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"We beat our hungry children to sleep": People's tribunal on starvation in eastern Uttar Pradesh


The tribunal directly heard 25 detailed complaints of starvation from persons of various communities. It also heard comments from many other persons who gathered for the hearing. It learnt that within the last three months, four starvation deaths had been reported in Shankarpur village of Vanarasi and Tanda village of Ambedkar Nagar, Uttar Pradesh. It heard that although starvation deaths are going on, victims' families are not receiving proper attention from the government authorities and food-for-work schemes are not being properly implemented.

"We beat our hungry children to sleep": People's tribunal on starvation in eastern Uttar Pradesh

People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights, Uttar Pradesh, India & Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong
On 30 September 2005 a people's tribunal consisting of senior social activists conducted an inquiry into starvation deaths in eastern Uttar Pradesh state, India. The tribunal was initiated by the People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR), which is based in Varanasi, in cooperation with the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a regional human rights organisation based in Hong Kong.

The participants in the tribunal were retired high court Justice Rambhoosan Malhotra, Bijo Francis, South Asia Desk Officer of the AHRC, Professor Deepak Mallick, Professor of Gandhian Institute for Studies, Dr Ashok Singh, State Secretary of the Uttar Pradesh Indian Medical Association, Dr Rolee Singh, Chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee, K K Roy, State General Secretary of the People's Union for Civil Liberties and Ashok Kumar Sinha, Programme Officer, ActionAid International (India). On October 1 some of the panelists also visited affected villages.

The tribunal directly heard 25 detailed complaints of starvation from persons of various communities. It also heard comments from many other persons who gathered for the hearing. It learnt that within the last three months, four starvation deaths had been reported in Shankarpur village of Vanarasi and Tanda village of Ambedkar Nagar, Uttar Pradesh. It heard that although starvation deaths are going on, victims' families are not receiving proper attention from the government authorities and food-for-work schemes are not being properly implemented.

Sheela, the wife of late Kanhaiya from Shankarpur, Varanasi, a weaver who died due to starvation on 18 September 2005 because of the depressed industry, said that, "My husband starved to death after three months of hunger. I have three children. The eldest goes to school but she receives no food under the Mid Day Meal Scheme. I was told that one lakh [one hundred thousand] rupees were spent by the panchayat [village council] for the poor, and particularly those who are starving, but my condition is the same." Her husband's death was reported in the media and a member of the District Food & Supply Advisory Committee sent a written complaint to the District Magistrate of Varanasi and the Right to Food Campaign filed a petition with the Supreme Court's Commissioners and National Human Rights Commission. Subsequently Kanhaiya was given 10,000 rupees under the National Family Benefit Scheme, 50kgs of wheat and rice for one month, and was promised a house.

Subhavati, the wife of Shivnath Musahar from Kushinagar, Varanasi, said that her husband died of starvation and left her to take care of their four children alone. On 6 January 2005 she received some 20kg of rice at the time that her husband was extremely sick and there was some media attention on her case. But this ran out in one week. On January 14 her husband was hospitalized, and was discharged on January 23, but died two days later. She said that she has since received no benefits and is unable to send her children to school. They have to share their food out by eating on alternate days.

Vishambhar, a weaver from Shankarpur, Varanasi, said that he lost his job after the weaving industry declined and converted to power looms. He does not have any land or any other source of income. His wife, Jigna, joined a self-help group and took a loan of 2000 rupees to bribe the village secretary for an allotment of land, but the land allotted was infertile and nothing grew. They became indebted and suffered from acute malnutrition and hunger-related sickness. On 16 April 2005, his wife died of starvation. Within a month, his 16-year-old daughter and two-month-old son also died. After his case was raised locally and internationally (see AHRC appeal in appendix 3), the Block Development Officer gave 20kg of rice, 50kg of wheat and 3 litres of kerosene oil. While the district supply officer claimed that he has also been issued an emergency relief card, in reality no such card was issued.

Prabhawati, the wife of Nagina Musahar from Kushinagar, Varanasi, told how her husband died of hunger. Her only daughter, Sambha, is two-years-old but because of acute malnutrition looks just six-months-old. To survive, Prabhawati begs and sometimes gets work in the fields. After outside intervention she was given 10,000 rupees under the National Family Benefit Scheme and a leaky house.

The tribunal noted that the state government of Uttar Pradesh was failing in its obligations not only by international standards but also relative to many other parts of India. For instance, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu both provide for a verbal autopsy in cases of malnutrition deaths, whereupon if children under five die then everybody is called in for the autopsy-including family and community members-and it is found out whether it was a hunger death or not. This is not done in Uttar Pradesh. The state also has very high child malnutrition, estimated at 51-55 per cent, but it spends just Rs 30-50 on nutrition programmes per child, while other states like Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana spend Rs 90-100, and northeastern states spend more than Rs 500 per child.

The cases that came before the tribunal spoke to how the government has neglected the starving of Uttar Pradesh. Villagers have not received wages after participating in food-for-work schemes, and records are made up by government bureaucrats to give a false impression of the schemes' functioning. The public distribution system closes for months at a time.

Kalwati, aged 30, of Raup Village in Sonbhadra district told how she is struggling to feed her five young children since becoming a widow:

"The six of us live in a desparate situation and hunger is a primary concern. We only eat once a day, and the meal normally consists of some rice or roti (flatbread) and salt, nothing more. I even have a red ration card allowing me access to food assistance by the Public Distribution System (PDS). The PDS shop is located eight kilometers away and provides 20kg of rice and 15kg of wheat for 90 rupees. However, the 35kg of wheat and rice that we receive is not sufficient for even 10 days. By the end of every month, we are starving. Everytime we receive more wheat, my children are so hungry they will eat just plain flour. This is what my daughter just did this afternoon.

"My husband was the sole income earner in our family, but he was murdered by the local mafia two-and-a-half years ago¡K Since his death, I have been the sole breadwinner in the family, as my children are too young to work. I weave brooms and straw mats. I earn approximately 2.50 rupees for each broom or mat I sell, and I normally make between five and ten a day, but I have to travel almost eight kilometers everyday just in order to sell my products. The money is not enough to buy anything, maybe a few vegetables at most.

"I have five children who depend on me to eat. The eldest, Durgavati, is 12 years old. She does not go to school because she needs to stay at home and care for the house and my other children while I am away trying to sell my brooms and mats. My boys, Sadesh, aged 10, and eight-year-old Rajesh both go to school. The two youngest, son Siri Ram and daughter Rinki are too young to attend school and thus also stay at home. In general, most Raup villagers are involved in the broom making industry. As a result, most of the young girls must stay home and take care of the younger children while their parents are away. I never went to school and my daughters will not either. I am not the only person in this situation, the entire village suffers on a daily basis the same way I do. I ask, why is there no ICDS (government run childcare center) here for our children?

"I used to have the ability to work quickly; however, the nerves in my hand were injured some years ago so now one hand is paralyzed. But it is not possible to get medical attention for my health problems. There are no healthcare or medical facilities for the Raup villagers. In 2004, after the newspapers reported our situation, one doctor did come on a single occasion. He gave us some medicines but we never saw him or any other doctor again. The district hospital is seven kilometers away in Robertsganj so we can only go if we have enough money to cover the expenses or enough energy to walk. Also, the government hospitals do not have any medicine to give us so even if we do go there, we still cannot afford to buy medicines from the shops.

"My fellow villagers and I are not asking for much. As a tribal community, all we are asking is for some land that we can cultivate and live on, land that we have a right to. The upper-caste villagers in Raup are a very prosperous community and they are doing very well. However they are threatening us to leave as they are laying claim to this land. Where are we going to go then and how will we be able to live? All I want is for my children to be taken care of so that they can live life with dignity."

Chotalal, aged 42, son of Mithailal of Oraw village in Pindra Block under Phoolpur Police Station, Varanasi district, explained how the Musahar community struggle to survive under the control of other groups:

"We have no land of our own. We work in the fields of Dakurs and Brahmins. They are the upper caste people. This work is seasonal, for about two months per year. For a full day's work we are paid 5kg of wheat for a male and 3kg of wheat for a female. We work from 7am to 4pm. Sometimes we get 20-30 rupees per day for men and 5 rupees for women. We have never even hoped for the minimum wage and equal remuneration. If we demanded the minimum wage, the landlords would kill us. If we have any complaints, we must keep quiet. You can't go to the police: the police mean money here¡K They all work for the landlords.

"For the rest of the year, we work as manual labourers and also make plates out of leaves, which people buy for serving food at marriages and other ceremonies. We earn about 20-30 rupees for making 200 plates.

"The Gramasabah (village council) here has about 90 bigahs (45 acres) of land. This land was taken by the upper castes. We were told that this land was intended to be given to us but the fact is that we do not have this land¡K I was told that some of the property which is currently held by the landlords stands in our names, but we are not able to use it as our own property. However, we still have to work on it as labourers since the property has been taken by them. We are scared to put any claim on our property.

"We are not even allowed to go to the place where the upper caste people live. Even the backward people do not allow us to come to their houses. This is because we are untouchables. But if there is any work in their households, we are expected to go and do the work. If we are found in the upper caste area without being asked to come there for work, we will be beaten. If there is any crime in the locality, we are by default blamed for it. In the past, there was a murder: 13 of our family members were arrested and put in jail. No one ever dared to complain because it would not make a difference.

"Nearly all our children go to school. But their schooling is over after Grade 4. All our children are dropouts from the school. There are no schools that will educate our children for free and we have no money to pay school fees. The government schools are far away. Even though the fees at government schools are nominal, we do not have enough money to pay. We would like to see our children educated and well-employed but this is not a realistic dream.

"We do not have any medical care or hospitals near by. Nobody from the government would ever come here. Some of us have ration cards but we do not have money to buy rations. In the past, we would have to pay at least 100 rupees to buy our rations, because the public distribution shops were so corrupt. Now, the price is normal, at 10 rupees, but we still cannot afford this."

Bhotu Musahar, aged 55, son of Sukhdev Musahar, residing at Belwa Musahar village, Varanasi district, said that starvation is treated as normal in his village:

"We have stayed here for about six generations. For eight months we work at a brick kiln. The kiln is about 10 kilometers from here. But we have no option. There is a kiln which is in the neighboring property. It is run by Rajendar Thiwari, the most powerful man in Belwa village. The property is on Panchayat [council] land. The place from which the clay is collected for this kiln is from the village property. We were told that this property was earmarked for our community to cultivate and build our huts. But we cannot question this since the person who questions Thiwari would not live to see the next dawn.

"For about ten years we worked for Thiwari. He never paid us any money. He used to abuse us for everything. If someone failed to turn up for work he would beat that person when he came to work next time. If anyone fell sick and failed to turn up for work, then also he would beat the person. Women faced the same treatment. Thiwari's son used to do the same. His son, Guddu Thiwari, was very young when he used beat us. I was beaten by him when Guddu was only 20. The kiln manager beat us too.

"Thiwari would give us some vegetables for our work, once a week, and that was the only payment. This was not enough for us. It would be over in a day and the rest would be easily damaged, since what he gave us was already rotten. Once in a while we would get dead animals. These were Thiwari's animals. However, we were not allowed to take any dead animal. Only when Thiwari allowed us we could take them. We never cared how the animal died; we only cared how fast we could cook it. Sometimes we would dig up buried animals a day after without anyone knowing. We did not have any time to fetch food for ourselves since we were not allowed to leave the kiln. We could not earn anything else from other work since no one would employ us. This was because we are untouchables and even if anyone was willing to employ us Thiwari would intervene and prevent it.

"Many people died from starvation and a few from injuries suffered at work and also from beatings. We never dared to complain to anyone. Where could we complain? We had seen police officers staying at Thiwari's house and having dinner with him. Thiwari also used to threaten us that if we ever dared to complain to anyone about this he would get the police to arrest us. He threatened us that instead of the men, he would get the women arrested. So we had no other option. Men, women and children worked for Thiwari. Every child was to work for him. The only concern was whether one could work or not. Young or old, all had to work. Rain or drought everyday we had to work. Even if somebody died and the body was still at home, you still had to go to work or else they would beat us. We were fed up with this situation and the punishments were intolerable.

"It was Dr Lenin who came to our rescue. It was his organisation [PVCHR] which helped us from this mess. He advised us to lodge complaints at the sub divisional magistrates court. But there was no action. Soon there was an opportunity for us to speak at a [tribunal]. After that we came to know that it had asked the magistrate to take action upon our complaint. The magistrate came here. We also came to know that Dr Lenin also had filed a separate complaint on our behalf to the same officer. One day we were all free. However, we were never paid any compensation. We were informed that the magistrate had ordered 20,000 rupees to be paid to us. But when we inquired at the magistrate's office we were told that since the magistrate is a Brahmin, he would never execute the order, and we were asked to be satisfied with our freedom, and that nothing more is to be expected.

"We have only five ration cards altogether. The ration shop dealer never opens his shop regularly. It is open only one or two days in a week and that too during evening hours. We work in a kiln about 10 kilometers away. By the time we finish our work and return, the shop is closed. The food grains that are to be supplied for a very low price are also sold at a higher price. We are not able to afford such high prices. We know it is illegal. But we cannot complain. The ones who dare to complain will never live to see the result of the complaints. The police, health officer and district administration officers are all teamed against us. Who cares for us?

"Hunger is accepted in our village. It is hard to manage the children. By night they start crying and refuse to sleep [due to hunger]. We have no option. We beat them hard so that they cry for a while and are soon tired and that is how we put our children to sleep.

"Many have died of starvation here. Bahru Musahar's family is one example. His wife and two children died within four weeks of one another. His daughter Reena died when she was five-years-old. Then his wife Kismati Devi died, and soon his other daughter Hasna, who was nine-months-old: all within about four weeks of this year. Bharu has lost his senses now. This is not strange for us. Every year in July, August, September and October a few children die here due to malnutrition and acute starvation. No one cares for us."

Appendix 1: Letters of the Indian Supreme Court Commissioner on the right to food to the Government of Uttar Pradesh

Non-compliance of Uttar Pradesh government with Supreme Court orders


Smt. Neera Yadav,
Chief Secretary,
Govt. of Uttar Pradesh,

Sub: Repeated complaints of malnutrition deaths, dated 04.02.2005, 19.03.2005, 16.04.2005, 18.04.2005 and 21.04.2005, from districts of Varanasi, Sonebhadra, Jaunpur, Khusinagar and Mirzapur and poor performance of food schemes

Dear Smt. Yadav,

Kindly refer to my letter dated 19.10.2004, whereby I requested you to take action on a complaint which brought to my notice 62 hunger deaths in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Subsequently I have received another letter from the complainant, stating that no action has been taken on the complaint and now the hunger death toll in the area has increased to 93.

In another letter dated 25.11.2005, I brought to your notice the alleged hunger death of Nagina Mushahar, in Dhogara village, Turkpatti thana, Khushinagar District. While I have received no enquiry or 'action taken report' on this, I received another complaint letter on 06.12.2004 stating that no action on the earlier complaint has been taken and that Nagina Mushhar's family continues to be on the verge of starvation.

I have also received 6 complaint letters on malnutrition deaths and non-performance of food schemes. These reports of malnutrition deaths reported in districts of Varanasi, Sonebhadra, Jaunpur, Khusinagar and Mirzapur (see appendix 1 for the district wise compilation of 6 complaint letters) show that Supreme Court orders are not being implemented in the state.

Performance of the food schemes

A look at the available information on food schemes implemented in these districts presents a very grim picture. In Varanasi, Sonebhadra, Jaunpur, Khusinagar and Mirzapur, from where the deaths are reported, only 31% of the children under 0-6 age group are covered by ICDS. Seventy-one additional ICDS projects (in addition to the existing 64 projects) are required to cover the population as per existing norms. Even among the existing 64 projects nearly 9% of the anganwadi centres are not reporting to your Department of Women and Child Development. The staffing in these projects is also very poor with non-appointment of 19% of the sanctioned anganwadi workers (AWWs) and 30 % of the sanctioned anganwadi helpers (AWHs) in Mirzapur and 11% of the sanctioned AWWs and 12 % of the sanctioned AWHs in Jaunpur (see appendix 2).

In the case of employment related schemes, the five aforementioned districts have utilized only 78% of the allocated funds and 56% of sanctioned food grains under the Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana (SGRY). Again Mirzapur performed worst with only 39% utilization of food grains. This is despite the fact that Mirzapur is a poor district, and here the percentage of agricultural labour to main workers is 33.78 % (as against 21.4% for UP) and percentage of marginal workers to main workers is 3.39 % (as against 2.94 % for UP). Except Jaunpur in the other three districts (Varanasi, Sonebhadra and Khusinagar) too the proportion of agriculture workers and marginal workers to main workers is much higher than that in U.P. on average.

Though in addition to SGRY, the National Food For Work Scheme was also in operation in districts of Sonebhadra, Mirzapur and Khusinagar, only 7.5 % and 8.6 % of the funds and food-grains were utilized in these districts.

Another fact which is distressing is that in districts of Varanasi, Jaunpur and Khusinagar, women beneficiaries under SGRY constituted of only 13%, 4% and 18% of the total beneficiaries, which is much below the norm of 30 %, which is the proportion of reservation for women in employment schemes.

In light of continued reports of hunger deaths and poor implementation of food schemes, I recommend the following:

1. Set up district-wise enquiries on the reported hunger deaths and provide necessary assistance to these families.

2. In a letter dated 9.11.2004, No. 3872/26-06-04, it was mentioned that to prevent malnutrition deaths, discussions are in process to make the village level officials and gram pradhan accountable and to provide adequate funds at district level to provide immediate relief to people in danger of hunger. It was also mentioned that I will be briefed on steps taken on these soon. I request you to kindly update me on the developments in this regard.

3. Ensure that all AWCs are operational and reporting and all vacancies are filled in ICDS projects, further send us the details on the steps taken to increase the number of ICDS projects as per existing guidelines.

4. Send a report on the reasons for low utilization under SGRY and NFFWSs and action taken to ensure full utilization of food grain and funds under these schemes.

With regards

Dr N C Saxena

Appendix 1; Appendix 2; Complaint Letters

Uttar Pradesh government agrees to two advisors from the Supreme Court on right to food

6th July 2005

Smt. Neera Yadav
Chief Secretary
Government of Uttar Pradesh

Sub:  Advisor to Commissioner of the Supreme Court

Dear Smt. Neera Yadav

In the case of PUCL vs Union of India and others, Writ Petition (Civil) 196 of 2001, the Supreme Court has by order dated May 8, 2002 appointed me as Commissioner to the Supreme Court. 

In my capacity as the Supreme Court Commissioner, I can take the assistance of reputed individuals and organizations to help me with this task.

I am glad to inform you that Mr. I.C. Dwivedi and Ms. Arundhathi Dhuru have agreed to help me in this endeavor in your state.  I request you to give them all cooperation as has been directed by the Supreme Court¡K

The main roles of the advisors will be:
(a) To send the commissioner regular updates about the situation in the state;
(b) To convey to the commissioner any appeal for intervention that may be made in the state;
(c) To work towards a more effective monitoring and redressal system within the state.

In addition, the advisor and the secretariat will also assist in
(a) An analysis of performance of relevant schemes using macro data;
(b) Response to emergencies, like drought, starvation deaths, etc;
(c) Gathering information from the state governments on the performance of the relevant schemes and programmes;
(d) Articulating alternative demands regarding state policy especially on hunger;
(e) Preparing periodic state reports;
(f) Working towards accountability norms for public programmes related to food and food security;
(g) Arranging visits of the commissioners if necessary;
(h) Liaising with local networks, individuals and organisations to gather information from the district level and other sublevels;
(i) Handling other requests that the commissioners may make to them from time to time;
(j) At the request of the commissioners, agree to be a part of various committees pertaining to the orders of the court, or organize suitable alternatives for the same;
(k) Liaising constantly with the government on grievances and grievance redressal processes within the relevant schemes.

I will work closely with the advisors and respond to the appeals received from different states through the advisor. Advisors will be in constant touch with government authorities, in particular with the nodal officer, over the issues cited above. For this purpose, I have requested state governments to appoint a nodal officer. The advisors will liaise with this nodal officer on behalf of the Commissioner. In case the state government does not appoint a nodal officer the Chief Secretary of that state will be the contact person.

I request you to provide Shri I.C. Dwivedi and Ms. Arundhati Dhuru any relevant information that they may request from you.  Please instruct your officers to fully cooperate with them towards ensuring effective monitoring of the orders of the Supreme Court.

With Regards,

Dr N C Saxena

CC: Shri Ajit Seth, Assistant to Commissioner, UP

Appendix 2: "NGO lends an ear to hunger victims"
Hindustan Times, 1 October 2005

The victims of hunger were heard at a programme called Indian People's Tribunal (IPT) as part of the Right to Food campaign here on Friday.

The campaign was organized by the Hong Kong-based NGO Asian Human Rights Commission in association with the Varanasi-based NGO People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights.

A 42-year-old Chotalal of Orwa village, in Varanasi, explained in detail the condition of the landless 'mushahars' (nomadic tribesmen) in his village. "Although the village council has about 45 acres of land that was to be given to them, it was taken over by the upper caste villagers," he alleged.

He said he was told that some of the property which was currently held by the landlords stood in their name, but the situation is otherwise. "We are not able to use it as our own property," he added. "We still have to work on it as labourers since the property has been captured by the landlords," Chotalal alleged.

For the rest of the year, they work as manual labourers. For a day's work in the fields, the men may get Rs 20-30 but he women get only five rupees. They also make plates used for serving food at marriages and other ceremonies out of leaves, from which they earn about Rs 20-30 for 200 leaf plates.

"We have never even hoped for minimum wage and equal remuneration. If we demand minimum wages, the landlords will kill us. If we have any complaints, we are asked to keep quiet. One can't go to the police, as police means money here," Chotalal alleged.

"This is because we are untouchables. If we are found in the upper caste areas without being asked to come there for some work, we are beaten up," he said.

One Vishambhar, a handloom weaver who lost his wife and two wards allegedly due to malnutrition, said that a number of handloom weavers have left weaving and got engaged in other occupations like Rikshaw pulling but some physically weak weavers were either wandering in search of occupation or begging door to door.

Vishambhar, a native of Shankerpur village, alleged that his wife, Jiyana, two-month-old son Sheetla Prasad and daughter Soni (18) died due to malnutrition. His other three kids Prabhu Narayan (15), Chandani (12) and Suman (6) were living in an orphanage.

Appendix 3: Appeals issued by the AHRC on starvation in eastern Uttar Pradesh

Local government ignores starving mother and her three hungry daughters in Uttar Pradesh

21 July 2005

HA-17-2005: INDIA: Local government ignores starving mother and her three daughters in Uttar Pradesh

INDIA: Malnutrition and hunger; government neglect and inaction; landlessness

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received new information from the Social Development Foundation (SDF) in Delhi on a case involving the hunger and malnutrition plaguing one family in Sonebhadra, Uttar Pradesh. Despite repeated pleas for food assistance from local authorities, the mother and young children continue to live with extreme hunger.

The AHRC urges you to write to the District Magistrate of Uttar Pradesh and related authorities requesting that immediate food assistance be provided to the victims. We further ask that the inaction by local administration be investigated and condemned.
Urgent Appeals Desk - Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)


Location: Ghorawal Tehsil village, Sonebhadra District, Uttar Pradesh
Persons affected: Rajkumari, age 30, and her daughters Usha (5), Rita (4) and Sangeeta (7 months)                     

Rajkumari is a 30 year-old mother of three daughters, Usha, Rita and Sangeeta. She is a dalit (scheduled caste/'untouchable') woman with no land and lives with a physical disability. Her husband, Lal Chand recently developed a psychiatric disorder and abandoned his home. Currently, no one knows where he is and his family has lost their only source of income.

After Lal Chand's disappearance, Rajkumari could not provide for her family's needs. Her parents in law were not willing to take in the family so Rajkumari moved to her parent's home in Papari No. 2 village, Robertsganj Block. Her parents, like many other dalits in the area, are landless agricultural workers. Her father is a daily wage labourer and due to a severe drought in the region this year, work has been sporadic. As a result, even in his old age, Rajkumari's father attempts to work everyday but is struggling to provide for his family.

Currently, the family is facing hunger and malnutrition, and has made several pleas to local authorities concerning their hunger situation. Her mother, Tetari, approached the district magistrate of Sonebhadra for assistance but nothing has been received. The head of the village, Mr. Kashi, also has not provided any assistance for the family despite being aware of their current situation.

On April 26, 2005 Rajkumari also attempted to meet with revenue officials and other authorities at the district headquarters in Robertsganj but failed to meet anyone. Authorities at both the District Magistrate and Sub-District Magistrate's offices refused to understand her plight. Such was her desperation that Rajkumari even tried to leave her children behind thinking that it would be better for them, but her mother would not allow it.

Recently, Chaupal, a local organization, has been intervening in the case. On April 26, 2005, the organization wrote a letter to the district magistrate asking him to address the current hunger situation the family is facing. However, despite repeated attempts at communication, nothing has been done at the administrative level.


Starvation is not a new concern in the Sonebhadra district and it is puzzling that in this case, the local authorities have not become involved.

In September 2004, several cases were reported to the District Magistrate and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh regarding starvation in the district. Some 40 villagers had walked over 40 kilometers from their villages during the monsoon season in order to voice their hunger concerns at the district headquarters in Robertsganj. The victims also showed what they were eating, which mostly consisted of leaves and roots from the forest.

The villagers, mostly landless adivasis (indigenous people), have been involved in a land dispute with the forest department for some time. Their landless state severely hinders the villagers' ability to provide food for themselves.

Please see HA-01-2004 for detailed information on the starvation cases that have been occurring in the district for the past few years.


Please write to the District Magistrate of Uttar Pradesh and the other related officials below requesting that the district administration take immediate action in this starvation matter before more lives are lost.


Dear Mr. __________

Re: INDIA: Local government ignores starving mother and her three hungry daughters in Uttar Pradesh

Location: Ghorawal Tehsil village, Sonebhadra District, Uttar Pradesh
Persons affected: Rajkumari, age 30, and her daughters Usha (5), Rita (4) and Sangeeta (7 months)                     

I am deeply disturbed to learn of the government's inaction in the hunger situation plaguing Rajkumari and her family in the Sonebhadra district, despite attention already having been directed to their plight.

According to the information I received, Rajkumari and her three daughters are living in intolerable conditions and have lost their only source of income. Her husband, Lal Chand, developed a psychiatric disability and abandoned the family some time ago. As Rajkumari herself is physically disabled, she had to return to her father's home in Papari No. 2 village, Robertsganj. Her father however, is also a landless adivasi and thus, cannot support the entire family.

While the mother and children slowly come closer to death by starvation, the local administration has yet to provide any kind of food assistance to the family, despite repeated pleas from the family. On April 26, 2005 Rajkumari attempted to meet with revenue officials and other authorities at the district headquarters in Robertsganj but failed to meet anyone. Authorities at both the District Magistrate and Sub-District Magistrate's offices refused to understand her plight. Such was her desperation that Rajkumari even tried to leave her children behind thinking that it would be better for them, but her mother would not allow it. Village head, Mr. Kashi, has also not afforded any assistance to the family despite being aware of their current situation.

Recently, Chaupal, a local organization, has been intervening in the case. On April 26, 2005, the organization wrote a letter to the district magistrate asking him to address the current hunger situation the family is facing. However, despite repeated attempts at communication, nothing has been done at the administrative level. Meanwhile, Rajkumari and her children continue to live in hunger and abject poverty.

In this regard, I would like to remind you of your obligations under international and national law to safeguard the right to food of the residents under your administration. I am extremely disappointed in the lack of sufficient and timely action in providing assistance and compensation to the victims in this case and request you take immediate action to ensure that Rajkumari and her daughters do not lose their lives to starvation. I further ask that an investigation be conducted into this inaction.

Yours sincerely,



1. Mr. Alok Kumar
District Magistrate
Uttar Pradesh

2. Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Uttar Pradesh
Fax: + 91 52 2223 0002/2223 9234


1. Justice A.P. Mishra
Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission
6-A Kalidass Marg
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh


27 Park Road
Uttar Pradesh
Tel: +91 52 2272 6742
Fax: +91 52 2272 6743

2. Justice A. S. Anand
National Human Rights Commission of India
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
Tel: +91 11 2338 2742
Fax: +91 11 2338 4863

3. Chairman
National Commission for Scheduled Castes
5th Floor, Loknayak Bhawan,
Khan Market,
New Delhi-110 003
Tel: +91 11 2 463 2298 / 2462 0435

4. Mr. Jean Ziegler
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
c/o Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Room 4-066, OHCHR, Palais Wilson,
Rue des Paquis 52, Geneva
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 9179010

5. Mr. Gian

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Child Hood

How to grow up without perspective ??

Key Achievement

The work of PVCHR was awarded with the Gwangju Human Rights Award 2007, ACHA Star Peace Award 2008 and 2010 Human rights prize of the city of Weimar in 2010 and Usmania Award from Madarsa Usmania, Bazardiha for the development and welfare of education.

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Basic Rights

Basic rights for marginalized groups in the Indian society, e.g. children, women, Dalits and tribes and to create a human rights culture based on democratic values. PVCHR ideology is inspired by the father of the Dalit movement, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

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Indian Society

Indians society, especially in the rural areas, is still influenced by feudalism and the caste system which continues to determine the political, social, and economic life of the country. Caste based discrimination is practiced in the educational system...

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PVCHR founded in 1996 by Mr. Lenin Raghuvanshi and Ms. Shruti Nagvanshi in close association with Sarod Mastro Pandit Vikash Maharaj, Poet - Gyanendra Pati and Historian Mahendra Pratap. PATRON: Justice Z.M Yacoob Sitting Judge Constitution Court of South Africa & Chancellor of University of Durban, South Africa.