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UPDATE (India): A handloom weaver suffering from tuberculosis and poverty for 22 years

The AHRC has reported eight cases of handloom weavers suffering from tuberculosis and poverty on 27 September 2007. They are living in Lohta village, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh. Many villagers in Lohta are engaged in the weaving industry are now losing their livelihood due to introduction of power looms. They are also facing competition due to the import of cheap foreign substitutes from countries like China. All the weavers in the earlier eight cases are suffering from tuberculosis for at least three months up to eight years. The lack of livelihood and the failure of government policies related to public heath service are taking their lives away. For further information about this cases please see HA-012-2007. This is the case of yet another weaver in the same area, Mr. Mahmoodul Hasan who is suffering from tuberculosis for 22 years.

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

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Update on Hunger Alert

9 October 2007

[HA-012-2007: INDIA: Handloom weavers and their family members may die from tuberculosis in Uttar Pradesh due to poor living conditions]
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HU-005-2007: INDIA: A handloom weaver suffering from tuberculosis and poverty for 22 years

INDIA: Right to food; neglect and corruption of government officers; failure of public health system; limitation of public distribution 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 organisation based in Uttar Pradesh, regarding the case of a handloom weaver suffering from tuberculosis in Bhatti, Lohta village, Varanasi district. The victim belongs to the handloom weaving community. The living condition of this community is getting worse due to the decline of the handloom weaving industry. Many handloom weavers have difficulties for even finding daily food. Several of them are infected with tuberculosis. The lack of food and infection of tuberculosis are threatening their livelihood and the state sponsored public health service is not reaching them.

CASE DETAILS:

The AHRC has reported eight cases of handloom weavers suffering from tuberculosis and poverty on 27 September 2007. They are living in Lohta village, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh. Many villagers in Lohta are engaged in the weaving industry are now losing their livelihood due to introduction of power looms. They are also facing competition due to the import of cheap foreign substitutes from countries like China. All the weavers in the earlier eight cases are suffering from tuberculosis for at least three months up to eight years. The lack of livelihood and the failure of government policies related to public heath service are taking their lives away. For further information about this cases please see HA-012-2007. This is the case of yet another weaver in the same area, Mr. Mahmoodul Hasan who is suffering from tuberculosis for 22 years.

36-year-old Mahmoodul Hasan, son of Mohd Hasan, started weaving when he was 14 years old and soon he had cough, fever and started coughing out blood. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis both at the primary health centre in Kamaksha, Varanasi district and at Sir Sundarlal Hospital of the Benaras Hindu University (BHU), and has taken treatment at the BHU hospital. On 13 February 2007, Mahmoodul was diagnosed with tuberculosis again. However he could neither take a medical X-ray, nor afford for proper treatment.

As Mahmoodul is getting weaker by tuberculosis, he can work only for 2-3 days a week and make 50 Rupees (1 USD is 38 Indian Rupees) a day from weaving. With this income he cannot manage his life. Afsana (30 years old), wife of Mahmoodul is earning 40 Rupees in 3 days by doing embroidery on saries and even their 10-year-old son, Sadiq is assisting them in weaving. Despite all their efforts, Mahmoodul's family is facing poverty and suffering from diseases since their income is not enough to fetch daily food or proper treatment. Moreover they do not receive any benefits from the government and are the victims of widespread corruption in the government health system.

Mahmoodul has an Above Poverty Line (APL) card with which he cannot buy any food grains at the Public Distribution System (PDS) shop. Mahmoodul applied for a Below Poverty Line (BPL) card but was refused by the village head, Mr. Sujeet Kumar Singh for the reason that the BPL card is not available at present. The limited distribution of the BPL card, failure in proper need assessment and card distribution and fixed renewal date in every five years make it difficult for people like Mahmoodul to get the benefit of government welfare schemes. In Mahmoodul's case his family desperately needs assistance for food and medical treatment. For further information about PDS, please see HA-004-2006, AL-011-2007.

Meanwhile, on September 6 when Mahmoodul took his wife for delivery at primary health centre in Kashi Vidyapith, he was asked to pay bribes to the staff at the centre. He was asked to pay 20 Rupees for application to get maternity benefit through the Auxiliary Nursing Mother (ANM). Ms. Asha Gupta is the ANM for the village. At the centre Afsana was given one injection, and no one took care of her for the rest of the day. The injection given was saline drips. No staff was available on duty at night. Mahmoodul's wife needed constant care as she was expecting her baby. Given these conditions at the centre, Mahmoodul did not have any other option but to leave the primary health centre with his wife on the following day.

When Mahmoodul was about to leave the primary health centre with his wife, he was again asked to pay bribes to the staff at the health centre and to the pharmacist, Mr. Krishna Ram, for the injection. Since Mahmoodul did not have money to pay any more the pharmacist did not register Afsana's case at the centre and failed to give them a receipt which is necessary to apply for the maternity benefit scheme. Afsana had to return home without proper medical care. Afsana later gave birth to a baby girl, but the baby died 6 hours after birth.

In March 2007, 50 weavers including Mahmoodul, in Lohta applied for weaver's health card under the health insurance scheme. This was under a scheme launched by the ICICI bank (formerly the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI) - is India's second largest bank with total assets worth 79 billion USD as of 31 March 2007). When Mahmoodul inquired about his health card to the ICICI officer, he was informed that all the documents were submitted to the relevant department but the card is not ready for distribution. Only 4 out of 50 weavers received a health card. With the health card, Mahmoodul could have treated himself and his wife at any hospital.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Out of total population in Lohta village, an estimated 80% are handloom weavers. As the handloom weaving industry declined after the introduction of power looms and the import of cheap Chinese materials and products, only 11% out of weavers have retained their handloom. Those who continue in the handloom weaving industry are continuously pushed out, off from the market and their livelihood is being threatened. Many have been infected by tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis is a common aliment among the handloom weaving industry in Lohta. This is because the disease has spread uncontrolled in the poverty struck families where the members live in unhygienic and dust filled environment. The relatively heavy work for handloom weaving requires the weaver to spend hours in a weaving pit with the weaving machine. In most houses, the weaving machine is fixed in a pit, with very little air circulation. Given the physical condition of a starving weaver and the presence of the infection in surrounding houses, coupled with very poor health services create the most congenial environment for the illness to spread fast in the community. Please refer to HA-012-2007, HA-012-2005, AS-172-2007, UG-003-2007 for further reading about the handloom weaving industry in India.

The central government launched the health insurance scheme for handloom weavers in August 2005. Under this scheme, handloom weavers can apply for health card with which they can obtain treatment free of cost at any hospital and it covers the insured's spouse and children. However, the issuing of the health card is limited to those who belong to the handloom weaver's association and at least 50% of whose total income is generated from weaving. In Lohta village, however, the scheme covers less 10% of the handloom weavers (about 350 out of 4000 handloom weavers).

Handloom weavers have no choice but to approach the primary health centre due to their poverty. The AHRC has reported on the actual condition of primary health centre earlier in HA-012-2007. People cannot get proper treatment even at the primary health centre due to the neglect of the doctors and the staff, insufficient medical supplies and facilities and corruption. This affects the poor people since they cannot afford to pay bribes at the public health centre or to approach a private hospital for treatment.

Mahmoodul is just one of several handloom weavers suffering from tuberculosis and poverty. The Varanasi silk sari famous for its beautiful and unique design is made from the work of several skilled weavers, including Mahmoodul who at the same time finds it difficult to get proper treatment and benefits from the government. The failure of the government to provide assistance for handloom weavers make them poor and fails to revive the industry which is as sick as them.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to express your concern about this case.
The AHRC is also writing to the Mr. Jean Zeigler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the 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: Another handloom weaver suffering from tuberculosis and poverty for 22 years in Uttar Pradesh

Name of the victim: Mahmoodul Hasan (36 years old), son of Mohd Hasan, in Bhatti village, Lohta Panchayath, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh
Location: Bhatti village, Lohta Panchayath, Kashi Vidhyapeed block, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh

I am writing to express my concern about yet another handloom weaver and his family who are suffering from tuberculosis and poverty in Lohta panchayath of Varanasi district in Uttar Pradesh.

I am informed that 36-year-old Mahmoodul has been suffering from tuberculosis since 22 years, but cannot get proper treatment due to the failure of the public heath service system in your state. I am also informed that the family is suffering from shortage of food due to poor working conditions and the little income the family can generate from handloom weaving. I have learned that Mahmoodul is infected with tuberculosis and that he is finding it difficult to get a treatment for his ailment.

I have heard that Mahmoodul who is hardly earning 20-30 Rupees a day from weaving but has neither a weaver's health card nor a Below Poverty Line (BPL) card. It is reported that his application for a BPL card was refused by the village head. I am also informed that even though he along with other 50 handloom weavers had submitted relevant documents for weaver's health card in March 2007, none of them have obtained the card but for four applicants.

I am also informed that Mahmoodul has lost his baby soon after its birth since his wife was refused proper medical care at the primary health centre. I am informed that the staff stationed at the Kashi Vidyapith primary health centre is corrupt and demands money for any treatment or other medical assistance. At the centre Mahmoodul's wife Afsana was denied proper medical care and Afsana had to return home and deliver her baby at home. Within six hours after delivery the baby died.

I have learned that Mahmoodul's case is not an isolated case from the village. I am informed that there are dozens of families that face similar or worse situations in Lohta who require immediate medical attention as well as assistance through the state government welfare schemes.

I therefore urge you to immediately intervene in this case to ensure that Mahmoodul and his family receive assistance from your government and the allegations regarding the public food distribution system in Lohta is attended to. I also urge you to ensure that the allegations of corruption and other malpractices at the Kashi Vidyapith primary health centre is enquired into and appropriate remedial measures are initiated.

I look forward to your prompt action in this case.

Sincerely yours,

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PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:

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

2. Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi-110001
INDIA
Tel: + 91 11 23346244
Fax: +91 11 23366537
E-mail: ionhrc@hrc.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

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

4. 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

5. 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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