The Telegraph
Saturday , March 15 , 2014
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‘Hunger’ kills HIV man with food card

An HIV positive man’s death, allegedly from starvation, in Patamber village of Jamui district has exposed the state government’s tall claims about welfare measures.

The family of the 32-year-old deceased has an Antyodaya card which promises foodgrain at subsidised rate. But, owing to non-allotment of foodgrain in Sikendra block for the past three months, they had not received any benefit. Even after the man’s death, his kin have not received any help under any scheme.

Rambriksha Mahato, a social worker who has been collecting donations for the family, said he was disturbed by society’s indifference to an HIV positive family. “We will raise these issues when candidates come to ask for votes,” he said. Candidates eager to sell their development agendas will face a tough time here.

The daily wage labourer died on March 12. “For the past three-four months, my husband could not work because of his condition. We had to beg and sometimes social workers like Rambriksha Mahato helped us. We did not have any food for the past four days,” said his widow. On February 25, the deceased had called on Sikendra block development officer Amarendra Kumar Amar and handed him an application where he pointed out his family’s poverty and expressed fears he would die of starvation.

Amar admitted the same. He said: “Some social workers, too, approached me seeking help for the man, but since we don’t have any scheme to help him, we were helpless.”

The man’s 28-year-old widow, also HIV positive, said: “I have a nine-year-old daughter, a five-year-old boy who is HIV positive and a 7-month old baby boy. I have no money to carry out tests on the infant. Besides, I also have to support my 70-year-old father-in-law.”

The family received the first Indira Awas instalment two years ago but due to non-payment of the second instalment, the house could not be completed. They lived in a hut. Around six months back they sold 2 cottahs of agricultural land “after doctors advised me not to feed the infant as I am HIV positive”, said the widow.

No political leader was willing to comment on the episode. Jamui district magistrate Sashi Kant Tiwary was not available for comment. His cellphone was switched off. Sub-divisional officer Ramendra Kumar was not ready to admit it was a starvation death, saying the youth died because of AIDS. When asked about the dead man’s application expressing fears he would die of starvation. “I will look into the matter,” Tiwary said.