambedkar village in the district. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Indian constitution as well as a Dalit by birth, was a great social reformer who fought against caste based prejudices in India. Declaring a village as Ambedkar village is a mark of respect for the Dalit community in the village and a recognition of their special needs. However, in Shankarpur, the members of the Dalit community are currently facing acute starvation due to caste based discrimination.

Those who complained against the corrupt practices of the village head faced opposition. For example, Mr. Harishchandra Sonkar, an associate of the PVCHR lodged a complaint against the village head on July 2, 2007 at the office of the Additional District Magistrate [Supply] regarding the corruption in food distribution at Shankarpur. On the basis of the complaint an enquiry was initiated and a few officers visited the village to record statements from the victims.

When the officers arrived, the village head came to the place along with his son Vinod Yadav and a few other persons. While the members of the Musahar community and Sonkar were talking to the officers, the village head started abusing Sonkar using bad language. Vinod attacked Sonkar and held Sonkar by his shirt collar and threatened to murder Sonkar if he continued complaining against the village head.

In the enquiry conducted by the officers it was found that many Dalit families in the village were denied ration cards by the village head. This finding was supported by the statements given by those who were discriminated by the village head and also by other residents in the village. While the villagers were talking to the officers the village head started to abuse Sonkar using filthy language and further threatened Sonkar that he would be beaten up and even killed if he contained complaining. Sonkar lodged a complaint regarding this incident at the office of the Superintendent of Police, Varanasi on July 13, 2007. However, the police did not register a case or investigated the complaint.

It is also alleged that the village head is misusing the village funds which was allotted for the development of the village. While the details of misuse of funds are not yet revealed, it is clear that the funds that has been used so far has been for the development of the area where the village head and the other upper caste community stays.

As of today at least 47 families are facing acute starvation in Shankarpur. They are denied job and rationed food grains by the village head. Out of the 47 families some had ration cards issued in their name, but later canceled by the village head. The rest never had a ration card. The employment opportunity within the village is limited to the option of working for the village head in his farms. Those who are not able to work or not willing to work are not allowed to leave the village or to meet anyone. For this reason if the local human rights activists do not provide food or meet these families regularly several of them would die from starvation and resultant malnourishment. Even for this minimum work, the human rights activist have to risk their life since no one knows what would the village head do to them when they are inside the village.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to express your concern in this case. The AHRC is writing separate letters to Mr. Jean Zeigler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and Mr. Doudou Diene, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance requesting an immediate intervention in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

Sample letter:

Ms. Mayawati
Chief Minister
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Lucknow,
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: + 91-522-2230002/2239234
Email: csup@up.nic.in

Dear Chief Minister,

INDIA: Corrupt village administration likely to cause starvation deaths in Shankarpur village

Persons affected: The lower caste community in Shankarpur village
Location: Shankarpur village, Chiraigaon block in Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh

I am disturbed to hear of the appalling living condition of lower caste community in Shankarpur village in Varanasi district. I am informed that the village head Mr. Sundar Yadav is allegedly a corrupt person who is denying rationed food grains to the lower caste community in the village. I am informed that the village head had taken several steps discriminating the lower caste community in the village. Of particular importance is the cancellation of existing ration cards of the members of the lower caste community in Shankarpur and arbitrary issuance of new cards to the members from the Yadav community to which the village head belong.

I am informed that several complaints were filed by the villagers against the village head against which no action was taken by the district administration. I am also informed that the Village Secretary and some officers from the local Block Office are helping the village head in his deeds.

I am also informed that as of now about 47 families are facing acute starvation in the village and that all these families belong either to the scheduled caste or the scheduled tribe. I am further informed that it is difficult to complain against the village head since so far none of the complaints made against the village head was taken up by the local police. At the same time whoever complained was threatened by the village head.
 
I am informed that a local human rights activist Mr. Harischandra Sonkar, was threatened, verbally abused and assaulted by the village head and his son since he had complained against the village head.

I therefore urge you to take immediate steps so that the 47 families who are denied food and ration in Shankapur village will receive rationed food grains at the earliest. I also urge you to request the local police to investigate the complaints filed against the village head of Shankarpur Mr. Sundar Yadav and his son Mr. Vinod Yadav.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE ALSO SEND A COPY OF YOUR LETTER TO:

1. Ms. Veena Kumari
District Magistrate
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: 91 5422501450

2. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
Government of India
5th Floor, Loknayak Bhawan
Khan Market
New Delhi 110003
INDIA
Tel: + 91 11 2462 0435
Fax: + 91 11 2462 5378

3. Mr. Harsh Mander,
Special Commissioner,
Samya – Centre for Equity Studies
Secretariat of the Commissioners
R –38A, South Extension – II
New Delhi – 110049
INDIA
Tele Fax: 91-11-51642147
Email: commissioners@vsnl.net

4. The Secretariat
The Right to Food Campaign – India
Q - 21-B, Top Floor, Jungpura Extn.
New Delhi – 110014
INDIA
Email: righttofood@gmail.com

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

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