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INDIA: Yet another person dies from starvation in Uttar Pradesh

Mr. Kammal Musahar [picture 1] is from the Musahar community of Sarsanwa village. Kammal was about 50 years old. Kammal and his family were trying to make a living by selling plates made from leaves. The family that includes Kammal, son Lalai, Lalai's wife Radha and their daughters Sunita and Munita could hardly have a meal a day with their earnings from selling leaf plates.

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert

22 November 2007
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HA-013-2007: INDIA: Yet another person dies from starvation in Uttar Pradesh

INDIA: Government neglect; caste based discrimination; 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] in Uttar Pradesh regarding the case of Mr. Kammal Musahar, who died from acute starvation in Sarsanwa village in Harahuwa of district of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state. Kammal died on 28 October 2007 in his village.

DETAILED INFORMATION:

Mr. Kammal Musahar [picture 1] is from the Musahar community of Sarsanwa village. Kammal was about 50 years old. Kammal and his family were trying to make a living by selling plates made from leaves. The family that includes Kammal, son Lalai, Lalai's wife Radha and their daughters Sunita and Munita could hardly have a meal a day with their earnings from selling leaf plates.

On 28 October 2007 Kammal died from acute starvation. Kammal's picture speaks volumes about the family's living condition. A staff from the PVCHR who met Kammal's family was informed about the hard life the family is leading as of now. Lalai, Kammal's son informs that the family though is qualified for state government support never received support from the government since the village head of Sarsanwa village refused to help the family. Even though Lalai had applied for a ration card with the village head, the family was refused a card by the village head since they were not able to pay the bribes the village head had demanded.

Lalai had to borrow money from money lenders and others from the village several times for keeping the family alive thus far. Now he is left with not a single penny to pay back his debt. Lalai and his wife are willing to do any work for a living. But the community in the village is not willing to engage them for any work since the family is from an untouchable community according to the caste practices in the village. Sunita, Kammal's grandchild, informs that several days they have nothing to eat and that she had to go to the school with empty stomach.

The village head of Sarsanwa is Mr. Durga Prasad Yadav [picture 2]. He pleads that the family has never applied for any ration card. He also claims that he did not even know that Kammal and his family were in need. This however is refuted by the PVCHR since it is not only Kammal's family that is facing such a situation in the village. All Musahar families in the village face similar situation. There are about 15 to 20 Musahar families in the village. Most of them do not have a ration card.

The Sarsanwa village lacks every facility that the state government is supposed to be providing in a village. There are no health facilities available for the villagers. The upper caste families could go to the town for medical help in case they need. These families could afford for their travel and even treatment at private hospitals. But for the Musahar communities they cannot afford to travel out from the village and needless to say they cannot afford for any treatment at private hospitals.

This is not the first instance where the AHRC has reported cases of starvation death from Uttar Pradesh. AHRC in the past one year has reported six cases of deaths from starvation from Uttar Pradesh state alone. For further information please see Foodjustice. Please also see AS-174-2007 and AL-011-2007 for an overview of the situation in India and particularly in Uttar Pradesh regarding the situation of right to food and how this right is systematically denied to the lower caste communities in India.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to express your concern in this case. The AHRC is also writing to the UN Rapporteur on Right to Food calling for an 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: Please take immediate actions to avoid further starvation deaths in Sarsanwa village of Varanasi district

Name of the Victim: Mr. Kammal Musahar (died on 28 October 2007) and his family, residing at Sarsanwa village in Harahuwa block of Varanasi district
Location: Sarsanwa village in Harahuwa block of Varanasi district

I am writing to express concern about the case of Mr. Kammal Musahar from Sarsanwa village of Harahuwa block of Varanasi district in Uttar Pradesh state. I am informed that Kammal died from starvation on 28 October 2007.

I am informed that Kammal and his family have no source of income and are struggling to make a living. I am also informed that Kammal's family had approached the village head Mr. Durga Prasad Yadav to procure a ration card, which was denied since the village head demanded bribes.

I am also aware that Sunita, aged 10 years is Kammal's grandchild and that she is attending the Government Primary School in Sarsanwa. I am informed that Sunita has to attend school with an empty stomach. I am also informed that there are no public health centres in the village and that the nearest one is at Pindra which is about 5kms away.

I am also aware that Kammal's family is not the only family facing similar situations in Sarsanwa. I am informed that there are about 15 to 20 similar families of the Musahar community in Sarsanwa who are also finding it difficult to find food in the village. I hope that your office will take appropriate steps to intervene in this situation so that Kammal's family and also other Musahar families in Sarsanwa village will receive immediate help.

I also request you to urge the Varanasi district administration, particularly the District Magistrate, to visit Sarsanwa and to take immediate steps to resolve the food scarcity of the Musahar community in the village. I further request you to make sure that after the District Magistrate's enquiry if it is revealed that the village head was demanding bribes for essential services appropriate actions to be initiated against the village head without any further delay.

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

3. 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 

4. 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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