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INDIA: Pregnant mother and two-year-old baby likely to die from starvation

November 30, 2007

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert

30 November 2007
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HA-015-2007: INDIA: Pregnant mother and two-year-old baby likely to die from starvation

INDIA: Failure of government health system; non-functional Public Distribution System; right to food; caste discrimination; corruption
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), a human rights organisation based in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh regarding the case of a pregnant mother and her two-year-old son. While the mother is suffering from symptoms of dehydration her two-year-old son is suffering from malnutrition and drug poisoning. The mother and baby are living in the Musahar community of Anei village, Baragaon block, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh.

CASE DETAILS:

Ms. Gangajali, wife of Munna Lal is in her advanced stage of pregnancy. She is suffering from symptoms of dehydration [picture 1]. On 20 November 2007, Gangajali was seriously sick. She went to the nearest private clinic along with her husband.

She was given an injection and two bottles of glucose and some tablets. She had to pay Rupees 360 (USD 9), but could pay only Rupees 110 (USD 2.7) since she did not have enough money. The doctor asked her to come back the next day to pay the rest of money and to buy the required medicine with whatever money she had. However, she could not return to the clinic the next day since she had no money left.

Gangajali's two-year-old son, Jigar is also ill. 20 days ago, Jigar was taken to the Primary Health Centre (PHC) of Baragaon block. The PHC is 12 kilometers away from Anei village. Jigar was given some medicine at the PHC, which resulted in swelling all over his body [picture 2].

On 21 November 2007 the PVCHR took Gangajali and Jigar to the PHC. When they arrived at the PHC around 5pm, there was no doctor on duty. There was only one nurse on duty. The duty nurse prescribed two tablets for Gangajali and asked both Gangajali and Jigar to be admitted at the district hospital located in Varanasi city also informing them that Jigar's situation was very serious.

Around 7pm, they arrived at the Varanasi District Hospital -- the Din Dyal Upadhyay Hospital. The doctor advised Gangajali not to take the two tablets prescribed at the PHC since the tablets were harmful for her. The doctor also diagnosed that Jigar was suffering from drug poisoning. Jigar was asked to be admitted at the hospital. The doctor also prescribed some tablets for Jigar. But they had to buy some medicines from outside as the government pharmacy at the hospital did not have all the medicines prescribed by the doctor.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Gangajali is living with her family in Anei village, Baragaon block, Varanasi district. Gangajali and her husband are from the Musahar community. The Musahars are one of the most marginalised among the Schedule Caste communities in India. The community suffers from acute poverty and caste based discrimination in India.

Munna, the head of family is engaged in weaving carpets in Laipur village near Anei and earn about Rupees 1200 (USD 30) a month. This would amount to roughly Rupees 40 (USD 1) a day, which is much less than the minimum wage in India. Munna and Gangajali have three sons and a daughter. The family survives on breads made from millet and rice, eaten with salt. This situation has led to severe undernourishment of the family members. Such undernourishment has also led to the family members being prone to several ailments.

Despite being poor the family receives no benefits from any government schemes. Three years ago, Munna applied for a ration card to Mr. Makkhan Singh, a local middleman who collects illegal commissions for issuing ration cards in Anei village. But the family is yet to get a ration card. Munna is afraid to ask any further for obtaining a ration card since he fears that if he raises his voice against Makkhan, he would be beaten up in the village, since the family comes from a lower caste.

In fact, several Musahars families in Anei village are facing similar situation like Munna's family. Even though Anei village was declared as Ambedkar village, the living conditions of the Musahar community is worse than others since the government welfare schemes are denied to them.

Out of 57 Musahar families, only four have a red ration card which is issued to those who are the most marginalised among those are living below the poverty line. 16 families have no ration card at all like Munna's family and 12 families have yellow cards with which they cannot get any ration for subsidised price. In addition, these families are living in a hut since the Musahars are not allowed to own their own land.

Anei village is declared as an Ambedkar village. Declaring a village as an Ambedkar village implies that the government acknowledges that the members of the lower caste living in the village is large enough for the government to implement welfare schemes in the village specifically intended for the welfare of the members of the lower caste in the village. However, as evident from Anei village these declarations are only good enough in paper and fail to deliver anything to the poor or for that matter to any Dalits.

Please see HA-010-2007 for another case regarding caste discrimination and starvation in Ambedkar village. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar is the father of the Indian constitution and an icon of Dalit rights in India and neighbouring countries. Dr. Ambedkar was by birth from the Chamar community, which faces similar discrimination like the Musahars in India.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

For the poor people in Anei the PHC and the district hospital are far away from their reach. None of the government sponsored welfare schemes reach the Musahar community since it is denied to them due to caste based discrimination. Even if the sick reaches the hospital or the PHC, there is neither any experienced staff in any of these centres nor any medicine available.

As evident from this case the medicines prescribed and the treatments provided at the government centres are not good for vulnerable persons like the pregnant women or a new born baby. For more cases regarding the failure of government health service, please refer to UG-006-2007 and HA-012-2007.

The failure to issue of ration cards adds up to this situation, where the poor are denied adequate food. The poor are denied benefits from the National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBC) or the National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS), which is provided for those who are living below poverty line.

According to the NMBS, every pregnant woman who is living below the poverty line is entitled for Rupees 500 (USD 12.5), 8-12 weeks before delivery for the first two pregnancies. Under the NFBS, when the head of the family dies, the family is entitled for Rupees 10,000 (USD 250). However, a ration card is required as a proof of their income status. This means most families that do not have a ration card, even if they are poor will not be able to avail any of the above benefits.

As of now Gangajali and her son is taken care of by the PVCHR. For further information concerning the mother and the child please contact Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, the PVCHR, SA4/2A, Daulatpur, Varanasi – 221002, Uttar Pradesh, INDIA. Telephone +91-9935599333. Email: pvchr@yahoo.com

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to express your concern in this case. Please request the state government authorities to immediately intervene in this case so that the mother and child could be saved. Also request the government to immediately attend to the concern of other Musahar families in Anei village that require urgent attention. The AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Rapporteur on Right to Food calling for an intervention in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

Sample letter:

Ms. Mayawati
Chief Minister
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: + 91-522-2230002/2239234
E-mail: csup@up.nic.in

Dear Chief Minister,

INDIA: Please take immediate steps to save Ms. Gangajali and her son Jigar from starving to death

Name of victims: Ms. Gangajali, wife of Munna Lal, residing at Anei village, Baragoan block, Varanasi distirct, Uttar Pradesh
Location: Musahar colony in Anei village, Baragoan block, Varanasi distirct, Uttar Pradesh

I am writing to express my concern regarding the case of Ms. Gangajali and her two-year-old son Jigar. I am informed that Gangajali and Jigar are the residents of Anei village and belong to the Musahar community.

I am aware that the family is finding it difficult to have proper food every day since they are poor. I am aware that Mr. Munna Lal, Gangajali's husband and the only earning member of the family is only able to earn about Rupees 1200 per month which is not enough money even to buy food for the family. The couple has three sons and a daughter, of which Jigar is just two year old and is likely to die from starvation. In addition, Gangajali is in her advanced stage of pregnancy.

I am also informed that the mother and child were denied proper medical care at the nearest Public Health Centre in Baragaon, when they went there since the centre did not have a doctor or enough medicine. I am aware that Gangajali and her son is currently under the care of the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights. Gangajali and Jigar had received treatment at the Varanasi District Hsopital and that the situation of Jigar is critical.

I am also aware that the family does not have a ration card and that there are middlemen who collect bribes for issuing ration cards in Anei village. I am informed that out of 57 Musahar families 16 families are denied ration card in Anei alone, which must be immediately investigated by the district administration.

I therefore urge you to immediately intervene in this case and make sure that Gangajali and her son Jigar receives immediate medical attention and that the family also receives all benefits of the state government schemes for the poor and lower caste community in the state. I further urge you to immediately consider having a social audit of the government health care system in the state so that the defects in the system could be corrected.

I also urge you to direct the District Magistrate of Varanasi to visit Anei village and hear the grievances of the Mushar community living in the village and to take appropriate steps. I am aware that in the past your intervention has made considerable change in such matters whenever letters of concern have been received at your office. I hope your office will treat this case also with immediate attention and do the needful.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE ALSO SEND A COPY OF YOUR LETTER TO:

1. Ms. Veena Kumari
District Magistrate
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: 91 5422501450

2. The Secretariat
The Right to Food Campaign – India
Q - 21-B, Top Floor, Jungpura Extn.
New Delhi – 110014
INDIA
E-mail: righttofood@gmail.com 

3. The Regional Director
World Food Programme
Unit No. 2, 7th Floor
Wave Place Building
55 Wireless Road
Lumpini, Patumwan
Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Fax: +66-2-6554413

4. The Country Director
World Food Programme
2 Poorvi Marg, Vasant Vihar,
New Delhi 110057
INDIA
Fax: +91-11-26150019
E-mail: wfp.newdelhi@wfp.org

Thank you.

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

Document Type :
Hunger Alert Case
Document ID :
HA-015-2007
Countries :
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