State under lens for hunger deaths
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- Published 7.10.08
Ranchi, Oct. 6: The chief security of Jharkhand, A.K. Basu, is likely to earn the wrath of Supreme Court for the death of eight Birhors in Naxalite-hit Chatra district last Wednesday.
Claiming that the Birhors died of hunger, Balram, the Jharkhand adviser of N.C. Saxena, the commissioner of food security (appointed by Supreme Court), blamed the state government for the deaths.
He said a case would be lodged in the Supreme Court against the chief secretary of the state.
“During the field visit, I found that only one of the victim Birhor families had some maize grains. The rest had no foodgrain,” said Balram.
Balram, with Gurjit and Gopinath Ghosh, who have been working on the issue of food security, came back to the state capital today after visiting Hindaikala village of Paratapur block, where the hunger death incidents took place.
The team claimed that the victims had been going through “fourth grade” hunger (acute malnutrition).
They also said that the rest of the Birhor families in the village, too, were malnourished and might die any time if the administration failed to help them soon.
“The day the victims died, they had eaten some food, but could not digest them as they had not eaten for several days. They suffered from diarrhoea and later died,” Balram said.
The administration, however, refuted the claim of Balram saying the deaths had occurred due to food poisoning.
“All the deaths occurred last Wednesday between 8pm and 11pm. They had eaten pulses and rice that night,” said Chatra deputy commissioner Abu Bakr Siddique.
He said he had rushed a medical team to the affected village and distributed medicines among eight other families suffering from diarrhoea. He also said that 21 of the 50 Birhor families had Antodaya cards and the rest would soon be issued.
Balram, however, is not ready to buy the logic of Siddique. He warned that more hunger deaths might occur in Hindaikala village as the entire Birhor population was going through acute food shortage.
Balram also said that the government schemes like Antodaya Yojana, Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), Janani Suraksha Yojna, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) were yet to reach the Birhors of the Chatra district.
“The state government has sworn an affidavit in the Supreme Court that it has covered all the primitive tribes under Antodaya Yojana, but the reality is different,” Balram said, adding that he would submit his report directly to the Supreme Court and would urge the apex court to direct the state to take immediate step to curtail hunger death among primitive tribes.
A case in Supreme Court on hunger deaths in various places across the country has been going on from 2001 and the fresh case of Jharkhand would be added to it, Balram said.
The apex court had passed an order on May 8, 2002 in which it said that the chief secretary would be held responsible for any hunger death in the state.
But repeated attempts of The Telegraph to contact the Jharkhand chief secretary proved futile.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Arjun Munda has written to the President, the high court and the National Human Rights Commission to intervene in the “hunger deaths” of Birhors.