UPDATE (India): Boy suffering malnutrition dies; 13 others remain at serious risk 

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) deeply regrets to inform you that a two-year-old boy, whom we reported on May 29 to be suffering severe malnutrition has died. His death came just days after we reported his condition. A further 13 children face the same fate if immediate action is not taken by the relevant authorities. We urge your intervention to prevent these needless deaths.


Further to our previous appeal (AHRC-HAC-008-2008), on May 31, two-year-old Sahabuddin Idrish died at his family home days after his condition was reported. [Photo of the boy with his mother] At the time that Sahabuddin’s condition became known, the AHRC and the People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) immediately reported his case in order to raise awareness on the urgency of that that needed to be taken on his rapidly deteriorating health. However, the state and local government authorities did not take any action.

As we mentioned earlier, Sahabuddin was the son of Mr. Mohammad Idrish, a handloom weaver in Varanasi. Sahabuddin was taken, with his parent’s permission, by the PVCHR to the district hospital in Varanasi. But when Mr. Mohammad’s mother, Rahmat Bibi, who herself had been suffering from severe malnutrition had become ill for having not eaten for the past ten days, he became distraught and this prompted him to take his son back home so that he could look after the lady. It was at home that Sahabuddin died.

Following such inaction by the authorities, a newspaper, the Times of India exposed the relevant government authorities and the District Administration for not immediately doing anything to help. This prompted the District Magistrate, Mr. Ajay Kumar Upadyay, to give orders to the District Administration to give compensation to Sahabuddin’s family, which was only 25 kilos of rice.

The supposed compensation had been delivered by the shop keeper of the Public Distribution System (PDS). It was delivered by an ambulance who had eventually taken the children who had been suffering from severe malnutrition from the village for treatment. However, we have been informed that only 11 children were taken to the hospital leaving two others behind.

Outraged by the lack of concern by the district administration, the PVCHR organised a demonstration in Varanasi regarding the authority’s failures. Onlookers there donated money to the PVCHR whom they asked to pass on their donations to the boy’s family. [Photos 234 and 5].

As we reported in our previous appeal, there were also thirteen other children living in the same village experiencing similar condition. For details please read: AHRC-HAC-008-2008

On 24 May 2008 the parents of these children went to meet the District Magistrate of Varanasi but it was not until the death of Sahabuddin, and subsequent exposure of the failure of government staff to act, that there has been any reaction to save these children from starvation. It was only after Sahabuddin’s death was reported in the local media that the district administration had taken action to attend to the rest of the children in Dhannipur village.

Even then out of the 13 children who require assistance only 11 had been admitted in the hospital. It is assumed that soon these children would be discharged from the hospital. However, these children would then be sent back to same living condition in their village where their respective families suffers abject poverty and malnutrition as well.

In these circumstances, the state administration’s approach should have not been limited to a case by case basis when forced to act after the death of a child is reported, but rather the administration should have taken immediate action to ensure that the facilities provided through the government sponsored programmes; for instance, the Child Care Centers and other welfare programmes reaches the needy.

Sahabuddin’s death could have been prevented had the district administration taken immediate action by ensuring the local child welfare centres functions properly.

On 24 December 2004, the Uttar Pradesh government had already issued a directive to every district administrations to help support victims of malnutrition and hunger. The directive had been signed by the then Chief Secretary Mr. Vinod Kumar Mittal himself. Under this directive, every Village Council in the state had been required to form their committee for hunger and malnutrition. They were also given emergency funds. Whenever a case of starvation is documented, the family, or person suffering from starvation, should have been provided with immediate financial assistance amounting to IR 1,000 (25 USD).

In the past, similar cases of Dalit children in Varanasi suffering from starvation have been met with some response by the administration. However, although the administration had been repeatedly informed of Sahabuddin’s condition, there was no adequate action taken by them. There are serious concerns that the authority’s inaction could have been a result of the victim family’s background being Muslims. Muslims are often viewed as second-class citizens in India.


The decline of the handloom industry has had adverse and far-reaching effects on the traditional weaving families.?It is a technical and specialised art that is passed on from one generation to the other. As they are justly proud of the unique skills they had inherited it was extremely difficult for them to shift to other means of work.

The industrialization and an outsourcing to factories in China has resulted in a dramatic decline in demand for hand-woven saris that has left many families destitute with little help from the government due to corruption and the practice of caste based discrimination by staff in the public services.

In addition to widespread poverty amongst weaving families, their ability to find other employment had also been aggravated by the tuberculosis (TB) they suffer, which was also caused from the dust and particles created by the looming process. They are often unable to fully recover and treat their illness. For instance, the treatment requires a health professional’s regular visits to the patient and the intake of medicines daily.?But because of difficulty sustaining this manner of treatment, the patients are discouraged to take medications at the early stage.

Please send a letter to the authorities mentioned below expressing your concern about Sahabuddin Idrish death and subsequently demand for a reasonable and effective solution to prevent the needless deaths of children in the said place. It is necessary that the authorities concerned take action without delay to save the lives of the other children who are also experiencing similar condition as Sahabuddin.

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



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


Dear __________,

INDIA: Boy suffering malnutrition dies; 13 others remain at serious risk

Name of the victim who died
1. Sahabuddin Idrish, two years old; son of Mr. Mohammad Idrish; a resident of Dhannipur village, under the jurisdiction of Kashi Vidya Peeth Development Block, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh
Name of other children experiencing severe malnutrition:
1. Ahmad Raza, two-and-half-year-old (weighing 7.1 kilos)
2.?Imran, three-and-half-year-old (8.2 kilo)
3. Gulfam, four-year-old (7 kilo)
4. Sahil Raza, four-month-old, (4 kilo)
5. Mohammad Imran, four-month-old (3 kilo)
6. Noor Mohammad, one-year-old (3.6 kilo)
7. Soni, three-year-old (8 kilo)
8. Shalmeen, three-year-old (6.5 kilo)
9. Sahiba, five-year-old (7 kilo)
10. Shabeena Bano, four-month-old (2.5 kilo)
11. Saheena Parveen, two-year-old (2.9 kilo)
12. Mohammad Israq, two-year-old (3.2 kilo)
13. Noukhta Hasan, six-month-old (2.9 kilo)
Responsible authorities
1. Village Council of Dhannipur, under the jurisdiction of Kashi Vidya Peeth Development Block, Varanasi district 
2. Integrated Child Development Scheme Centre of Dhannipur, under the jurisdiction of Kashi Vidya Peeth Development Block, Varanasi district
Place of incident
Dhannipur, under the jurisdiction of Kashi Vidya Peeth Development Block, Varanasi district

On?1 May 2008, two-year-old boy, Sahabuddin Idrish, has died from severe malnutrition as a result of the government and public service administration failure to take adequate action.?Both district and state government were informed of the seriousness of this child's condition they have not taken any measures that could have prevented the boy's death. Apart from him though, there are thirteen other children who remain at serious risks and may suffer similar fate.

I am concerned about such state of affairs in Uttar Pradesh, particularly in Varanasi. I feel sorry for the children who suffers from malnutrition in a country that has declared itself of having achieved enviable growth rate and believed to be self sufficient in its food grain stocks. I am informed that such states of affairs are the result of corruption, which I am told is prevalent in India.

When the parents of these 13 children went to meet the District Magistrate of Varanasi on May 24, there has not been adequate action also taken by them. Had it not been of Sahabuddin's death and the subsequent exposure to the public regarding the government's failure, there would have been no action in helping these children.

Even then out of the 13 children who were reported to have been suffering from severe malnutrition and requiring for adequate assistance and medication, only 11 of them had been admitted to a hospital for treatment. However, even before fully recovering from their condition, there are presumptions that soon they would be discharged from the hospital and sent back to their respective houses in their village.

Doing so, however, it would increase the risk of these children, once again, of dying since the living condition where they had come from remains not suitable in order for them to fully recover. In fact, some of the family members of these children are themselves suffering from hunger apart from the abject poverty and lack of food that these families had been experiencing. I am extremely concern that these remaining children, unless adequate and effective actions are made, may also die.

Sahabuddin's death is obviously an example of the neglect by the state administration who is supposed to ensure the wellbeing of these classes of people.?Sahabuddin was one of the many victims of utter neglect by the government of India. I am deeply concerned also that the authorities failure to act on Sahabuddin's case could have been related to his family being Muslims who had been victims of needless discrimination.

I therefore urge you into taking reasonable and long term action to ensure that the facilities provided through the government's sponsored programmes; for instance the Child Care Centers and other welfare programmes, would reach the poor instead of limiting their actions on a case to case approach. Sahabuddin's death could have been prevented had the district administration acted effectively, for instance, by ensuring that the local child welfare centres operates properly.

I further urge you into taking immediate intervention in this situation. Firstly, all possible steps must be taken to ensure that all hospital facilities and other means needed to save the life of these 13 children admitted provided for. The district administration must also ensure that all the children in Dhannipur who requires immediate medical attention, but whose conditions have not been known so far, are identified. They must also be provided with needed treatment without delay.

Yours sincerely,


1. Ms. Mayawati
Chief Minister
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Uttar Pradesh
Fax: + 91 522 223 0002 / 223 9234
Email: csup@up.nic.in

2. Ms. Meira Kumar
Minister, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment
Sardar Patel Bhawan
Sansad Marg
New Delhi - 110 001
Fax: + 91 11 23742133
Email: ddpg2-arpg@nic.in

3. The Director
Department of Women Welfare & Child Development,
Government of Uttar Pradesh, 
Jawahar Bhawan, Ashok Marg,
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Fax: +91 522 228 6140

4. The Commissioner
Varanasi Division 
Kutchahry, Varanasi
Uttar Pradesh
Fax: +91-542-2282345
Email: commvar@up.nic.in

5. The 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

6. The Country Director 
World Food Programme 
2 Poorvi Marg, Vasant Vihar, 
New Delhi 110057
Fax: +91 112 615 0019
Email: wfp.newdelhi@wfp.org

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Type : Hunger Alert Update
Document ID : AHRC-HAU-001-2008
Countries : India,
Issues : Corruption, Right to food,