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INDIA: Nine families suffer from hunger due to alleged corruption and negligence

Nine Musahar families in Khargupur village, Sevapuri Block, Varanasi district received the government assistance for their housings in 2003. They were given Indian Rupees 10,000 (USD 263) respectively from Sirhiri branch of the Union Bank of India.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert Case: AHRC-HAC-004-2008

4 March 2008
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INDIA: Nine families suffer from hunger due to alleged corruption and negligence

ISSUES: Caste based discrimination; corruption; abuse of government officers; right to food
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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 the nine families who have been suffered from the alleged corruption and government's inaction since 2003. The Village Secretary and a teacher allegedly took the government assistance for the family's housing. Despite the complaints of the District Magistrate (DM), to date no action has been taken.

CASE DETAILS:

Nine Musahar families in Khargupur village, Sevapuri Block, Varanasi district received the government assistance for their housings in 2003. They were given Indian Rupees 10,000 (USD 263) respectively from Sirhiri branch of the Union Bank of India.

(photo1: mud house of the Musahar)

The Village Secretary Mr. Virendra Bharti of Khargupur village and the government primary school teacher from Kamapur village, a neighboring village of Khargupur village, Mr. Sunil Mishra, allegedly took some money from all nine Musahar families. Thus, the Musahar had to build their houses with cheap bricks and mud instead of cement.

While the houses were under construction, a police officer from Jansa Police Station came to the Musahar. Khargupur village is under the jurisdiction of Jansa police. The police officer stopped the work and started beating male Musahars and abusing female Musahars. After the police officer's attack on the Musahar, the Musahar visited Sadar Tehsil in Varanasi to ask for help, but they failed to get any assistance.

(photo 2: housing construction stopped by the police officer)

In the village, only some Musahar families received the red ration card for the Below the Poverty Line (BPL) families on 1 January 2006. Since then, no further families have obtained the card even though they are so poor that they cannot afford the subsidised price. In January 2008, their ration cards were already filled by the ration shop manager as usual, even though the Musahar did not collect any rations from the ration shop.

In addition, Mr. Junglie Pal, the village head of Khargupur village and Mr. Surendra Pal, the Block Development Office (BDO) have allegedly taken two trolleys which were distributed to the Musahar community from the BDO in order to improve their livelihood.

On 31 October 2007, the Musahar presented a petition to the DM Ms. Veena Kumari to demand employment for the Musahar, issue of the red ration card for the BPL families and the allotment of land for agriculture and housing.

The DM received the petition and ordered the BDO to investigate them. However, the district administration has never taken any action towards the Village Secretary and primary school teacher who misappropriated the financial assistance of the Musahar.

On 28 January 2008, the Musahar of Khargupur village had a protest in front of the District Head Quarter and conveyed their demands to the Additional City Magistrate (ACM) III. The ACM submitted the letter to the Additional District Magistrate (ADM). The letter was also forwarded to the Commissioner of Varanasi (letter no. 198/JA III, dated 28/01/2008), the Sub Divisional Magistrate of Sadar Tehsil (letter no. 195/JA III, dated 28/01/2008) and the BDO of Sevapuri Block (letter no. 196/JA III dated 28/01/2008).

On February 1, the Commissioner of Varanasi delivered the letter (letter no. 1592) to the Chief Development Officer (CDO). However, to date there is no action taken by the above government authorities.

(photo 3: ACM III reading the letter from the Musahar)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The Musahar community is one of the most marginalised communities in Uttar Pradesh. The Musahar community falls under the category of the Scheduled Caste. Although the practice of untouchability is a crime in India, the Musahar community is not allowed to enjoy ordinary social life with the mainstream society and to share common amenities in the village. The AHRC has been issuing the cases regarding the Musahar's absolute poverty and caste based discrimination in Uttar Pradesh state. Nine out of 15 Hunger Alerts of the AHRC issued for last one year were about them (See further, please visit webpage of FoodJustice). The starvation and the caste based discrimination is Musahars' life itself.

The Musahar of Khargupur village is not an exception. There are 24 Musahar families living in Khargupur village, Sevapuri Block, Varanasi district. The village is 28 kilometers away from Varanasi city. They usually collect sticks and leaves from the forest to sell them for a living, and glean the grains from the field. The Musahar do not have any other livelihood than this. The Musahar find it difficult to manage even one meal a day.

Despite this, the Musahar have continued to struggle with their poverty for generations in Khargupur village. No government support has reached the Musahar so far. There is no hand pump in the Musahar community. They either have to go to another community in the village to get water, or use water from the well. Water from the well is so dirty and unhygienic that it may cause various diseases.

(photo 4: the well in Musahar community)

Most of the Musahar have neither land for agriculture nor appropriate houses for living. Six years ago, the land which the Musahar were living on was allocated to the backward caste people by the village head of Khargupur village, Mr. Jungali Pal.

As the case of the Musahar community of Khargupur village shows, the corruption of government officials like the BDO and the village head who play a role in delivering the government service at different levels, leads to the failure of this government service. This has a direct bearing upon the livelihood issues of the ordinary people, particularly upon those who are poor and marginalised. Moreover, the neglect of the local administrative authority is promoting the discrimination against the Musahar and aggravating their poverty.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

Khargupur village was declared as the Ambedkar village in 2002 and 2003. It is one of 28,158 villages which were declared as Ambedkar village in Uttar Pradesh state from 1991 to 2003.

The Uttar Pradesh state in India initiated the Dr. Ambedkar Gram Vikas Yojana (Dr. Ambedkar Village Development Scheme) in 1991. As people know from the name of this scheme, it is the succession of Dr. Ambedkar's spirit and practice against untouchability. Dr. Ambedkar was the architect of Indian constitution as well as Dalit movement leader. The scheme aims to develop the rural village, socially and economically, by facilitating the basic infrastructure like road, hygienic living, better housing, adequate health care, land reforms and employment etc. especially for the most marginalised Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe in the village.

To achieve this purpose, the state government launches different schemes and programmes. The scheme initiated in 1991 fulfilled 11 development programmes and lasted many years. Later on, in September 2007, the scheme has been developed as Dr. Ambedkar Grameen Samgra Vikas Vibhag (Dr. Ambedkar Integrated Programmes for Village Development). 

In May 2007, the state government decided to complete unfinished work and repairing work in the villages selected in the year 1995-1996, 1997-1998, and 2002-2003. Khargupur village is also involved in this project.

As the above case of the Musahar in Khargupur village explains, not only the initial project but also the later stages for completing the work have failed to implement. All the efforts from the state government for improving the living condition of the lower caste are obstructed by those who are working in the government itself.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the authorities mentioned below expressing your concern in this case. Please urge the relevant authorities to investigate into the case in order to punish the alleged perpetrators. Please also ensure that the Musahar of Khargupur village receives the government support properly in order to escape them from the poverty. The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the UN Special rapporteur on the Right to Food calling for an intervention in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

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SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: Corrupt officers working against the lower caste in Khargupur village, Uttar Pradesh must be punished

Name of the victims:
1. Ms. Amrawati, wife of Raghunath
2. Mr. Suresh, son of Raghunath
3. Mr. Bhikhari, son of Laudhar
4. Mr. Yogesh, son of Late Kishor
5. Mr. Baggi, son of Late Balai
6. Mr. Chote Lal, sone of Late Kishor
7. Ms. Urmila, wife of Gulab
8. Mr. Shama, son of Late Balai
9. Mr. Pyare, son of Shama
(Nine Musahar families in Khargupur village, Sevapuri Block, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh state)
Name of the alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. Virendra Bharti, the Village Secretary of Khargupur village, Sevapuri Block, Varanasi district
2. Mr. Sunil Mishra, the government primary school teacher of Kamapur village, Sevapuri Block, Varanasi district
3. Identifiable police officer stationed at Jansa Police Station, Varanasi district
4. Mr. Junglie Pal, the village head of Khargupur village
5. Mr. Surendra Pal, the Block Development Officer of Sevapuri Block
Date of incident: Since 2003
Location: Khargupur village, within the jurisdiction of Jansa Police Station, Sevapuri Block, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh state

I am writing to express deep concern regarding the case of nine Musahar families who have suffered from corruption and neglect by the government authorities since 2003 in Khargupur village, Sevapuri Block, Varanasi district in Uttar Pradesh.

According to the information received, nine Musahar families of Khargupur village received government assistance under the Indian government housing scheme (Indra Awas Yojana) in 2003. They were due to receive Rupees 10,000 from the Sirhiri branch of the Union Bank of India. But the Village Secretary Mr. Virendra Bharti of Khargupur village and Mr. Sunil Mishra, a government primary school teacher from Kamapur village took the money.

I am informed that while nine Musahar families were constructing their huts, a police officer from Jansa police station prevented them from constructing the house by beating the men and being violent towards the women. It is well known that the Musahar are the most marginalised of the untouchables and endure severe poverty. Without government assistance for housing, they are unable to build their houses.

I have learned that after they failed to get assistance from Sadar Tehsil in Varanasi, they presented a petition to the District Manager (DM) Ms. Veena Kumari in 31 October 2007. The DM ordered the Block Development Officer (BDO) to investigate them but no action has been taken against Mr. Virendra Bharti the village secretary and Mr. Sunil Mishra the primary school teacher to bring justice to the nine Musahar families or to recover the government assistance. 

I am further informed that two trolleys distributed to the Musahar community were also taken by Mr. Junglie Pal, the village head of the Khargupur village and by Mr. Surendra Pal, the BDO. Furthermore, although the Musahar families have little in the means of livelihood other than selling sticks and leaves from the forest and often struggle to manage one meal a day, a number of families have still failed to receive a red ration card for families below the poverty line.

In light of above, I urge you to take action regarding the repeated abuse of rights of the Musahar families and the alleged corruption prevalent in the government administration that is having the severe affect of worsening their poverty. Immediate and thorough investigation is required into the caste based discrimination that the Musahar continue to suffer in all aspects of life and the systems that maintain it. I further urge a review into the ineffective distribution of ration cards and the immediate restoration of the money to the nine Musahar families for which it is intended. 

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. Mr. Shripad Sirodakar
Senior Superintendent of Police
Varanasi, SSP Office
Kachahari, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
E-mail: sspvns@up.nic.in 

4. Inspector General of Police
Varanasi Zone
Varanasi District, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
E-mail: igzonevns@up.nic.in 

5. Mr. Vikram Singh
Director General of Police
1-Tilak Marg, Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: + 91 522 220 6120 / 220 6174
E-mail: police@up.nic.in 

6. 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

7. 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

8. 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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