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UPDATE (India): The government's announcement that it will issue ration cards in Khandwa district must be implemented

Sixty-two children have reportedly died from malnutrition induced ailments in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh since last year. The children died due to various sicknesses associated with malnutrition. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) had reported the deaths of forty-three children. The AHRC had also reported that the condition of food security of the children had not improved, in spite of the death of the children. For further information please see; AHRC-HAC-002-2009 and AHRC-HAU-003-2009.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert Update: AHRC-HAU-004-2009



11 May 2009

[RE: AHRC-HAU-003-2009: UPDATE (India): Two children suffer from malnutrition in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh]
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INDIA: The government's announcement that it will issue ration cards in Khandwa district must be implemented

ISSUES: Right to food; right to health; malnutrition; government neglect; corruption
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information from a human rights group based in Madhya Pradesh, Spandan Samaj Seva Samiti (Spandan). It appears that the District Collector of Khandwa district has announced that all the families who lost their children from malnutrition last year would be provided with Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) ration cards within three days. The time period announced by the officer ends today. With an AAY card, the families can afford to buy rice at three rupees per kilogram and wheat at two rupees per kilogram respectively. The AHRC expects that the government will fulfil its promise and obligation. Further, it is also expected that the administration would take measures to prevent the short-selling of food grains at the ration shops.

UPDATED INFORMATION:

Sixty-two children have reportedly died from malnutrition induced ailments in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh since last year. The children died due to various sicknesses associated with malnutrition. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) had reported the deaths of forty-three children. The AHRC had also reported that the condition of food security of the children had not improved, in spite of the death of the children. For further information please see; AHRC-HAC-002-2009 and AHRC-HAU-003-2009.

According to the Spandan, it is estimated that sixty-two children died of malnutrition in the Khalwa Block alone in 2008. The children's deaths were exposed by the media and a fact-finding report was subsequently submitted to the Supreme Court. However, even after the Supreme Court Commissioner sent a recommendation letter to the state government in September 2008 (for more details, please refer to previous case), the relevant government authorities have continued denying the children's deaths resulted from malnutrition. Rather, they keep insisting that the children died from disease.

On 8 May, the district government officially announced that they would issue the AAY ration cards within three days to all families who had lost children due to malnutrition in 2008. It means that the government has admitted the fact that the children died of malnutrition and intends to take responsibility for their deaths.

Two international societies, the World Bank and the IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) reported in 2009 that Madhya Pradesh is the most vulnerable state for child malnutrition followed by Bihar and Jharkhand. The National Family Health Survey also showed that 33,000 children under five years of age are malnourished in Madhya Pradesh. This is equivalent to 60 percents of the total child population. No longer can any government agency in the state justify their ignorance and corruptive practices regarding child malnutrition.

As the government in Khandwa district took a step to ensure the food security for the victimised families in their area, all other districts in the state confronting the same issue should also take effective action for families of their deceased children. To realise this, the government should provide AAY cards equally for all families. Further, the ration shops should sell the mandated 35 kilograms of rice and wheat. Despite initial orders to the ration shops in 2008 by the district government and the Supreme Court to sell 35 kilograms of rice and wheat, they are currently selling only 20 kilograms of the grains. This situation resulted from the fact that the government did not monitor the continued illegal activity of the ration shops after issuing orders for correction.

The right to food is a fundamental right in India. Administrative neglect of duty, in denying poor families their basic requirements for food security, calls for sanctions together with administrative action against the officers who have continuously failed to live up to their responsibilities. In Madhya Pradesh, as in several parts of India like Orissa, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states, the right to food is consistently refused recognition by state administrations.

The widespread nature of this denial and its consistency over a period of time, spanning more than two decades, is serious enough to call for action against both state and federal government administrations in India. Provisions of the Indian Constitution should be invoked. The accepted norms and standards of human rights laws versus the consistent and widespread pattern of rights denial places criminal culpability at the feet of the Indian administration.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write a letter to express your appreciation and concern about the district Madhya Pradesh government's action for the families of the deceased children due to malnutrition.

The AHRC has also written a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food calling for intervention.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: The government must fulfil its promise and duty in guaranteeing food security in Madhya Pradesh

I am writing to express my appreciation for the district government's action on behalf of the families who had lost children due to malnutrition in the Khandwa district.

I am informed that the Khandwa district government announced on May 8 that they would issue the AAY ration cards within three days to all families who had lost children due to malnutrition in the district. I am aware that the AAY card is issued to the poorest among the poor, with which the cardholder can afford to buy rice at three rupees and wheat at two rupees from the ration shops licensed under the Public Food Distribution System (PDS).

According to the local human rights group, the Spandan Samaj Seva Samiti (Spandan), sixty- two children died of malnutrition in the Khalwa Block of Khandwa district alone in 2008. The Asian Human Rights Commission reported the children's deaths as well as the children who are currently suffering from malnutrition in Khandwa district.

I have been made aware that despite the media's disclosure of the children's deaths from malnutrition as well as the Supreme Court Commissioner's recommendation to the state government in September 2008, relevant government authorities continue to deny the fact that the children died of malnutrition. Instead, they persistently focus on the other diseases suffered by the children, which are identified by the World Health Organization as malnutrition-related symptoms.

I deeply appreciate that the Khandwa district government recognized the fact that the children died of malnutrition and took steps to help the families by ensuring their food security and preventing child malnutrition in the future.

I am, on the other hand, concerned that these families cannot afford to buy 35 kilograms of rice and wheat earmarked under the PDS. I am aware that despite the initial orders in 2008 by the district government and the Supreme Court to the ration shops to sell 35 kilograms of rice and wheat, they still sell only 20 kilograms of grains. I am of opinion that this situation resulted from neglect and corruption of the relevant government agencies which did not monitor the illegal trading of the ration shops after giving an order for correction.

I have studied that international societies such as the World Bank and the IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) reported in 2009 that Madhya Pradesh is the most vulnerable state for child malnutrition followed by Bihar and Jharkhand. I have also learned that the National Family Health Survey showed that 33,000 children under the age of five are malnourished in Madhya Pradesh which is equivalent to 60 percent of the total child population in the area. The state government can no longer justify their ignorance and corruption where child malnutrition is concerned.

I, therefore, request that you intervene to ensure that all families be equally provided with AAY ration cards within the particular period of time announced by the district government as a public promise. I further request that you intervene to ensure that other districts facing the same problem take action to assist those who lost children and suffer from food insecurity. Most of all, starting with this action, the government should take further steps, continuously, until they eradicate child malnutrition in the state.

I am looking forward to your immediate action as I keep monitoring this issue.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Renuka Chowdhury
Minister of Women and Child Development
Government of India
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2307 4054
E-mail: min-wcd@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 2338 3792
E-mail: supremecourt@nic.in

3. Principal Secretary
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

4. Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan
Chief Minister
Madhya Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: +91 755 2441781

5. R. C. Sahni
Chief Secretary
Government of Madhya Pradesh
Mantralaya,
Bhopal 462 004
Madhya Pradesh
INDIA
E-mail: cs@vallabh.mp.nic.in

6. S.B. Singh
District Collector
Khandwa District, Madhya Pradesh
450001
INDA
Fax: +91 733 2224233
E-mail: singh.sb@mp.gov.in

7. 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

8. 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@ahrc.asia)

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