//INDIA: Government continuously fails to provide proper remedies leading to starvation and death

INDIA: Government continuously fails to provide proper remedies leading to starvation and death

25 nov 2011

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learnt of the death of Mr. Jagabandhu Ghadei on 12 November 2011, due to a lack of proper medical treatment and nutrition after being diagnosed with Tuberculosis. Jagabandhu worked as a fishing assistant in Purbakhanda village, Niali Gram Panchayat, Cuttack district, Orissa earning 100 rupees per day with which he had to feed his wife and six children. The family could hardly manage two meals a day on this meagre amount, and after Jagabandhu’s health deteriorated, his family confronted hunger. Prior to his death, the former Collector visited Jagabandhu’s family and directed relevant officials to provide land, housing and an Antyodaya card for subsidized food grains to them, but nothing was not done. The family live in a thatched house on public land, which is not registered. None of Jagabandhu’s children attend school due to the lack of resources.

CASE NARRATIVE:

On 12 November 2011, 55-year-old Mr. Jagabandhu Ghadei died of Tuberculosis (TB) and malnutrition. He settled in Purbakhanda village, Niali Gram Panchayat, Cuttack district about 15 years ago, after he was expelled from his village due to his inter-caste marriage. Originally, he was from Bhingarpur village, Balianta gram panchayat in Khurda district. He was engaged in fishing work for the past 4-5 years, for which he was paid 100 rupees (about 2 USD) per day, not at all sufficient to feed six children and his wife. His family could hardly manage to eat two meals a day and his children could not attend school and often got food from their neighbours. His eldest son (15-years-old) did construction work for 6-7 days a month, which was helpful but still could not meet the family’s needs. Earlier the family lived in the nearby market with no house, but with the help of the panchayat and other villagers, they were able to build their current thatched house.

Two months before he died, Jagabandhu got sick and could not go to work. On October 29, he went to the Niali Community Health Centre (CHC) with the help of an Anganwadi worker, (childcare centre worker) where he was diagnosed with TB. He weighed only 33 kilograms at that time. The CHC provided medicine for his treatment, whereas his employer and other colleagues donated INR 1,000 (20 USD) for his treatment when they came to know about his sickness. The government authority however, which has a constitutional and legal duty to ensure the fundamental rights of its citizens, paid no attention to Jagabandhu or his family. Despite living below the poverty line without any other income sources but Jagabandhu’s 100 rupees per day, his family received no government aid or subsidies in accordance with various social security programs or policies.

Since Jagabandhu became sick, he was not able to work to feed the family or to get medicine for his treatment. The family started begging as there is not much work available in the village or nearby. Although Jagabandhu’s wife wanted to get a daily labourer’s job but she was not welcome to work for the village’s Muslim families. Due to their inter-caste marriage, Jagabandhu and his wife were excluded from their own Hindu community and villages, and the Muslim community could not accept them due to religious and cultural differences. Furthermore, a woman worker is not preferred.

Prior to Jagabandhu’s death, former Collector Mr. Kishor Ch. Mohanty visited the market area for evacuation and witnessed Jagabandhu’s extreme poverty without proper food and basic facilities. He then ordered the relevant officials to provide land, housing and food grain to his family in accordance with schemes such as IAY for housing and AAY for food.

The Collector was later transferred and the official given the order did not initiate any steps to complete it. His family suffered from the ignorance of the officials, while Jagabandhu was dying. According to the Anganwadi worker, Jagabandhu took his last medicine dose on November 11 and died at 5am the next morning. His employer donated 800 rupees for his cremation. After his death, the PDS (Public Food Distribution Scheme) shopkeeper visited the family to provide 25 kilograms of rice and four litres of kerosene oil.

The Tehsildar’s office testified that a letter (no. 6318) was received from the Collector inquiring about Jagabandhu’s property and identity, which was sent to the Revenue Inspector on 1 July 2011. The Tehsildar has yet to receive any reply from the Revenue Inspector however, and a reminder (letter no. 11697) was sent on November 2.

While some of Jagabandhu’s colleagues tried to help him and his family, the government ignored their extremely poor living conditions, and his own community neglected his family on the basis of caste discrimination.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

According to the Supply Inspector, there was no update on AAY card distribution in the area since 2005. In Niali Gram Panchayat, 183 households have BPL cards, 1112 have APL, 201 have AAY or AY cards. As there is no more issuance of the cards, no family who face a crisis can benefit from the schemes. Jagabandhu’s family were never issued with the AAY or AY cards, which they are entitled to get. The administration often cites the excuse that there is no further quota for issuing new cards, and yet the urgent redress and correct identification of the poorest are their constitutional duties, as well as in line with the international human rights laws that India has ratified.

It has also been learnt that the Anganwadi Centre running under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) is not properly working. Earlier in Purbakhanda village, there was one ICDS centre covering 1100 people, but since January 2011, the centre divided into two. In the centre near to where the family resides, there are 36 beneficiaries including three breastfeeding mothers, five pregnant women, 16 children below the age of three and 12 pre-school children. As the centre does not have its own building, the Anganwadi worker uses her home to facilitate her work. The centre receives 319 kilograms of rice on record and the worker received 50 kilograms of rice this month. And yet, it was witnessed that a cooked meal was not provided for the children at the centre. It seems that the centre is not running systematically and the supervisor has visited only twice in the last 10 months.

SUGGESTED ACTION
Please write a letter to the government agencies below to express your concern about Jagabandhu’s death and the condition of his family.

The AHRC is writing separately to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

23 November 2011

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert Case: AHRC-HAC-011-2011