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INDIA: Corruption causes starvation in Musahar community in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

The Musahar community, in Varanasi district, is socially and economically one of the most marginalized communities in India. The Musahar community falls under the category of Scheduled Caste. Although the practice of untouchability is a crime in Indian law the Musahar community is not allowed to enjoy social life with the mainstream society and to share common amenities in the village.

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

2 April 2007
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HA-003-2007: INDIA: Corruption causes starvation in Musahar community in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

INDIA: Corruption; denial of right to livelihood; government inaction and neglect
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from its local partner the People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR) in Uttar Pradesh that the Musahar community in Dallipur-Fattepur village, Pindra Tehsil, Badagaon block in Varanasi district has been denied possession of their lands which had been allotted to them in their favour in 1998. It is also alleged that the Musahar community is deprived of even the minimum quantity of food grains from Public Distribution System shop. Despite several complaints, protests and processions, the district administration has allegedly remained inactive and has done nothing to save the Musahar community from starvation.
    
The AHRC urges you to write to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh expressing your concerns for the Musahar community who is facing hunger in the Varanasi.

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

Persons affected: Musahar community
Location: At Dallipur-Fattepur village, Pindra Tehsil, Badagaon block in Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh state, India

The Musahar community, in Varanasi district, is socially and economically one of the most marginalized communities in India. The Musahar community falls under the category of Scheduled Caste. Although the practice of untouchability is a crime in Indian law the Musahar community is not allowed to enjoy social life with the mainstream society and to share common amenities in the village.

People from the Musahar community are deprived of owning property, means of livelihood, and education. For their survival they work as laborers in the agricultural fields or do some other hard physical labour. The remuneration for such work is given in kind, mostly discarded food or grains. Due to this they do not have any savings that they could use during times of need. This forces them into starvation at times when they have no regular work.

Taking into account the plight of Musahar community, in 1998 the Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of Pindra allotted some land in favour of the Musahar community of Dallipur-Fattepur village, Pindra Tehsil, Badagaon block in Varanasi district so that the people belonging to Musahar community could construct their huts and to live with their families without any fear of displacement. But till the date they have no possession over the allotted lands. It is alleged that the upper caste people belonging to Patel community of Dallipur-Fattepur village, illegally, have taken possession over the land allotted in the favour of Musahar community.

On 19 February 2007, the members of the Musahar community of Dallipur-Fattepur village gathered at the district head quarters and complained to the district magistrate of Varanasi and made following demands: (1) to get possession of their lands (2) to open an Anganwadi centre [children's school in the community] in their community and (3) to ensure proper distribution of food grains through the PDS shops. But it is alleged that the district administration of Varanasi district has done nothing in the pursuance of the demands of the Musahar community of Dallipur-Fattepur village.

Meantime it is alleged that the Musahars were given less quantity of ration for the month of March as they should have been given according to their ration cards. It is also alleged that the PDS ration shop of Dallipur-Fattepur village is in the name of Surmati Devi and that the shop is actually managed by one Sunder Ram who is the brother of Surmati Devi's husband. Mr. Kariya Musahar, son of Narottam Musahar, Mr. Doctor Musahar, son of Rampatti Musahar, Ms. Hirawati Musahar, wife of Juggan Musahar, Mr. Bideshi Musahar, son of Mewa Musahar, Mr. Moti Musahar, son of Manik Musahar, Mr. Nanhey Musahar, son of Chhotai Musahar, Mr. Santhosh Musahar, son of Lalchand Musahar, Ms. Kebali Musahar, wife of Kanhai Musahar and Mr. Khelawan Musahar, son of Birey Musahar are a few from the Musahar community who have been deprived of food grains through the PDS shop.
 
On 8 March 2007, Musahar of Dallipur-Fattepur village submitted an application to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Varanasi district regarding the break out of Measles in their community and requested for immediate help because mostly children were affected by Measles and they have been suffering from serious health problems.

Recently the PVCHR conducted a survey and found that most of the families of Musahar community have no work and are living under acute poverty and facing starvation. The PVCHR demands to include the Varanasi district under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) immediately. Here it should me remembered that Varanasi district has been left out of those areas which are included under the NREGA.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The PDS is a system through which the government distributes rationed articles for subsidised price. However, to run a PDS shop the government depends on a licensing scheme. Towards this the government issues licenses to individuals and allot quotas of food grains and other rationed articles. These articles are delivered at the shops at the government's expense and the articles are supposed to be distributed in subsidised price or for free to the needy people. On identification of the people who are in specific need the government issues ration cards to the people. The card specifies the quantity of grains and other rationed articles a person or family is entitled for. Musahar being poor most of them are entitled for free ration. However, the PDS shop owners/licensees do not distribute the articles for the poor people, but sell the articles in black market to private hotels.

Illegal dealing in rationed articles is a crime. However, it is for the local police to register a crime and investigate it. But since the police fail to do this duty owing to massive corruption, the rationed articles never reach the needy.

The NREGA programme is a central government programme that provides employment for the poor. The programme is intended to cater the rural poor who otherwise find it impossible to make a living and suffer from starvation. The scheme guarantees employment for a specific period of time for spread through the year so that a minimum number of working days are ensured for the poor to fetch them an earning. However, this programme is implemented only in areas that are declared to be fit for implementation of the programme. But this requires a considered approach by the administration of the particular region, first to identify the number of people suffering from poverty and then to recommend to the government to include the region under the scope of the programme. However, Musahar being an untouchable community the administration is not concerned about the welfare of this community.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to express your concern for the state government's abject failure to address the ongoing corruption and negligence of district administration at different levels which is causing starvation and malnutrition among Musahars. Please call for investigations and disciplinary action to be taken against the government officials responsible for failure to give the possession over the lands allotted in the favour of Musahar community.

To support this appeal, please click:

Sample letter:

To
Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav
Chief Minister
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Lucknow,
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: + 91-522-2230002/2239234
Email: csup@up.nic.in

Dear Chief Minister,

INDIA: Corruption causes starvation among Musahar community in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Victims: The members of the Musahar community of Dallipur-Fattepur village of Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh state, India
Place: Dallipur-Fattepur village of Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh

I am disturbed to hear of the appalling living conditions of Musahar community in Dallipur-Fattepur village of Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh. I am also concerned about the undeterred corruption in PDS shops and the gross negligence on the part of the district administration to check this.
  
According to the information I have received, the Musahar community, in Varanasi district, is socially and economically one of the most marginalized communities in India. The Musahar community falls under the category of Scheduled Caste. Even as of today this community is facing social ostracism due to caste prejudices in the community.

I am informed that the community is been denied access to their land allotted to them by the Sub Divisional Magistrate in 1998. I am informed that the upper caste people belonging to Patel community, illegally, have taken possession of the land which had been allotted in favour of Musahar community of Dallipur-Fattepur village. I am also informed that the community is deprived of job, education and possibilities of a decent life, mostly due to the negligence of the district administration.

I am informed that despite several complaints with the officials of district administration of Varanasi district nothing has been done to fulfill the demands of the Musahar community of Dallipur-Fattepur village.

I am also informed that the Musahars were given less quantity of ration for the month of March as they should have been given according to their ration cards. I am also informed that due to malnourishment children of Musahar community becomes easy prey of epidemics.

I wish to remind you the constitutional mandate that you are bound to obey as an elected representative and as the head of the state government. I also wish to inform you that the right to food and equality of the Musahar community is inalienable and your state government is at fault for the present condition of the Musahar community in Varanasi district. I therefore urge you to order a thorough investigation into the living condition of the Musahar community in Varanasi district and also to the state of affairs of the district administration of Varanasi and also that of the PDS shop licensed to Ms. Surmati Devi.

Finally, I urge you to order a separate investigation into the alleged negligence of the district authorities for not handing over possession of the land allotted to the Musahar community in Dallipur-Fattepur village and also to ensure that the land is freed from the illegal occupation of the members of Patel community.

Yours sincerely,


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PLEASE ALSO SEND A COPY OF YOUR LETTER TO:

1. Mr. Rajiv Agarwal
District Magistrate
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: 91 5422501450

2. Justice A.P. Mishra
Chairperson
Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission
6-A Kalidass Marg
Lucknow,
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Tel: + 91 52 2272 6742
Fax: + 91 52 2272 6743

3. Shri Justice A. S. Anand
Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission of India
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi-110001
INDIA
Tel: + 91 11 23074448
E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in

4. 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

5. Mr. Jean Zeigler
UN 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
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 9179010

6. Mr. Doudou Diene
Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
C/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10,
SWITZERLAND
Tel: + 41 22 917 93 88
Fax: + 41 22 917 9006


Thank you.

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

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