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INDIA: Handloom weavers and their family members may die from tuberculosis in Uttar Pradesh due to poor living conditions

The handloom weaving industry in India depends upon state and central government support for its survival. The industry depends upon skilled weavers, who for generations made a good living out of weaving. The handloom weavers in Uttar Pradesh state, Varanasi particular, are known for their skills of weaving intricate designs, which often take days and months to finish.

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert

27 September 2007
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HA-012-2007: INDIA: Handloom weavers and their family members may die from tuberculosis in Uttar Pradesh due to poor living conditions

INDIA: Government neglect of cottage industries; corruption; right to food; failing public health system
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights [PVCHR], a human rights organization based in Uttar Pradesh, that several persons are infected with tuberculosis in Lohta panchayat of Varanasi district. Most of these persons are from the handloom weaver community of the state who finds it difficult to manage daily food due to poverty. In addition to poverty, non-hygienic living conditions and the absence of public health care has increased the possibility of spreading the infection. The living condition of the sick people in Lohta also symbolises the downfall of the handloom weaving industry itself that has failed to cope-up with modernization and changing environments in India.

DETAILED INFORMATION:

The handloom weaving industry in India depends upon state and central government support for its survival. The industry depends upon skilled weavers, who for generations made a good living out of weaving. The handloom weavers in Uttar Pradesh state, Varanasi particular, are known for their skills of weaving intricate designs, which often take days and months to finish.

After the introduction of the power looms the handloom weavers were thrown out of business. To catch up, the weavers tried to form unions and co-operatives. These attempts were successful in some states like Kerala, where the government supported its local weaving industry with special packages. However in places like Uttar Pradesh, the state government neglected the industry to such an extent that the industry is now dead.

Most of the weavers in Uttar Pradesh and surrounding places are from the Muslim community that finds isolated in the Hindu majority community. Adding on to the burden there is a huge import of cheap materials from countries like China which has broken the backbone of the entire handloom industry in India. The result is acute starvation and hunger in the weavers' families. Faced with lack of market for their product and resultant poverty, soon several members of the weavers contacted tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis treatment and its success depend upon good medical conditions and nutritious food. Due to the failure and neglect of the government sponsored health centres and the inability to afford proper food, tuberculosis has spread uncontrollably in several parts of Uttar Pradesh among the handloom weaving community. Once a member of a family is infected, several other members also get infected with tuberculosis. Lohta village in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh is one example.

Out of an estimated 200 families of weavers some 50 persons are infected with tuberculosis, a preventable and curable illness in modern India. The plight of life of the following families tells the sad tale of government neglect, exploitation and starvation of many families, if left to their fate will soon perish. India being a country that produces some of the high quality drugs exported all over the world at the lowest prices denies proper medical treatment for its own people.

For further information please read the cases narrated below. All these families are from Lohta village of Varanasi district who are engaged in handloom weaving and struggling to survive.

Case 1:
Ms. Rehana is 32 years old and is the wife of Mohamad Hafiz. Rehana lives in Dhamariya Street in Lohta. Since the past one year Rehana is infected with tuberculosis. She weighs only 31 kilos. Mohamad Hafiz was a handloom weaver. But due to the absence of any business, Hafiz has stopped weaving since the past three years. Now both Hafiz and Rehana sell snacks in the village and are trying to make a livelihood.

Hafiz and Rehana can hardly make enough money to run the family each day that for most days they have to starve. When Rehana became sick Hafiz could not afford to provide better treatment to Rehana. They went to the nearby government public health centre for treatment. But at the centre Rehana did not get any treatment.

At the hospital they could not even afford to take a medical X-ray and they had to return without receiving any treatment. Rehana and Hafiz have a 3 year-old daughter who is also suffering from tuberculosis. The family does not have a ration card with which they could get food grains for subsidised price.

Case 2:
Ms. Zubeeda Bibi is about 55 years old. Her husband Rahmat died in 2004. Zubeeda lives in Mahmoodpur in Lohta panchayat. Zubeeda is suffering from tuberculosis since the past eight years. Zubeeda weighs only 40 kilos. Zubeeda have three daughters and one son.

Zubeeda's one daughter weaves embroidery on sarees for which she manages thirty to forty rupees in about three to four day's work, provided someone gives her work. This is the only income for the family. With this pittance, the family consisting of five members cannot even have a meal for everyone once a week. Zubeeda's family has a ration card, but finds it difficult to use it since they have to buy ration articles, for which they have no money. Zubeeda has no money to treat her.

Case 3:
Ms. Asma is aged 40 years and the second wife of Mr. Mohammad Reyaz. Asma also lives in Mahmoodpur in Lohta. Asma is the second wife of Reyaz. In the first marriage Reyaz has four children and in Asma Reyaz has two children. Reyaz is addicted to alcohol and is a carpet weaver. Due to his addiction to alcohol, Reyaz spends twenty to thirty rupees every day on country liquor.

Asma suspects that she is infected with tuberculosis since the past three years. Due to Reyaz's drinking habits Asma is now living with her father and her brother Mustaq. Mustaq took Asma to the public welfare hospital at Kamacha in Varanasi. At the hospital only an x-ray was taken to diagnose her ailment. The doctor who examined her said that Asma does not have tuberculosis. But due to her coughing she is quite certain that she is suffering from the disease. Asma's family does not have enough money to take her for a better consultation. Asma is afraid to be with her children since she fears whether she would transmit the disease to her children.

Case 4:
Mr. Ramzan Ali is aged 30 years and lives in Mahmoodpur in Lohta. Ramzan suffers from cough and fever since the past three months. He has three children, of which the elder daughter is 14 years-old. The eldest daughter lost her sight in an eye in an accident and is the only earning member of the family. Like Zubeeda's daughter, Ramzan's daughter also does embroidery work on sarees and manages thirty to forty rupees in three or four days. But with this income the family cannot survive or even have a single day's decent meal.

Due to poverty, and to survive, Ramzan's other two children are working as bonded labourers. Even though sick, Ramzan works in a nearby power loom.  The family also does not have any ration card that could get them free ration.

Ramzan Ali is finding it difficult to pull along his family and is so desperate that he is contemplating to commit suicide after killing his wife and children.

Case 5:
Mr. Badruddin is aged 34 years and lives in Dhamariya in Lohta. Badruddin is sick from tuberculosis since the last eight years. Badruddin has no means to get a proper medical treatment. Badruddin wants to educate his children. But he cannot afford to send them to school. Badruddin do not have a ration card by which he could get rationed articles free of cost or at a lower price.

Case 6:
Mr. Mohhamad Mustafa is aged 60 and lives in Mahmoodpur in Lohta. Mustafa is blind since the past six years. Six years before when Mustafa had an infection in his left eye, he went for treatment at the Madanpura hospital in Varanasi. After the short hospitalization, Mustafa returned home with infection in his right eye also and soon he lost sight in both his eyes. Since he lost sight in both eyes, Mustafa cannot work anymore. Mustafa lives with his wife, two sons and three unmarried daughters. Mustafa's two sons, Mustaquim and Mohammad Muslim are infected with tuberculosis. They have no means to obtain any treatment.

Case 7:
Mohammad Sallauddin is aged 30 years and lives in Mahmoodpur in Lohta. Sallaudin is married and lives with his wife, two sons and an unmarried sister Farjana. Sallaudin suffers frequent attacks of epilepsy and cannot work. His sister Farjana and his wife are the only earning members of the family. Farjana also suffers from tuberculosis. The family is so poor that they cannot afford for any treatment, or for any proper food.

Case 8:
Mr. Mohammad Gulam Ali is aged 45 years and lives in Mahmoodpur in Lohta. Gulam is suffering from tuberculosis since eight years. Gulam had to stop weaving due to his sickness. Gulam lives with his wife and three children. Gulam's daughter Rabiya is aged 10 years and she is also suffering from tuberculosis. Gulam's eldest son Ismaile is aged 25 and is continuing with the weaving profession. But the income Ismaile earn is not enough to keep the family fed properly.

To make matters worse in 1999 an unknown person approached Gulam and collected his name and other details. Later in 2000 Gulam came to know that the Lohta police have charged Gulam with a case alleging child labour. When the case was charged Ismaile, Gulam's son was a minor and Gulam now learns that the case is charge sheeted against Gulam alleging that he was employing his son as a bonded labour. Since then Gulam is summoned to the court at least eight times a year. The case is continuing and Gulam is pleading innocence since he was only trying to teach his son what he knew. Even according to law, Gulam's case cannot be considered as one of child labour. However, for the Indian courts to take a decision in such matters, it would take many more years.

Other facts relevant to the appeal:

For the entire Lohta region and other five nearby villages there is one officer appointed from the revenue department. This officer, known as the 'Nodal Officer', is expected to regularly report to the District Magistrate. It is through the reports submitted by this officer the district administration is informed about the welfare of the people living in these villages. For this the Nodal Officer is expected to visit houses and prepare his report of the living conditions of the people. However, the officer never visits the houses, and forges reports, whenever he wishes, according to his whims and fancies. This is because it is not practical for the officer to visit thousands of houses which he has to cover to prepare a report.

There is no primary health centre in Lohta. The condition of the primary health centre in nearby Kashi Vidhyapith Block is very bad. This centre covers 85 villages with approximately 60,000 persons. The centre is located about 2 ½ kilometers away from the main road. The access road to the centre is in such a condition that it is difficult for anyone to reach the centre.

On September 11, 2007 the staff of the PVCHR went to the health centre and they found that the centre was locked, without any staff around. A picture of the centre is available [photo].There is a hand pump and a well at the centre. The well is dry and the hand pump does not work. In paper the centre has two doctors, one nurse, two health assistants - one male and one female, one compounder and a lab technician. In addition to the staff the centre must also have 112 types of essential medicines, ready at the centre to be delivered free of cost to the patients. None of these facilities are available at the centre.

The weavers being poor are not in a position to approach the private hospitals in the city and have to depend upon government health centers. However the doctors in charge of these centres work for private hospitals and keep the centers closed so that the patients are forced to approach the private clinics. Most of these doctors also have private practice and also work illegally at the private hospitals. The government also neglects these health centres by failing to provide medicines and staff.

Failure of government services mostly affects the poor and the marginalised. The handloom weavers in Varanasi being poor are one of the worst affected communities due to the poor functioning of the government health centre. The result is the alarming number of persons affected by tuberculosis in Lohta.

For further information regarding the condition of handloom weavers in that state please see HA-12-2005, AS-172-2007 and UG-003-2007. For further information regarding the failing handloom weaving industry in Uttar Pradesh, please contact Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, the PVCHR, SA4/2A, Daulatpur, Varanasi – 221002, Uttar Pradesh, INDIA. Telephone +91-9935599333. Email: pvchr@yahoo.com 

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to express your concern 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: Handloom weavers and their family members may die from tuberculosis in Uttar Pradesh due to poor living conditions

Name of the Victims: Members of handloom weaving families in Lohta Panchayath, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh
Location: Lohta panchayath, Kashi Vidhyapeed block, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh

I am writing to express my concern about the living condition of handloom weaving community and their families in Lohta panchayath of Varanasi district in Uttar Pradesh. I am informed that most of these families find it difficult to find a day's meal and that several persons are infected by tuberculosis. I am concerned to know that the public health centre at the Kashi Vidhyapeed Block, responsible for addressing the medical needs of these families is not functioning properly and that it lacks all necessary facilities.

I am also informed that the health centre at Kashi Vidhyapeed Block remains locked for most of the days. I am also informed that several disserving families are denied subsidised ration in Lohta, which adds to the burden of these families to find food. I am also informed that there have been several calls for help from these families addressed to the state government, which has not been attended to by the government so far.

I am aware that tuberculosis is a curable and containable disease which if neglected can be life threatening. I am concerned to know that the state government has done nothing so far to address the situation in Lohta so far.

I therefore urge you to immediately intervene in this case and make sure that the weaver families suffering from poor health and living conditions in Lohta are immediately attended to and that their grievances are immediately addressed.
 

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. Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi - 110 001
INDIA
Tel: + 91 11 23346244
Fax: + 91 11 23366537
E-mail: ionhrc@hub.nic.in or chairnhrc@nic.in

3. Dr. Syeda Saiyidain Hameed
Member, Planning Commission, Government of India
Yogna Bhavan, Sansad Margh, New Delhi - 110001
INDIA
Fax: + 91 11 23096699
Email: s.hameed@nic.in

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

5. The Regional Director
World Food Programme, Unit No. 2, 7th Floor
Wave Place Building, 55 Wireless Road
Lumpini, Patumwan, Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Fax: +66-2-6554413
Email: bkk.unescap@un.org 

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


Thank you.

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

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