The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hunger' Not if there is water

Purulia, June 15: Haldi Mahali died on his wife’s lap on June 3, gulps of water his sole source of sustenance in the last three days of his life.

Before that he survived on Rs 5.47 a day.

The cold statistic is unlikely to surprise the poverty-busters of Purulia ' Haldi himself had narrated his plight at a public hearing two months ago.

“My husband had only water to drink for three days. He died with his head on my lap,” his wife Basanti told The Telegraph today.

But starvation death is a phrase that will not enter official records in a hurry. “Haldi died of illness, not starvation,” said Purulia district magistrate Mukul Sarkar.

As the administration was probing the cause of Haldi’s death, an adviser to the Supreme Court’s commissioner on right to food and work had issued a starvation alert to the government.

“My fear is that other people' will also meet Haldi Mahali’s fate. I appeal to you to take prompt action,” Anuradha Talwar wrote to the chief secretary.

At least three blocks 'Balarampur, Santuri and Puncha (Haldi’s home), 260 km from Calcutta ' are in the grip of hunger.

At the public hearing organised by a farmers’ body and a women’s organisation, Haldi had said his annual income was Rs 2,000. However, his name was not on the below poverty list, though its cut-off mark is Rs 6,000 a year.

District magistrate Sarkar said today that after getting an application from Haldi on March 11 for an Antodaya Anna Yojna card, 10 kg of rice and Rs 30 in cash was given to him. The cardholders are allowed to buy foodgrain at nominal rates.

But Basanti denied having received any such relief.

Chief secretary Asok Gupta said tonight he had asked the district magistrate to look into the complaints of poverty.

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