|Hazaribagh Sadar Hospital where the mother-daughter duo died
Hazaribagh, Sept. 16: The starvation death yesterday of a 40-year-old woman who lived at a panchayat just 7km from the city inspired an embarrassed district administration today to pin the blame on illness and not hunger, the former being a normal and widely accepted cause of fatality.
A day after block development officer Sweta Vaidya blurted out “hunger death”, subdivisional officer of sadar block Rajeev Ranjan went into damage control mode and said Mosamat Geeta (40), who died at Hazaribagh Sadar Hospital, had been “suffering from a disease”.
The unnamed disease presumably killed her daughter Sangeeta (12) on September 13 in the same hospital and afflicted sole survivor Bangaru (6).
However, villagers of Shekha, Amnari panchayat, told Hazaribagh MP Yashwant Sinha this evening that the woman and her daughter starved to death.
A little probing reveals why it was so easy for a widow with two children to die of hunger. Geeta, whose labourer husband Sarju Ravidas died two years ago, worked in a brick kiln but malnourishment led to her deteriorating health. The kiln owner started refusing her work.
Three months ago, a panicky Geeta decided to marry off Sangeeta and borrowed Rs 2,000 for the purpose from local fair price shop dealer Prawil Mahto. Though Geeta was eligible for 35kg of foodgrain under Antyodaya Anna Yojana, Mahto decided to give her 20kg to “recover his money”.
Dileep Kumar Das, Geeta’s neighbour, alleged they complained against Mahto at the block office in vain. Without money and with too little grain, Geeta and her children found it hard to survive.
With Geeta and Sangeeta dead, Mahto has disappeared. Subdivisional officer Ranjan, who hinted of taking action against him, said district supply officer Xavier Herenz had been assigned the task of verifying the foodgrain-shortfall allegation and submit a report.
Though Ranjan admitted no foodgrain had been found at Geeta’s house, he supplied a litany of contradictory “facts” — Geeta had been “getting food from her close relative Lakhi Devi” and had been too ill to cook in her final days.
Lakhi, whose home is a kilometre from Geeta’s, frankly said: “I gave her food occasionally when I could. Geeta and Sangeeta died due to hunger and district officials are now trying to cover up the matter.”
Villagers also accused BDO Vaidya of ignoring the seriousness of the matter.
On Bangaru, Ranjan said he had offered to deposit Rs 15,000 in a bank account for the boy for his use at 18. “I have asked their relatives to send the boy to an orphanage,” he added.