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INDIA: Two and a half year-old girl died from starvation after her house was destroyed by the village head

Namitha, the daughter of Doodh Nath Pal died on 6 November 2008 from acute starvation. Doodh is 45 years old, son of Late Kharpattu and resident in Gokulpur village, Harhuaa Post Office, Badagoan Police Station, Varanasi District, Uttar Pradesh. He is from the other backward classes (OBC) and a landless labourer. He has lived in this village for 20 years, has a voter identity card and has voted in a number of elections.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert Case: AHRC-HAC-010-2008

7 November 2008
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INDIA: Two and a half year-old girl died from starvation after her house was destroyed by the village head

ISSUES: Right to food; adequate housing; discrimination; corruption; intimidation
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from local human rights organisations, the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) and Savitri Bhai Phule Womens' Forum, that a poor, other backward class (OBC) family had their hut destroyed by the village head and a lower authority accomplice. This left them homeless with nowhere to go but wait outside the District Head Quarter's until they are given some assistance. Having lost everything, the family was starving. Yesterday, Namita, the two and a half-year-old daughter in the family died from acute starvation.

CASE DETAILS:

Namitha, the daughter of Doodh Nath Pal died on 6 November 2008 from acute starvation. Doodh is 45 years old, son of Late Kharpattu and resident in Gokulpur village, Harhuaa Post Office, Badagoan Police Station, Varanasi District, Uttar Pradesh. He is from the other backward classes (OBC) and a landless labourer. He has lived in this village for 20 years, has a voter identity card and has voted in a number of elections. Doodh and his family live in a hut constructed on land of Gram Sabha. He has a wife, Chirounji Devi (aged 40 years), and four children: Soni (14 years old), Natthu Pal (8 years old), Kavita (four years old) and Namita (two and a half years old).

On the 11 August 2008 the village head, Shiv Shakti Singh (alias Rajan Singh) and Lekhpal, a lower authority dealing with land, demolished Doodh's hut with a tractor. It was raining heavily and the household articles were damaged by the rain and in the destruction of the hut. This has left Doodh and his family homeless and his children dependent on the government mid-day meal at school.

Doodh made a written complaint to the Senior Officer (SO) of the Badagoan Police Station, the Senior Superintendent (SSP) of Varanasi, the District Magistrate (DM) of Varanasi, the Commissioner of the Varanasi Division and the Inspector General of Varanasi Zone. None of these persons have responded. The SO of Badagoan Police Station even reacted by abusing Doodh and threatening to fabricate charges against him and put him in prison.

As Doodh has nowhere to take his family and is effectively destitute he has sat in protest outside the District Head Quarters with his family. When Kavita and Namita's health began to deteriorate the Senior District Magistrate (SDM) Pindra admitted them into the Pandit Din Dayal Government Hospital. They remained in the hospital for four days while receiving treatment but as they still did not have anywhere to live on the 12 September Doodh and his family resumed their protest.

However, an official in charge of the District Head Quarters admonished him over sitting in protest. On the 22 September the SDM Pindra came to Doodh and assured him that land would be allotted for his residence due to pressure exerted by the media. On this same day Pindra ordered Lekhpal, and another authority dealing with land named Kanoongo, to measure and allot land to Doodh. 

However, the health of Namita further deteriorated due to malnourishment and she was again admitted to Pandit Din Dayal Government Hospital. On the 23 September Pindra came to the hospital to assure Doodnh that the land allotted would be two biswas, approximately 2730 sq ft, as soon as they were able to leave the hospital. Pindra gave the family INR 100 as financial assistance.

On the 25 September when Doodh was able to leave the hospital he approached Lekhpal to ask for the allotment of land but Lekhpal replied that he was preparing the related documents and would be able to measure the land on the 26 September.

However, when Doodh contacted Kanoongo on the morning of the 26 September he said he was participating in a funeral so would measure the land on the 28 September. On the morning of the 28 Septemer at 8am, Doodh contact SDM Pindra, Kanoongo and Lekhpal by phone and all three assured that the land would be measure at 2pm of that day. 

Doodh waited until 2pm and when no-one had arrived he again contacted Pindra by phone but was advised to contact the DM. When Doodh asked for the number Pindra was unable to give it. When Doodh eventually asked Kanoongo he was told that Pindra had refused to measure the land.

Despite Doodh's family's suffering and homelessness the authorities have had no intention of allotting them land or providing assistance.

Yesterday, Namita died from diseases that affected her due to acute starvation. When the authorities came to know about Namita's death, they conducted an autopsy on her dead body and later disposed the body off in the River Ganges, without handing it over to the family. However the PVCHR is informed that the autopsy report reveals that Namita died from acute pneumonia, anaemia and malnutrition. Human rights organisations are tonight holding a candle-light protest in Varanasi.

In the meanwhile, it is also reported that the administration is in a hurry measuring the land the family was claiming so far and has already taken steps to allot the land to the family.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

The PVCHR has been aware that the village head Shiv Shakti Singh, alias Rajan Singh, has had personal enmity towards Doodh Nath Pal ever since he voted for another candidate in the last election of the village head. Shiv is a powerful figure and influential amongst the higher authorities of police and the administration, and also maintains a close relationship with Lekhpal, who is responsible for land matters. He has frequently threatened Doodh and ordered him to leave the village and warned that he will kill Doodh and his family. 

The destruction of Doodh's house and subsequent upheaval from the village has severely disrupted the education of the two children, Soni and Natthu Pal, who were both in primary school.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 allows the government the power to possess land '[w]henever it appears to the [appropriate government] the land in any locality [is needed or] is likely to be needed for any public purpose'. Public purpose is defined as including: 'the provision of land for residential purposes to the poor or landless or to persons residing in areas affected by natural calamities, or to persons displaced or affected by reason of the implementation of any scheme undertaken by Government, any local authority or a corporation owned or controlled by the State'.

On the 9 January 2008 in New Delhi, the Ministry of Rural Development (Department of Land Resources) passed a Resolution No.21013/4/2007-LRD, under the subject: 'Constitution of the "Committee on State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task in Land Reforms'. Contained in this is the recognition that '[l]and reforms can change the current culture of exclusion so that the poor can gain access to land, credit, technology, markets and other productive services, and become active partners in the development of government policies and programmes affecting their livelihood'.  

The United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) under Article 11.1 states: 'The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions'.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the relevant authorities below urging for Doodh Nath Pal and his family to be compensated for their forced eviction and destruction of their house and possessions, and allowed some land to rebuild a hut. Also urge to the government to act to stop caste discrimination and political violence.

The AHRC has sent a separate letter to the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living and the Rapporteur on the right to food in this context. 

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: The circumstances that led to the death of two and a half-year-old girl must be investigated

Name of victims:
1. Doodh Nath Pal, 45 years old
2. Chirounji Devi, 40 years old
3. Soni, 14 years old
4. Natthu Pal, 8 years old
5. Kavita, 4 years old
6. Namita, 2 and a half-year-old (deceased)
Name of alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. Shiv Shakti Singh, alias Rajan Singh, village head
2. Senior District Magistrate, Pindra
3. Lekhpal, a lower authority dealing with land
4. Kanoongo, a lower authority dealing with land
5. Senior Officer of Badagoan Police Station
Date of incident: 11 August and 6 November 2008
Place of incident: Gokulpur village, Harhuaa Post Office, Badagoan Police Station, Varanasi District, Uttar Pradesh

I am writing regarding the case of Doodh Nath Pal, his deceased daughter Namita and the rest of his family whose family home was demolished by the village head, Shiv Shakti Singh (alias Rajan Singh), along with a companion Lekhpal, a lower authority dealing with land.  On the 11 August 2008 Shiv and Lekhpal destroyed the house with a tractor. As it was raining heavily at that time most of the household possessions were damaged as well. This has resulted in Doodh Nath Pal and his family, comprising of six, completely homeless.

I have been made aware that as the family is poor, landless and from the other backward class (OBC) the children have had to become dependent on the school mid-day meal for food. Doodh has lived in the village for more than 20 years, has a voter identity card and had a hut on an area of land called Gram Sabha. He earns a small livelihood from daily labour but this is irregular and the wages are small making it difficult to support the whole family.

I am informed that despite numerous promises since 22 September 2008 from the Senior District Magistrate (SDM) Pindra and Lekhpal and Kanoongo, two government employees responsible for dealing with land, he has never been allocated land to rebuild a hut. When Doodh approached the Senior Officer of Badagoan Police Station he was even abused and threatened that he would be put in prison under fabricated charges.

I am aware that as Doodh is homeless and no government authorities have acted to help him and his family he has had no choice but to protest outside the District Head Quarter. The health of the children Kavita and Namita has deteriorated and they were admitted to Pandit Din Dayal Government Hospital for treatment for malnutrition. 

I am informed that the village head Shiv Shakti Singh has acted in this way to punish Doodh for voting for another candidate in the village election. He has threatened Doodh and warned him that if he does not leave the village he will kill his family. Shiv is a particularly influential person who has access to higher authorities in the police and administration in contrast to Doodh who is very poor and from the OBC.

I am informed that on 6 November, Namita died from diseases that affected her due to acute starvation. When the authorities came to know about Namita's death, they conducted an autopsy on her dead body and later disposed the body off in the River Ganges, without handing it over to the family. However the PVCHR is informed that the autopsy report reveals that Namita died from acute pneumonia, anaemia and malnutrition. Human rights organisations are tonight holding a candle-light protest in Varanasi.

In the meanwhile, it is also reported that the administration is in a hurry measuring the land the family was claiming so far and has already taken steps to allot the land to the family.

I urge you to act to:

1. Immediately investigate this case of death of Namita and the circumstances that led to her death;

2. Allocate land to Doodh;

3. Compensate Doodh and his family for the discriminatory treatment he has received from relevant government authorities;

4. File a First Information Report (FIR) against the actions of the perpetrators.

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. Justice Mr. Balakrishnan
Chief Justice of India
Through the Office of the Registrar General
Supreme Court of India
1 Tilak Marg, New Delhi
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 23383792
E-mail: supremecourt@nic.in  

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

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

5. Additional Director General of Police (ADG) Human Rights Division
1Tilak Marg Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
E-mail: humanrightshq@up.nic.in 

6. Deputy Inspector General of Police
Azamgarh Range
1Tilak Marg Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: + 91 522 220 6120 / 220 6174
E-mail: police@up.nic.in 

7. 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 

8. Dr. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh
Minister, Ministry of Rural Development
R.No. 197, Krishi Bhawan,
New Delhi
INDIA
Fax: + 91 11 2338 5876
E-mail: singhrp@sansad.nic.in 

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

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

11. District Magistrate
Varanasi
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: +91 54 2234 8313
E-mail: dmvsn@satyam.net.in 

Thank you.

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

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