Personal tools
You are here: Home Archives Hunger Alerts 2009 Hunger Alerts INDIA: Seven children suffer from starvation and child labour in Orissa
Navigation
 

INDIA: Seven children suffer from starvation and child labour in Orissa

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) regrets to inform you that Ms. Bhuje died on New Year's Eve after struggling against sickness and hunger since April 2009. She leaves behind seven children. Before Bhuje's death, her husband died of Tuberculosis in January 2009. Facing lack of food and lack of a sustainable livelihood, all the children are deprived of their rights. Only after the intervention by the Right to Food Group and the media in October 2009, did the relevant authority provide temporary support. Furthermore, Bhuje was denied the government support that she was entitled to and even humiliated by government officials including the District Collector. Five of the children are currently working as child labourers instead of going to school.

CASE DETAIL (according to a report by a researcher of Supreme Court Commission Advisor and the human rights journalist in Orissa):

Bhuje Naik got sick three months after her husband died of Tuberculosis (TB) in January 2009. Living with seven children in Karangmal village, Nuapada district of Orissa, Bhuje had neither land nor regular income.

Her sickness forced her two daughters Lally (aged 14) and Dolly (aged 13) to work as day labourers when they came home from the residential girls' school at which they studied. The eldest daughter is mentally challenged.

Bhuje was diagnosed with intestinal complications and had to spend INR 10,000 (USD 218) for her hospital treatment. She did not recover.

Identified as a Below the Poverty Line (BPL) family, Bhuje's family has a BPL card. The family could barely afford to buy 25 kilograms of rice per month at two rupees per kilogram. In addition to this, the family gets 10 kilograms of rice free of charge under the Annapurna scheme. However, even with two young children working there was no guarantee that the family could afford to buy the 25 kilograms of subsidized rice. Starvation also aggravated Bhuje's sickness.

Mr. Panda, a researcher at the office of the advisor to Supreme Court Commission on the Right to Food, who visited Bhuje's house before her death, discovered that all the children including Bhuje have gone hungry for several months.

These miserable living conditions and the starvation of the children were highlighted by media and human rights defenders in October 2009. However, only after vocal social concern, did the local authority provide 25 kilograms of rice on 18 October, widow pension (200 rupees per month) on 20 October and 10,000 rupees from Red Cross Fund. As has been highlighted many times before, by the Asian Human Rights Commission, the local authority has neglected its duty to promptly implement public programmes for the poor.

On the contrary, when Bhuje asked the District Collector for her entitled benefits, such as the financial support under the National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS), she was denied her entitlement, rather she was humiliated and sent back, being asked to bring those who highlighted her plight in the media to the local administration. Despite the efforts of human rights defenders who also sent a letter to the district administration demanding immediate and substantial assistance, the administration have not provided the entitlements to Bhuje's family.

The village head (sarpanch) and other higher officials have stated that they were not informed of Bhuje's status. Given the fact that the village head is mainly responsible for the villager's welfare and community development, his statement proved that he has ignored his duty and responsibility as a public servant. It is further alleged that the relevant public servants, including the District Collector, discriminate against poor tribal families excluding them from government programmes.

There was concern that the family might face starvation death, and in fact, Bhuje died suffering from starvation and sickness during the administration authority's neglect. As a result, deprivation of their right to food led to Bhuje's death, as well as the child labour of her children.

Immediately after Bhuje got sick her two elder children started working under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and mostly worked as agricultural labourers. The school authority allowed these two children to stay at home to look after their mother without missing classes. However, as their mother’s sickness got worse the other siblings - Uma (aged 16), Pusa (aged 10), Munki (aged 8), Akshaya (aged 7) and Janmejaya (aged 7), were starving and so all children, but for the two youngest, stopped studying and had to be child labourers in order to ensure food security for themselves.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

The right to food is a fundamental human right to ensure the right to life. Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees the fundamental right to life, which has been judicially interpreted to mean a life with human dignity and not mere survival or animal existence. In addition, the Constitution ensures free and compulsory education to all children from the age of six to fourteen, as a fundamental right. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 was passed in August 2009.

However, as is seen in Bhuje's family, starvation and child malnutrition caused by food insecurity in India are threatening people's life, in particular children's life, and depriving them of the right to education. In fact, the relevant authorities, including the Department of Women and Child Development, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the district administration have not taken substantial responsibility, instead choosing to ignore the fact that their negligence forced Bhuje's children to engage in child labour, depriving them of their right to education. Furthermore, these children are still at risk and face sickness and starvation death in the future.

India ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1992 with a declaration in regards of article 32 on child labour. According to the declaration, the government recognizes that some children of different ages do work and so the government has yet to prescribe a minimum age for different forms of employment. In 2004, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in the concluding observation strongly urged the Indian government to withdraw this declaration. Moreover, the Committee is deeply concerned about the widespread poverty and a high number of the children who do not enjoy the right to an adequate standard of living and urges the state party to strengthen its efforts to ensure the children belonging to the Scheduled Caste and Tribes have equal access to educational opportunities.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write a letter to express your deep concern about Bhuje's death and the fact that her children are currently suffering from starvation and deprivation of their right to education.

The AHRC has also written a separate letter calling for intervention to the Chief Justice of India and the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Food and the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

To support this appeal please click here:

------------------------------------------------------

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

Re: INDIA: Please protect the rights of the children whose mother died of starvation and sickness on New Year's Eve

The deceased victim: Bhuje Naik, a wife of late Padman Naik, died of starvation and sickness on New Year's Eve
The children of the deceased victim deprived of their rights:
1. Uma (aged 16) who is mentally challenged
2. Lally (aged 14)
3. Dolly (aged 13)
4. Pusa (aged 10)
5. Munki (aged 8)
(All these five children are denied their right to food and right to education. Four of them are engaged in child labour.)
6. Akshaya (aged 7)
7. Janmejaya (aged 7)
Village: Karangmal village, Nuapada District, Orissa state, India

I am writing to express my deep concern at the neglect of the Indian government towards its most poor citizens and its willful ignorance in the face of starvation and child labour resulting from the deaths of both parents in a family.

I am informed that Bhuje Naik became ill three months after her husband died of Tuberculosis (TB) in January 2009. Living with seven children in Karangmal village, Nuapada district of Orissa, Bhuje had neither land nor regular income to support herself or her family. Bhuje was diagnosed with intestinal complications and had to spend INR 10,000 (USD 218) for her hospital treatment. She did not recover.

I am extremely disturbed to learn that Bhuje's sickness meant that her two daughters Lally (aged 14) and Dolly (aged 13) had to work as day labourers when they come home from the residential girls’ school at which they studied, and that the eldest daughter in the family (aged 16) is mentally challenged and receives no governmental support.

I am further informed that Bhuje's family has a BPL card however, they could barely afford to buy 25 kilograms of subsidized rice per month at two rupees per kilogram. The family gets 10 kilograms of rice free of charge under the Annapurna scheme, which is not enough to feed all children per month. Despite this, even with two young children working, there was no guarantee that the family could afford to buy the 25 kilograms of subsidized rice. The resulting starvation significantly aggravated Bhuje's illness.

I have learned that the family's dire living conditions and the starvation of the children were highlighted by the media and human rights defenders in October 2009. Only after this media attention did the local authority provide 25 kilograms of rice on 18 October, widow pension (200 rupees per month) on 20 October and 10,000 rupees from Red Cross Fund. It is deeply concerning that the local authorities only choose to meet their duty to implement the policies for the poor when there is negative media attention focused on their negligence and wanton abandonment of their commitments to the rights of children.

On the contrary, I have further learned that when Bhuje asked the District Collector for her entitled benefits, such as financial support under the National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS), she was denied this entitlement and sent back home.

The village head and other higher officials have stated that they were not informed of Bhuje's status. Given the fact that the village head is mainly responsible for the villager's welfare and community development, this statement proves that he has ignored his duty and responsibility as a public servant. It is alleged that the relevant public authorities, including the District Collector, discriminate against poor tribal families, excluding them from government programmes to which they are entitled.

In fact, Bhuje died suffering from starvation and sickness while the administration authority stood by and neglected its duty. As a result, deprivation of the right to food in the family led to Bhuje's death as well as the child labour of her children. Immediately after Bhuje got sick her two elder children started working under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and worked as agricultural labourers in order to provide for their siblings - Uma (aged 16), Pusa (aged 10), Munki (aged 8), Akshaya (aged 7) and Janmejaya (aged 7) who are starving. All children, but for the two youngest, have stopped studying in order to ensure food security for themselves. There is increasing concern that these seven children may die of starvation.

There is a clear link between the government's failure to protect, respect and fulfill the right to food and the entering of children into child labour to survive. This link is particularly strong when children whose parents have died are left to face the world alone without any governmental social or financial support, as is the case in India.

India ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1992 with a declaration in regards of article 32 for the child labour. In 2004, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in the concluding observation strongly urged the Indian government to withdraw this declaration. Moreover, the Committee is deeply concerned about the widespread poverty and a high number of the children who do not enjoy the right to an adequate standard of living and urges the state party to strengthen its efforts to ensure the children belonging to the Scheduled Caste and Tribes have equal access to educational opportunities.

I am aware that both the right to food as a primary component of right to life and right to education are the fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution of India.

I therefore, strongly urge you to take prompt and immediate action to provide these seven young children with access to food and future food security by providing financial support until the children finish their education. Furthermore, I call for the children to be given the benefits under the National Families Benefit Scheme, which their mother was entitled but not given.

I look forward to your immediate and substantial response.

Yours sincerely,

--------------
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Krishna Tirath
Minister of Women and Child Development
Government of India
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2331 4788
E-mail: krishnatirath@yahoo.in

2. Ms. Anu Garg
Commissioner cum Secretary
Department of Health & Family Welfare
Government of Orissa, Secretariat Building
Bhubaneshwar - 751 001, Orissa
INDIA
Fax: +91 674 2390 674
E-mail: orhealth@ori.nic.in or secy-hfw-or@nic.in

3. Mr. Rakumar Sharma
Commissioner and Secretary Revenue and Disaster Management
Bhubaneswar, Orissa
INDIA
Fax: +91 674 2393 832
E-mail: revsec.or@nic.in

4. Mr. Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister
Naveen Nivas, Aerodrome Road
P.O.Bhubaneswar, Dist. Khurda
751001 Orissa
INDIA
E-mail: cmo@ori.nic.in

5. Bishnu Prasad Panda
District Collector
Collectorate
Nuapada Tanwat, Nuapada District
766105 Orissa
INDIA
Fax: +91 6678 223465
E-mail: dmnuapada@ori.nic.in

6. Mrs. Shantha Sinha
Chairperson
National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)
5th Floor, Chnadralok Building, Janpath,
New Delhi
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 23731584
E-mail: ncpcr.india@gmail.com / shantha.sinha@nic.in

7. Justice Shri Govind Prasad Mathur
Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 2338 4863
E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in

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

9. Mr. He ChangChui
Regional Representative
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Maliwan Mansion
Phra Atit Road
Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Fax: +66 2 697 4445
Email: FAO-RAP@fao.org

Thank you.

Hunger Alert Programme (foodjustice@ahrc.asia)
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Actions