GENERAL (India): Emergency assistance must be given to the poor living in Maharajganj district 

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), a local human rights organisation working in Uttar Pradesh state regarding the Kanjar community in Maharajganj district, Uttar Pradesh. The Kanjars, a low caste community in Uttar Pradesh, suffer from hunger and the lack of livelihood options for generations. The government schemes for employment and food distribution for the Kanjars have failed to reach this community thus far. Despite the death of two Kanjar women in a flood, no emergency assistance has been provided to this community by the government.


One hundred and thirty six Kanjar families live in slums of Jai Prakash Nagar and Indira Nagar wards of Sadar Block in Maharajganj district. The Kanjars are categorised as the Schedule Caste in India. The Scheduled caste community is considered as untouchable in India by the caste Hindus. The Kanjar community, who were once a nomadic group, has neither adequate livelihood nor adequate housing at present. They are landless and live in mud huts covered with plastic sheets which are unsafe to live in during the rainy season. This miserable situation created the several deaths in Kanjar community.

In July 2007, Luli, wife of Chabbi and Ganju, wife of Lula died of drowning. The area the Kanjars live was flooded due to heavy rain. The old huts and lack of proper access to them increased the intensity of the disaster and resulted in several deaths.

The Kanjars are forced to try and meet their basic needs by eating snakes and tortoise, as cereals and pulses the common Indian foods, are beyond their means. Many of the Kanjars have to go out of Maharajganj district to beg, to stay alive. However, only 12 out of 136 Kanjar families have a ration card issued to the Below Poverty Line (BPL) family.

On the contrary, Mr. Om Prakash, the Public Food Distribution Service (PDS) shopkeeper sells the grains earmarked for the Kanjars in the black market. This is a crime in the Indian context under the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) of 1955.

Despite the two women’s deaths, the Kanjar received no emergency assistance from the local government authority. Ms. Rita Devi, the Chairperson of Nagar Panchayat – Maharajganj, who is practically in charge of the villagers’ welfare and development, has neglected the victims’ families so far.

On the 20 February 2008, the PVCHR sent a complaint letter on the fundamental rights for the Kanjars to the District Magistrate of Maharajganj, Commissioner of Gorakhpur region and National Human Rights Commission in New Delhi. They have, however, received neither a response nor assistance from these authorities so far.


Kanjars are widely dispersed, and endogamous population of nomadic artisans and entertainers spread throughout Southwest Asia and Northern India. Owing to their living pattern, they find it difficult to settle down in a place and to get a proper job. Additionally, due to their nomadic life style the Kanjars are branded as a criminal community in several parts of India which labeled the Kanjar as a criminal under the Habitual Offenders’ Act 1959. The Kanjars get isolated more due to this and struggle against their hunger.

The provision of the adequate housing is closely linked to the eradication of poverty. Housing should be considered not only as a physical asset but as a concept of overall sustainable living circumstance including sanitation, proper water supply and power supply etc. The government of India has initiated the housing scheme for the poor in rural area since 1980, whereas the government initiated the Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana (VAMBAY), the housing scheme for the poor in slum in 2001. In 2005, the VAMBAY and National Slum Development Programme were subsumed in an Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme (IHSDP).

In addition, in 1988-89, the government introduced the Swarna Jayanti Sahakari Yojana (SJSRY; Urban Self Employment Programme Subsidy Scheme) to provide employment in order to bring the urban poor above the poverty. According to the government report (No. G-24011/3/2006-UPA-I, Government of India, Ministry of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation), the largest numbers of urban poor live in Uttar Pradesh state (based on the 2001 census). In 2006-07, the government fund targeted to provide the highest subsidy amount for the urban poor in Uttar Pradesh state.

Despite the poorest condition of urban slums in Uttar Pradesh, it seems that all these programmes do not reach to the Kanjars who are the most marginalised and poorest in urban area in Maharajganj district, Uttar Pradesh. The Kanjars are alive, but live below the standard as human being.

Please write to the authorities mentioned below expressing your concern in this case. Please urge the relevant authorities to provide assistance for the Kanjars.

The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the UN Special rapporteur on the Right to Food and on Adequate Housing calling for an intervention in this case.



To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear __________,

INDIA: Please provide the government assistances for the Kanjars, the poorest in urban slum in Maharajganj district

Details of victims
The victims from the flood:
1. Ms. Luli, aged 78 years, wife of Chabbi, resident of the Kanjar community, Sadar Block, Maharajganj district, Uttar Pradesh state
2. Ms. Ganju, aged 85 years, wife of Lula, resident of the Kanjar community, Sadar Block, Maharajganj district, Uttar Pradesh state
The victims suffering from starvation:
3. The 136 Kanjar families, residents of the Kanjar community, Sadar Block, Maharajganj district, Uttar Pradesh state
Location: Kanjar community, Jai Prakash Nagar ward and Indira Nagar ward, Sadar Block, Maharajganj district, Uttar Pradesh state

I am writing to express my concern regarding the case of 136 Kanjar families living in Jai Prakash Nagar and Indira Nagar of Maharajganj district, Uttar Pradesh. They are denied access to the most basic conditions required for an adequate standard of living. I also direct your attention to the deaths of Ms. Luli and Ms. Ganju as a result from the neglect of local government.

I am informed that the Kanjars are forced to live in mud huts with plastic sheeting that provides little protection during the rainy season. In order to avoid starvation they have to eat wild animals such as snake and tortoise. It is known that the Kanjars who were once nomadic community in India are hardly to manage daily food even after they settle down in urban slum.

I have learnt that the deaths of Luli and Ganju from drowning occurred during flooding which was further made worse by insufficient roads and poor housing.  Despite their deaths the Kanjar families have still not received any assistance from the government. Ms. Rita Devi, the Chairperson of Nager Panchayat Maharajganj, who is responsible for the welfare and development of the village, has continued to neglect the victim's and made no action to improve their situation.

I am further informed that only 12 of the 136 Kanjar families have as yet received a Below Poverty Line ration card despite their hardship. They are forced to leave the Maharajganj district to beg. Further to this, corruption by Mr. Om Prakesh, the Public Food Distribution Service (PDS) shopkeeper is allowing the rations assigned to the Kanjar families to be sold on the black market.  I have learned that this is a violation of the Essential Commodities Act 1955 and the Act of 1980 that have made it a crime to illegally sell essential commodities on the black market.

It is reported by the government that the urban poor in Uttar Pradesh occupies the highest rate in the total urban poor of India. In 2006-07, the Urban Self Employment Programme Subsidy Scheme targeted to provide the largest subsidy amount for the urban poor in Uttar Pradesh state. However, the Kanjar, the poorest living in urban slum in Maharajganj district did not receive any benefit under this programme. Moreover, the case of two women' death explains that the housing scheme for the urban poor (Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme) do not reach the Kanjars either.  

I am informed that on 20 February 2008 the PVCHR sent a complaint letter to the District Magistrate of Maharajganj, Commissioner Gorakhpur region and the National Human Rights Commission in New Delhi but they have received no assistance or response from these authorities so far.

In the light of above, I urge you to provide immediate assistance for the victims' families. I also urge you to ensure that the 136 Kanjar families could live with adequate housing and livelihood in order to flee from the starvation and death. 

Thus, the lives of the Kanjar must be improved by allowing them to receive the correct government assistance and access to essential items such as food and water. The Kanjar continue to suffer caste based discrimination that denies them the right to a dignified life free from hunger and poverty and immediate investigation is required to bring justice to this marginalized community.

Yours sincerely,



1. Dr. H. S. Anand 
Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation 
Room No. 125-C, Nirman Bhavan, 
New Delhi-110011 
Fax: +91 11 2306 1991 

2. Ms. Mayawati
Chief Minister
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Fax: + 91 522 223 0002 / 223 9234

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

4. Deepak Agrawal
District Magistrate
Maharajganj district

5. Secretariat
The Right to Food Campaign – India
C/o, PHRN,
5 A, Jungi House
Shahpur Jat, New Delhi-110049

6. Regional Director 
World Food Programme
Unit No. 2, 7th Floor, Wave Place Building 
55 Wireless Road 
Lumpini, Patumwan, Bangkok 10330
Fax: +66 2 655 4413

7. Country Director 
World Food Programme 
2 Poorvi Marg, Vasant Vihar 
New Delhi 110057
Fax: +91 112 615 0019

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Hunger Alert General
Document ID : AHRC-HAG-002-2008
Countries : India,
Issues : Caste-based discrimination, Corruption, Land rights, Poverty & adequate standard of living, Right to food,