Further to our first Hunger Alert, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received new information from the Social Development Foundation, Delhi, India about families on the verge of starvation in eastern part of Uttar Pradesh state. According to the information, the group of Dalits (‘untouchables’) known as Bansfors is facing imminent starvation due to loss of livelihood and the failure of local authorities to offer any assistance. Recent heavy rains have also seriously affected their living conditions.
The AHRC urges you to write to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to ensure that his government will intervene to guarantee the food rights of these people, and investigate the negligent local authorities.
Urgent Appeals Desk–Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
Location: Mahuabari village, Gorakhpur district, eastern Uttar-Pradesh
Persons affected: Thirteen Dalit families, named by the adult male as follows: 1. Niboo Lal s/o (son of) Late Buddhu; 2. Lal Chand s/o Jauhar; 3. Lal Bachan s.o Jauhar; 4. Laddoo s/o Jauhar; 5. Joginder s/o Jauhar; 6. Joginder s/o Jauhar; 7. Jai Prakash s/o Shiv Chand; 8. Mohan s/o Moti; 9. Bhota s/o Bhuvneshwar; 10. Pakhandi s/o Girdhar; 11. Laloo s/o Buddhu; 12. Munna s/o Raghuvir ; 13. Bablu s/o Lallan
Reasons for hunger: Landlessness; denial of access to natural resources; inaction and corruption among local authorities
The village of Mahuabari is situated some ten kilometers from Chauri-Chaura, a historic town in Gorakhpur district of eastern Uttar Pradesh. Thirteen landless Dalit (‘untouchable’) families there are approaching starvation, but none have received any support from the authorities. The children are ill with malnutrition-related fever. Recent heavy rains seriously damaged the mud huts they are living in, but none has been able to rebuild.
The families, from a Dalit group known as Bansfors, are working making baskets and fans from bamboo, which can earn them around 20-30 rupees per day (US$0.40-0.60), which has been a traditional occupation of the community. However, they have been banned from collecting bamboo in the forests, and they must pay for bamboo around their houses, which is owned by powerful caste people in the village. To get money with which to purchase bamboo or food, they must go to local moneylenders, who charge exorbitant rates.
Despite the fact that they are nearly starving, all but two of the families have been classified as Above Poverty Line by the authorities. This classification effectively denies them access to government support schemes and discounted rations. Widows have also not obtained pension entitlements from the government. One widow, Gujarati Devi, states that she lodged an application for a pension three years ago, but so far has received no information. Meanwhile, local authorities are understood to be using resources for social service programmes on other parts of the community while neglecting this group.
The Social Development Foundation has also expressed fear that the families may be displaced from their current location by plans for construction of a new road. It has petitioned the state government to investigate the case, issue appropriate ration cards for Below Poverty Line entitlements, involve the people in a food for work programme, and ensure their customary rights and land entitlements. It has also requested the state government to order an inquiry into the malpractices of the revenue department and other local officials who have failed to respond to the situation.
As the AHRC has pointed out on numerous occasions, Dalits and other marginalised groups in India typically do not have legal titles to anything. Across India, groups like these Bansfors lack title over even the smallest plots of land on which they may be allowed to live, on the fringes of towns and villages, until the concerned authorities find some alternative use for it.
Attempts to litigate in order to ensure these rights have met with some successes; however, how these have not gone far to challenge and affect change to the principles underlying the Indian social structure. This case and others like it all over India attest to a society where neither democracy nor human rights have had manifest influence on the distribution of resources. Groups that have historically suffered outrageous maltreatment at the hands of others, such as Dalits, deserve legal recognition of their entitlements not only for their own benefit, but in order that a genuine democracy may become possible in India.
Please write to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to demand that he intervene in this case. A sample letter follows.
To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER
Dear Mr Yadav
Re: Imminent starvation in Gorakhpur District
I am very concerned by reports of imminent starvation among a group of Bansfors in Gorakhpur district, eastern Uttar Pradesh.
According to information I have received, thirteen families in Mahuabari village, Sardana block, Gorakhpur district (ten kilometers from famous Chauri-Chaura town), are facing imminent starvation but none has received any support from the authorities. In fact, all but two families have been classified as Above Poverty Line. This is despite the fact that they have lost their access to free or affordable bamboo with which to make products for sale, are living in mud houses collapsing under the weight of recent rains, and have children suffering from malnutrition-related illnesses. Widows have also not obtained their pension entitlements. One widow, Gujarati Devi, has alleged that she lodged an application for a pension three years ago, but so far has received no information. There are also fears that the people may be dislodged from their current location by the construction of a new road.
The thirteen families, listed by adult male are as follows: 1. Niboo Lal s/o Late Buddhu; 2. Lal Chand s/o Jauhar; 3. Lal Bachan s.o Jauhar; 4. Laddoo s/o Jauhar; 5. Joginder s/o Jauhar; 6. Joginder s/o Jauhar; 7. Jai Prakash s/o Shiv Chand; 8. Mohan s/o Moti; 9. Bhota s/o Bhuvneshwar; 10. Pakhandi s/o Girdhar; 11. Laloo s/o Buddhu; 12. Munna s/o Raghuvir ; 13. Bablu s/o Lallan.
I would like to remind you that you have obligations under international and national law to all persons residing in the state of Uttar Pradesh to respect, protect and fulfil the right to food. In light of the many credible reports of hunger and starvation emanating from your state, particularly from among marginalised Dalit and Adivasi communities, I suggest that you should place highest priority on the fulfilling of these fundamental obligations.
I therefore urge you to order an investigation into conditions in Mahuabari village, with a view to securing the lives of the affected persons and preventing the outbreak of starvation among them. In particular, the concerned authorities should without delay review the affected persons’ classification as Above Poverty Line and instead issue appropriate ration cards for Below Poverty Line entitlements, involve the people in a food for work programme, and ensure their customary rights and land entitlements. Finally, I urge you to order an inquiry into alleged malpractices and negligence among revenue department officers and other local officials who have failed to respond to the situation.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister’s Secretariat
Fax: + 91-522-2230002/2239234
PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:
1. District Magistrate
2. Justice A. S. Anand
National Human Rights Commission
Sardar Patel Bhaven, Sansad Marg,
New Delhi 110 001
Tel: + 91 11 23346244
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3. Justice Ramesh Chandra Lahoti
Chief Justice of India
Supreme Court of India
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4. Justice A P Mishra
Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission
6-A Kalidass Marg
27 Park Road
Tel: + 91 532-2726742
Fax: + 91 532-2726743
5. Mr. Jean Ziegler
UNCHR Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
c/o Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Rue des Paquis 52, Geneva
Fax: 41 22 9179010
6. Mr Anthony Banbury
World Food Programme
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7. Mr Pedro Medrano Rojas
World Food Programme
2 Poorvi Marg,
New Delhi 110057
Urgent Appeals Programme–Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)