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INDIA: Three and a half-year-old boy may die from acute malnutrition

Vishal is the youngest son of Gulam Nut. Vishal resides with his parents in Kuwar Village of Baragaon block under Pindra Tahsil of Varanasi District in Uttar Pradesh state. Vishal is three and a half years old and is suffering from acute malnutrition. He has two sisters, Luxmina (eight years old) and Gunja (six years old), and one brother Kirana (five years old).

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEAL PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert Case: AHRC-HAC-009-2008

22 October 2008
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INDIA: Three and a half-year-old boy may die from acute malnutrition

ISSUES: Right to food; malnutrition; government neglect; corruption; caste based discrimination
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from a local human rights organisation, the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) that Vishal, a three and a half-year-old boy, is suffering from severe malnutrition.  He was examined by an Auxiliary Nursing Mother (ANM) and diagnosed as suffering from Grade IV malnourishment. The boy has not received any medical treatment or supplementary nutritional assistance and remains in a critical condition.

CASE DETAILS:

Vishal is the youngest son of Gulam Nut. Vishal resides with his parents in Kuwar Village of Baragaon block under Pindra Tahsil of Varanasi District in Uttar Pradesh state. Vishal is three and a half years old and is suffering from acute malnutrition.  He has two sisters, Luxmina (eight years old) and Gunja (six years old), and one brother Kirana (five years old). 

On 27 August 2008 Vishal was taken to the Primary Health Centre at Badagaon and was seen by the Auxiliary Nursing Mother (ANM) Ms. Sushila Devi. There the ANM diagnosed Vishal is suffering from Grade IV malnourishment. Vishal is only four kilograms in weight. Grade IV malnutrition is a life threatening situation unless immediate medical care is made available to the person. Vishal being young makes his condition even more vulnerable.

Vishal's family are from the Scheduled Caste, 'untouchable' within India and have few means of livelihood.  Vishal's mother, Santara Nut sells bombaiya, a sweet dish, but this is not enough to provide two meals a day for the whole family.

Gulam Nut has an Antyodaya ration card (red) under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) scheme that intents to provide food assistance. However, the supply of food grains under this scheme is iregular and thus cannot be relied upon. Ghulam is a landless labourer, work that is poorly paid, irregular and very tough. This makes it difficult to buy food grain from the Public Food Distribution Shop (PDS) even with the subsidised prices given under the AAY.

Vishal should be receiving immediate medical attention after being certified severely malnourished by the ANM but he has so far received no additional nutrition. The family are also entitled to receive emergency assistance of INR 1,000 (USD 20) as mandated by the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh but they have not received this.

Vishal's health continues to seriously deteriorate and if he does not receive treatment he may die. 

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

The Anganwadi Centre (AWC) for Kuwar village is one and half kilometres away so that there is no access to child care in the community. This prevents younger children from receiving nutrition or immunisation. The AWC is essential for delivering the government's Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) for children under six years old. Health workers have a key role in helping poor children from becoming malnourished and other medical problems at the village level. Under the ICDS the AWC workers should visit the community regularly to carry out health checks and identify malnourished children. These children should then be registered at the AWC and provided nutrition and health care until the child's condition improves.

The continued economic poverty and malnutrition prevalent in the lower caste community in Kuwar village (see previous AHRC-HAC-003-2008) is seen as resulting from their lack of land ownership. There is land of up to 40 acres, but the upper caste (Thakur community) has sole possession: Bachcha Singh, son of Vishwana Singh; Ramsamujh Singh, son of Prashad Singh; Lal Bahadur Singh, son of Prashad Singh; Rajendra Singh, son of Uday Narayan Singh; Jharkkhand Singh, son of Baijnath Singh.

The landless Nut have put their demands before a District Magistrate--SDM Pindra, Varanasi district--a team from the child nutrition department, and the Block Development Officer (BDO) Badagoan who visited Kuwar on 19 August 2008 where the BDO gave orders for assistance for problems such as electricity, houses, old aged pensions, ration cards and a hand pump as it is submerged in water. The place where the nut community have put-up their houses is surrounded by water on three sides due to digging. The water is reaching the houses and causing damage.

Like other marginalised lower caste families the Nut community in Kuwar is also entitled for land allotment from the government. In fact on August 20 two persons came to measure the land in Kuwar. But under pressure from the upper caste landlords who are illegally possessing government land they refused to measure the entire area. The upper castes have also threatened to kill anyone trying to claim the land and warning them to leave the village.

All of the Nut families in Kuwar village face a similar situation as Vishal's family. Despite living in a rural area only a few are employed as agricultural labourers and the rest have no proper livelihood and are often forced to beg in order to survive.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The upper caste members occupying the land that should be allocated to the Dalit community should be charged according to The Scheduled Castes And The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, 1989, under Section 3(iv) that states whoever 'wrongfully occupies or cultivates any land owned by, or allotted to, or notified by any competent authority to be allotted to, a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or gets the land allotted to him transferred' shall be punished.

The United Nations (UN) International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Article 11 includes the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food.

The Global Hunger Index released by the International Food Policy Research Institute ranks India as the world's 24th most malnourished country. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines severe acute malnutrition as weighing less than 60 percent of the ideal median weight for height.

UNICEF states that 47 percent of young children in India are malnourished, and up to a third of the world's undernourished children are from India, with girls being more affected than boys.

Please also see the AHRC's previous hunger alerts: AHRC-HAG-004-2008; AHRC-HAG-003-2008; AHRC-HAU-001-2008; AHRC-HAC-008-2008; AHRC-HAC-007-2008; AHRC-HAC-006-2008; AHRC-HAC-005-2008; AHRC-HAG-002-2008.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the authorities listed below and help Vishal and his community from starvation. It must be ensured that Vishal receives immediate medical attention. Please also ask the relevant authorities to tackle the problem of land allocation to help this Dalit community.

The AHRC has written a separate letter to the Special Rapporteur on the right to food calling for an intervention in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: Three and half year old Vishal suffering from grade IV malnutrition must be saved

Name of victim:
Vishal, son of Gulam Nut, resident at Kuwar village, Badagaon Block, Phoolpur Police Station, Pindra Tahsil, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh
Name of alleged perpetrators:
1. Bachcha Singh, son of Vishwana Singh
2. Ramsamujh Singh, son of Prashad Singh
3. Lal Bahadur Singh, son of Prashad Singh
4. Rajendra Singh, son of Uday Narayan Singh
5. Jharkkhand Singh, son of Baijnath Singh
Place of incident: Kuwar village, Badagaon Block, Phoolpur Police Station, Pindra Tahsil, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh
Date of incident: 27 August 2008
 
I am writing to request your immediate attention concerning the condition of three and half year old Vishal who may die from acute malnutrition. Vishal, currently staying at Kuwar village despite being taken to the Primary Health Centre, in Badagaon on the 27 August 2008 has still not received any medical attention. At the centre Vishal was diagnosed as suffering from Grade IV malnutrition.

I am informed that Vishal was examined by an Auxiliary Nursing Mother (ANM), Ms. Sushila Devi.  In addition to being denied proper treatment Vishal's family is also denied the emergency assistance of INR 1,000 (USD 20) as ensured by the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh.

I am aware that Vishal is a member of a family of six that are unable to secure two meals a day as they are poor, marginalised and Scheduled Caste. Gulam, Vishal's father is a landless labourer but caste practices discriminates him from receiving proper wages. In addition his work is extremely tough and irregular. Gulam's wife, Santara, is able to sell bombaiya (a sweet dish) but this is not enough to feed the whole family.

I am told that Vishal's economic hardship comes from their failure to receive land allocated by the government as the upper caste remain in possession of the land intended to be allotted to lower caste families like that of Vishal. I am also informed that the upper caste landlords prevented the allotment of government land to the lower caste in the village. I am further informed that the upper caste even prevented the land from being measured. The behaviour of the upper caste towards the Nut Dalit community in Kuwar village contravenes The Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, Section 3(iv).

I am informed that even though Vishal's father, Gulam hold a Antyodaya ration card (red) under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) scheme, he is unable to afford the cost of the subsidised food grains. Furthermore, health workers at the Anganwadi Centre (AWC) are meant to carry out community health checks to identify malnourished children and ensure they are provided with nutrition and health care. However, this has not happened in Vishal's case.

I urge you to act to ensure that Vishal receive immediate the medical attention that he needs in order to prevent his health deteriorating further. He remains in a critical state of severe malnutrition and needs immediate assistance. Further, I ask you to investigate into the upper caste discrimination and power that is preventing the land allocation to this Scheduled Caste community in Kuwar village. 

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 2230002 / 2239234
E-mail: csup@up.nic.in

2. District Magistrate
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: 91 5422501450

3. Minister of Women & Child Development
Government of India
Shastri Bhavan
New Delhi
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 23074054
E-mail: min-wcd@nic.in

4. Director
Department of Women Welfare & Child Development
Government of Uttar Pradesh
Jawahar Bhawan, Ashok Marg
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: +91 522 228 6140

5. Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss
Minister of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
Nirman Bhavan
Maulana Azad Road
New Delhi - 110011
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2306 1751
E-mail: hfm@alpha.nic.in

6. Ms. Selja
Minister of State for Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation
Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (M/o HUPA)
Nirman Bhavan, Maulana Azad Road
New Delhi - 110011
INDIA
Fax: + 91 11 23061780
E-mail: kumari.selja@nic.in 

7. UNICEF
73 Lodi Estates
New Delhi 110 003
INDIA
Fax: + 91 11 2462 7521 / 11 2469-1410
E-mail: newdelhi@unicef.org 

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

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