The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Relief rain comes two days too late

Mejia (Bankura), Sept. 9: The Bankura administration sent a medical team to Shamsood Sheikh’s house and took his wife and their three daughters to a health centre for check-up three days after he allegedly starved to death.

The 50-year-old labourer was hospitalised with pain in the chest and abdomen on Wednesday. He died a day later.

A medical team headed by Mejia block medical officer Samar Kumar Pati checked the mother and her daughters.

“Anisha and the youngest, Hamida, were very weak. They may be taken to the Bankura Medical College and Hospital tomorrow,” the doctor said.

Mejia block development officer (BDO) Aveek Kumar Das, who accompanied the medical team to Mahana village in the Ardhagram panchayat area of north Bankura, about 240km from Calcutta, took the family to hospital in his official car.

He said 10kg of rice would be allotted to the family next week.

Officials inspected their gloomy shanty yesterday and gave tarpaulin sheets and 20kg of rice.

It took journalists to inform the district administration about the hunger in the family.

“My husband did odd jobs and earned Rs 20-30 a day. But he could not work regularly as he was very weak most of the time,” said Anisha, who had eaten little for a week until yesterday, when officials trooped in with relief.

The administration is planning to provide the family a house under the Indira Awas Yojna. It has also promised primary education to Narashia, 8, Muroshia, 4, and Hamida, 2. They got new dresses today.

“We are trying to arrange all possible help for the family,” BDO Das said.

District magistrate Surendra Gupta, who came to know about the death from journalists, sent Das to inspect the family’s condition and submit a report.

“We will give the family Rs 10,000 as one-time aid after its inclusion in the below-poverty-line list,” the BDO said.

The family had earlier appealed to the administration to include them in the list, but in vain. Asked about the delay, the officer blamed Shamsood for not submitting an application.

“The appeal was made verbally. I’ve asked the local panchayat member to help them submit an application,” he said.

“I’ll try to get his family the BPL card at the earliest, though the last date of submitting applications was August 31,” he added.

Das denied that Shamsood died of starvation. “The family was very poor but I don’t think he died of starvation. He was very ill. Doctors at the local Belunia hospital said he died of cardiac and respiratory failure.”

Doctors say starvation, which lowers immunity, can bring many diseases and aggravate existing ones to the point where they can lead to death.

The local doctors confirmed that Shamsood was very weak when brought to the hospital and suffering from malnutrition.

“I’m thankful to the media. We are getting food, medicines and possibly a concrete house because of their attention,” Anisha said from her bed at the Mejia hospital.

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