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INDIA: A three-year-old girl is struggling from malnutrition

Poonam is three years and four months old and is the youngest daughter of Jiya Lai Mushar, resident of the village Dallipur Fattepur in Baragaon block in Varanasi district. On the 28 August 2007, Ponam was diagnosed as malnourished but with the help of PVCHR she was able to receive treatment. However, Poonam's health continued to deteriorate and she became severely malnourished. She was diagnosed as Grade III malnourished by the Primary Health Centre in Newada and weighed only 6 kilograms and 800 grams.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert Case: AHRC-HAC-007-2008

8 May 2008
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INDIA: A three-year-old girl is struggling from malnutrition

ISSUES: Corruption; right to food; right to housing; caste based discrimination
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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 working in Uttar Pradesh state, regarding the case of a three year old Mushar girl who is severely malnourished and struggling for her life.

CASE DETAILS:

Poonam is three years and four months old and is the youngest daughter of Jiya Lai Mushar, resident of the village Dallipur Fattepur in Baragaon block in Varanasi district. On the 28 August 2007, Ponam was diagnosed as malnourished but with the help of PVCHR she was able to receive treatment.  However, Poonam's health continued to deteriorate and she became severely malnourished.  She was diagnosed as Grade III malnourished by the Primary Health Centre in Newada and weighed only 6 kilograms and 800 grams.

Jiya Lal and his wife Mita are Mushars from the scheduled caste, considered to be 'untouchable' by the Upper Castes in India. They work as migrant labourers in the brick kiln factory in Jaunpur district, work which is irregular, physically very demanding and poorly paid.  The Mushar suffer severe poverty and are often vulnerable to becoming bonded labourers and being further marginalised and exploited.

Jiya Lal has a BPL (Below Poverty Line) ration card No. 076277 that was issued in the name of his deceased father Lalman.  However, this does little to cover the economic hardship faced by Jiya Lal, his wife, two children and his mother.  They are landless and have few livelihood opportunities to lift them out of poverty.

Although, Poonam was registered at the Fattepur Anganwadi centre (child care centre) and the Auxiliary Nursing Mother (ANM) Ms. Reena Devi certified that she was Grade III malnourished, her grandmother claims that she is still not receiving a nourishing diet.  On the 18 March 2008 a letter was sent to the District Magistrate asking for emergency assistance of Rupees 1,000 (USD 24) as laid out by the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh to ensure Child Rights are protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution but no response has been received.

Jiya Lal is responsible for taking care of his mother who should be entitled to an old age pension that is supposed to be distributed by the state to assist aged persons who may have very little or no pension on which to live.  Yet, corruption at all levels of distribution is responsible for the failure of this money to reach those that are in desperate need.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The village of Dallipur Fattepur is dominated by the Mushar and they are landless and homeless.  Mushars often work as agricultural labourers, carpet weavers and in the brick kilns. This work is irregular, physically tough and poorly paid.  There are only two Anganwadi health centre's running in the whole village and these are not in the area dominated by Mushars. This is despite there being more than forty children between the ages of three and six living there.  Both health workers, Sushma Singh and Fattepur Reena Devi, are more than half a kilometer away from Dallipur Fattepur so the children are forced to cross a dangerous highway and canal in order to reach them, further jeopardising their safety.

Of the 77 Mushars living in this area, only 21 have a BPL card, 28 have an Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), 4 have an Above Poverty Line (APL) card.  This leaves 24 families without any type of card for government assistance to which they are legally entitled. 

In 1998 an allotment of 23 houses was made under Indira Awas Yojana but still no one has been given possession of this land and the dominance of the Upper Caste further enforces their destitution. On the 17 May 2007 members of the Patel community including Mr. Sanjeev son of Khurdhan, Mr. Ram Achal Patal son of Khali Charan, and Mr. Surya Lal son of Raj Narayen, Mr. Lal Bahadur and Mr. Amar Nath burnt Bechan Mushar's housing in an act of intimidation and warning to stop the Mushar from fishing in a nearby pond. Bechan Mushar has still not received compensation for his housing under Indira Awas Yojana.

Such threatening of a person is an offense in law under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860. Under Section 503 of the Penal Code, "Whoever threatens another with injury to his person, reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of anyone in whom that person is interested in…commits criminal intimidation."  The punishment for criminal intimidation is prescribed in Section 506 of the Penal Code which mandates the accused, if proven guilty, to be imprisonment for two, required to pay a fine, or both.

The case has been registered at the Phulpur police station Case No. 188/07, under Section 147, 504, 323, 435 or the IPC and 3 (1) Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.

Further to this, corruption at the Public Distribution Shop (PDS) shop has meant that Dalit women are receiving rations that are under-weighed and over-priced in violation of the Public Distribution System (Control) Order 2001 (as amended in 2004), the Uttar Pradesh Scheduled Commodities (Distribution) Order 2004 and the license agreement. Only upon an enquiry into this complaint were rations distributed in the correct way.

On 3 April 2007 a letter was sent to National Human Rights Commission to ask for the opening of an Anganwadi centre, possession and allotment of land and for ration cards.  On 23 May a letter was sent to the Commissioner of Varanasi asking for the allotment of land.  On the 17 August a letter was sent to the National Human Rights Commission, District Magistrate and the Dr. N.C Saxena, the Commissioner appointed by the Supreme Court of India to enquire into cases of food security in India.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send a letter to the authorities mentioned below expressing your concern about this case and calling for an immediate investigation. The AHRC has written a separate letter to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food calling for an intervention into this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: Please save the life of Poonam, a three-year-old girl suffering from malnutrition

Details of victim: Poonam, aged three years and four months, daughter of Mr. Jiya Lal Mushar, residing at Dallipur Fattepur, Baragaon Block, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh
Name of alleged perpetrator: Ms. Reena Devi, Anganwadi health worker at Fattepur Anganwadi centre, Baragaon block of Varanasi district
Place of incident: Dallipur Fattepur, Baragaon block of Varanasi district

I am concerned about Poonam, the youngest daughter of Jiya Lal Mushar, who is three years and four months old.  Poonam is a resident of Dallipur Fattepur village in Baragaon block, Varanasi district.  I have been informed that on the 28 August 2007 Poonam was diagnosed as malnourished but was able to gain treatment through the help of the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR).  However, Poonam's health has continued to deteriorate and she has become severely malnourished.  She weighs only 6kg and 800g and has been diagnosed as Grade III malnourished at the Primary Health Centre Newada.  Ms. Reena Devi Anganwadi the Anganwadi health worker diagnosed Poonam but her grandmother claims she is still not receiving a nourishing diet.

I am aware that Jiya Lal and his wife Mita Mushar work as migrant labourers in the brick kiln factory in Jaunpur district which is often irregular, physically demanding and poorly paid work yet they have no other means of livelihood.  Jiya Lal has received a Below Poverty Line (BPL) ration card No. 076277 that was issued in the name of his deceased father Lalman Mushar but Jiya Lal and his family continue to suffer severe deprivation as he struggles to look after his wife, two children and his mother.

The family's hardships are made worse by the absence of Jiya Lal's mother's pension that she is entitled to from the government. As most Mushar receive no pension, and often not all of the wages they are entitled to, the old-aged pension should provide some financial help. However, the existence of corruption at all levels of distribution has meant that those entitled to the state pension do not receive it.
The poverty of the Mushar, who continue to remain landless despite the existence of the Indira Awas Yojana, has been compounded by the dominance of the Upper Caste members who live close by. I have been made aware that the housing of Bechan Ram was burnt by members of the Patel community to prevent the Mushar from fishing in a nearby pond. 

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Article 1 of the Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination includes discrimination against persons based on social hierarchy such as caste and recommends the government to take positive steps to prevent such violence. The right to life is also upheld in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

I therefore urge you to intervene in this case to save Poonam from dying of starvation and prevent the loss of another life due to corruption and caste-based discrimination. There should be an investigation into the land allotted for the Mushar community under the Indira Awas Yojana that has been identified since 1998. 

In ten years they have still not received any possession of land highlighting the significant failure of government schemes to reach those that are in desperate need of help. I appeal to you to take positive action in saving the life of Poonam and to improve the lives of the Mushar community who are made vulnerable by the Caste system and continue to live a hand-to-mouth existence as a result of corruption and negligence.
 
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. Mr. Ratan Lal Ahirwar
Minister of Dr. Ambedkar Gramin Samgra Vikas Vibhag
Through the office of the Secretary to the Government
Uttar Pradesh State Government
5th Floor – Lal Bahadur Sastri Bhavan
Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA

3. Dr. Buta Singh
Chairperson
National Commission for Scheduled Castes
11-A, Teen Murti Marg, New Delhi - 110011
INDIA
Fax: + 91 11 24632298
E-mail: chairman-ncsc@nic.in 

4. Ms. Meira Kumar
Minister
Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment
Sardar Patel Bhawan
Sansad Marg
New Delhi - 110 001
INDIA
Fax: + 91 11 23742133
E-mail: ddpg2-arpg@nic.in

5. 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

6. 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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