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GENERAL (India): Alleged corruption by village authorities results in lack of food and adequate housing for the poor in Uttar Pradesh

Mr. Panna Lal Musahar belongs to the Musahar community of Mahboobpur village, Sant Ravidas Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh, India. He lives with eight family members.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert General: AHRC-HAG-001-2008

18 March 2008
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INDIA: Alleged corruption by village authorities results in lack of food and adequate housing for the poor in Uttar Pradesh

ISSUES: Corruption; violation of the right to adequate housing and food; caste based discrimination; dysfunction of the Public Food 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 local human rights organisation in Uttar Pradesh, regarding the deteriorate living conditions of the Musahar community (Untouchables) of the Mahboobpur village, Bhadohi Block in Sant Ravidas Nagar district. The Musahars have been deprived of their right to food, housing and health care due to the neglect and corruption of the village authorities.

CASE DETAILS:

Cases of deprivation of the right to adequate housing:

Mr. Panna Lal Musahar belongs to the Musahar community of Mahboobpur village, Sant Ravidas Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh, India. He lives with eight family members.

In 2007, the state government decided to provide financial assistance for the construction of Panna Lal's house. Panna Lal is one of 13 Musahar families of Mahboobpur village who are the beneficiaries of the government housing scheme (Indira Awas Yojana; IAY) in 2007–2008.

Mr. Moti Lal, the village head of the Mahboobpur village opened a bank account under the name of Bhagwani Musahar, the wife of Panna Lal. The subsidy amount was remitted in instalments to Bhagwani's bank account on 25 November 2007 and 29 February 2008. However, the village authority has not handed over any relevant bank documents to Panna Lal's family. Instead of handing over the money Panna Lal's family was granted, Moti Lal only provided poor-quality construction materials for Panna Lal's house.

On 28 January 2008, Panna Lal sent an appeal stating Moti Lal's mismanagements of the funds granted to the Commissioner of Varanasi and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Moti Lal, on hearing about this, promised to provide good construction material for Panna Lal's house but subsequently failed to do so. Meanwhile, Panna Lal has not received any response from the local authority regarding his appeal. 

[photo 1: Panna Lal in front of his new house under construction]

Mr. Munna Musahar, another member of the Musahar community in the same village, lives in a mud thatched hut which is unsafe in winter and in the rainy season. However, Moti Lal, the village head, has not taken any action to help Munna.

The Musahar community is constitutionally categorized as a Scheduled Caste (Untouchables), the lowest in the Indian three tier class system – general, backward caste and scheduled caste. Musahars are the most marginalized community among the Scheduled Castes in Uttar Pradesh. Most Musahars are illiterate and poor, living in rural areas. (To see more cases of Musahar community in Uttar Pradesh, please visit the website at www.foodjustice.net/ha

As they are illiterate, Musahars cannot complete official documents for any of the government welfare schemes without help from others. Moti Lal takes advantage of this social disability of the Musahars and abuses his official position to deprive Musahars of their rights. 

Improper management of the Public Food Distribution System (PDS) and caste discrimination:

Moti Lal, the village head indulges in gross mismanagement of the PDS. Only 6 out of 35 Musahar families have an AAY, a red ration card issued to the poorest among the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. Despite the fact that most of the Musahars in Mahboobpur village do not have regular work and suffer from hunger, 24 out of 35 families do not have ration cards.

Even worse, Kailash Nath Yadav, the shopkeeper of the PDS in the Mahboobpur village is allegedly involved in corruption relating to the PDS. For example, Panna Lal has an AAY card No. 12306. When Panna Lal goes to the ration shop to buy his monthly rations, Kailash Nath demands INR 100 (USD 2.5) for the total 20-25 kilograms of rice and wheat, whereas the AAY card entitles him to get 20 kilograms of rice and 15 kilograms of wheat at INR 95 according to the PDS. This is a clear offence under the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) of 1955.

In addition, Kailash Nath ridicules Panna Lal's caste status whenever he demands his entitlement to the stipulated quantity of rations. Worse still, the ration shop is not open every day which is in violation of the PDS regulations, nor is kerosene oil distributed to eligible card holders.

Yet another Musahar of the same village, Mr. Dasrath also requested the village head Moti Lal to issue him an AAY card but he was not given one. Dasrath lives with a daughter, two sons and a daughter-in-law. Ever since Dasrath has been unable to walk, his sons Surendra and Hubla have been weaving carpets to support the family. They only earn about INR 30 (USD 0.74) each per day. The meager income is insufficient to feed the family. Needless to say, Dasrath has no money for his medical treatment.

[photo 2: Dasrath in front of his mud house]

Since his visit to India in 2005, the UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food has consistently pointed out that the corruption in India leads to food insecurity. The Special Rapporteur again expressed his concern about the corruption in the PDS and National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP) in his report to the 7th session of the UN Human Rights Council. For more details about the food insecurity in India, please also refer to the written statement of the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a sister organisation of the AHRC.

Poor child health condition

Munna's wife Sanju was not a beneficiary of the Janani Suraksha Yojana (Mother Safety Scheme) during her pregnancy which is in violation of the said scheme as she was entitled to benefits. Munna's three-year-old son Manish now suffers from an eye disease which may possibly result in night blindness. [photo 3: Manish's eyes] Munna's seven-month-old son Mani is in very weak health condition. Panna Lal's granddaughter Saroj (five-month-old) is also very weak and suffers from diarrhoea.

Another Musahar, Dasrath's daughter-in-law is pregnant. However, neither Anganwadi (child-care) workers of Mahboobpur village nor the Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM), has the visited the Mushar community for a health check-up and supplementary nutrition for pregnant women.

None of the Musahar children have ever been immunized or provided nutrition by the ANM. This is a breeding ground for severe malnutrition and hunger related disease.

The Anganwadi Centre is the key in delivering the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) launched by the Indian government. The ICDS targets children aged six years or below. The health workers of the Anganwadi centre have important and direct roles to protect poor children and women from starvation and ailments related to starvation and malnutrition at the village level. All the ICDS services are provided through the Anganwadi workers in an integrated manner to enhance its impact on child care.

Under the ICDS, the Anganwadi workers should visit the community regularly to carryout health check-up for the children. Once they identify a malnourished child, the child has to be registered at the Anganwadi centre in order to provide nutrition and health care for the child until the child's condition is safe.

There are various communities in the Mahboobpur village. Although there is one Anganwadi centre in Chamar (Untouchable) community located 1 kilometer away from the Musahar community, it does not cover the Musahar community. Furthermore, a Muslim minority community in the same village does not have Anganwadi centre, either. 

The Supreme Court issued a judgment on 13 December 2006 related to the ICDS. The judgment emphasized the special concern about the health case of a child under aged six. It mentioned that the rural communities and slum residents are entitled to an Anganwadi centre on demand in cases where a settlement has at least 40 children under six. Although the Musahar community has less than 40 children under aged six, there would be more than 40 children under six including those in the neighbouring Muslim minority community. The local government authority must pay attention to the Musahars who do not receive any medical attention and food assistance for children under the ICDS so far.

In January 2008, the Musahars also demanded the establishment of the Anganwadi centre in their community. Considering the deteriorating and poor health conditions of the children, the AHRC urges the Uttar Pradesh state government authority to take positive action to establish one Anganwadi centre covering the Musahar community and neighbouring minority communities as well.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The Musahars of Mahboobpur village have been living without land for agriculture and housing for generations. Though Mahboobpur village was declared as an Ambedkar village in 2003, basic facilities including housing and hygienic water supply as well as adequate livelihood have not reached them.

The housing scheme (IAY) for the poor in rural area is traced to the programme of rural employment which was initiated in the 1980s. It is one of the major activities under the National Rural Empolyment Programme (NREP) launched in 1980 and the Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme (RLEGP) in 1983.

Under the IAY, the target groups are BPL families living in rural areas. It is mandatory that the beneficiaries belong to Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), freed bonded labourers or non-SC/ST living BPL. Beneficiaries living in the plains would receive INR 25,500 (USD 630) and those in hilly areas INR 27,500 (USD 680). Beneficiaries are shortlisted by the Gram Sabha which is a basic unit for the Dr. Ambedkar Rural Integrated Development Programme (ARIDP).

The IAY clearly bans contractors or departmental constructions. No contractor is to be engaged for the construction and cash assistance is provided in two instalments directly to the beneficiary. Moti Lal, the village head is infringing the regulations of the IAY and the local government also fails to monitor the implementation of the housing scheme.

Construction of houses in rural area also meets the purpose of the Dr. Ambedkar Rural Integrated Development Programme. However, the failure of this programme has been exposed and Mahboobpur village is merely one example. (See further: HAC-004-2008, HA-015-2007 and HA-010-2007)

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the authorities mentioned below to express your concern about this case. Please call for the relevant authorities and international society to intervene that the alleged perpetrators are punished and local government listen to the poor.

The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and on Adequate Housing calling for an intervention in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

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SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: Please investigate the corruption on government service for the poor

Name of the victims:
1. Mr. Panna Lal (aged 50 years) and his family, resident of Musahar community of Mahboobpur village, Sant Ravidas Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh
2. Mr. Munna (aged 28 years), and his family, resident of Musahar community of Mahboobpur village, Sant Ravidas Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh
3. Mr. Dasrath (aged 45 years) and his family, resident of Musahar community of Mahboobpur village, Sant Ravidas Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh
Name of persons in charge:
1. Mr. Moti Lal, the village head of Mahboobpur village, Bhadohi Block, Sant Ravidas Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh
2. Mr. Anil Kumar Srivastava, village secretary, Mehboobpur village, Bhadohi Block, Sant Ravidas Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh
3. Mr. Kailash Nath Yadav, the shopkeeper of ration shop in Mahboobpur village, Bhadohi Block, Sant Ravidas Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh
Location: Musahar community, Mahboobpur village, Bhadohi Block, Sant Ravidas Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh

I am writing to express my concern about the Musahar community of Mahboobpur village, Bhadohi Block, Sant Ravidas Nagar district who are deprived of government support for the poor.

According to the information I received, Anil Kumar Srivastava, the village secretary and Moti Lal, the village head of Mahboobpur village have siphoned off the government grant for Panna Lal's house construction. The village secretary as a government official should maintain and keep village records regarding the policies and welfare schemes. However he neglects his duty which leads to aggravate the living condition of the poor.

I learned that the government housing scheme, Indira Awas Yojana prohibits the contractor or departmental construction in the process and cash assistance is provided directly to the beneficiary. However, Moti Lal, the village head provided poor quality construction material instead of handing over the relevant bank documents and grant to Bhagwani, the wife of Panna Lal.

I am further informed that Moti Lal indulges in malpractices in the Public Food Distribution Service (PDS). Only 6 out of 35 Musahar families have Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) which is issued to the poorest among the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. 24 out of 35 Musahar families have no ration card at all. I am informed that Munna, another Musahar in the village, is also eligible for AAY card, but was not given one.

I am aware that the Musahars in Uttar Pradesh are the most marginalized and the poorest even among the Dalits and the Schedule Castes. They are further marginalized within the Scheduled Caste.

I am informed that even worse, Mr. Kailash Nath Yadav, the PDS ration shopkeeper infringes the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) of India, 1955.  Whenever Panna Lal goes to the ration shop to collect the rations with his AAY card, Kailash Nath asks him to pay INR 100 (USD 2.5) for 20-25 kilograms of rice and wheat. Whereas, the AAY card holders are entitled to 20 kilograms of rice and 15 kilograms of wheat at INR 95 (USD 2.45) under the PDS. When Panna Lal demands his entitlement, Kailash Nath abuses Panna Lal with crude references made to his low caste status. 

I am also informed that Kailash Nath, the ration shopkeeper does not open the ration shop everyday nor is kerosene oil distributed to eligible card holders. I am aware that the UN Special Rapporteur also has pointed out the failure of the PDS resulting from this corruption and mismanagement. However, the local government ignores the complaints of the poor.

I have learned that Mahboobpur village was declared as the Ambedkar village in 2003. Under the Dr. Ambedkar Rural Integrated Development Programme, the essential amenities would be built in Mahboobpur village, especially for the poor. However, the above cases show that this programme has not been implemented.  

On 28 January, an appeal stating Moti Lal's mismanagement was sent to the Commissioner of Varanasi and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Moti Lal being apprised of the appeal letter, promised to provide good material for Panna Lal's house. The Musahar also demanded the Anganwadi Centre (child care centre) in their community. However, there was neither a response nor an investigation in this matter by the local government.

In the light of the above, therefore, I urge you to immediately investigate the malpractices corruption of the village council, and the PDS shopkeeper. I also urge you to ensure that the alleged perpetrators are punished in accordance with Indian laws and international standards. I believe that when corruption is rooted out and the rule of law is established in Indian society, the poor and marginalized can be relieved of hunger and the corrupt administration.

Yours sincerely,


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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Ms. Mayawati
Chief Minister
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: + 91 522 223 0002 / 223 9234
E-mail: csup@up.nic.in

2. Secretary to the Government
Uttar Pradesh State Government
5th Floor – Lal Bahadur Sastri Bhavan
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA

3. Mr. Rohit Nandan
Principal Secretary
Department of Rural Development
10th Floor, Jawahar Bhavan, Ashok Marg
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA - 226001

4. R.S. Dubey
District Magistrate
Sant Ravidas Nagar District
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: +91 5414 250315
E-mail: dmsm@up.nic.in 

5. Secretariat
The Right to Food Campaign – India
C/o, PHRN,
5 A, Jungi House
Shahpur Jat, New Delhi-110049
INDIA
E-mail: righttofood@gmail.com

6. Regional Director
World Food Programme
Unit No. 2, 7th Floor, Wave Place Building
55 Wireless Road
Lumpini, Patumwan, Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Fax: +66 2 655 4413

7. Country Director
World Food Programme
2 Poorvi Marg, Vasant Vihar,
New Delhi 110057
INDIA
Fax: +91 112 615 0019
E-mail: wfp.newdelhi@wfp.org

Thank you.

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

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