Sunday, October 30, 2005

A breif history of struggle against hunger in UP

A brief history of struggle against hunger in UP

Shiv Prasad Singh (Adv.) and Tanweer Ahmed Siddiqui (ADV.)

Chief secretary of UP Sri V.K. Mittal formulized some rules under DO No. 4426/29-6-2004-146/2004 dated 22 December 2004 for the disposal of complaints in relation to deaths caused by hunger and malnutrition. This formulation is result of ongoing strenuous campaign against hunger in UP. It is also mentioned in the rules, “. ----- In spite of that this fact has been brought into the knowledge of the Government that the cases of hunger and malnutrition, occurred at village level, are not attended within time and redressed. Such incidents of hunger and malnutrition are publicized by media / news papers and brought into the knowledge of supreme court commissioners by NGOs and due to this state government has to face unpleasant situations.” Thus it is clear that the rules dated 22-12-2004 have been formulized due to the initiative taken by and pressure created by media and various social organizations. Before the formulization of the rules dated 22-10-04, Special secretary of UP Government Sri Prabhat Chandra Chaturvedi had sent a letter (letter No. 3872/29-6-04) dated 9 Novermber 2004 to supreme court commissioners Mr.S.R. Shankaran and Mr. N.C. Saxena and in this letter UP Government had explicitly stated about the formulation of aforesaid rules dated 22Dec.2004. Let’s make a review of this.

On the complaint of Dr Lenin of PVCHR about the cases of malnutrition of children in Varanasi, and on the complaint of sri BD Rawat of social development foundation about starving people of Ghasia tribe of village Raup in Sonbhadra and on the complaint of a woman for not to get the benefit of state family benefit scheme, Hon’ble commissioners of supreme court issued notice on 22-9-04 to chief secretary of UP Government. A high level committee was formed under the chairpersonship of state commissioner of food and supply to make an enquiry in respect of aforesaid complaints. Enquiry committee made a visit of concerned places from 4-10-04 to 7-10-04. Enquiry committee visited to the office of PVCHR and met with children Chandan ,Malka and their father Mr. Umashankar, who had been suffering from IV Grade malnutrition due to prolonged hunger. Convener of PVCHR Dr. Lenin had a talk with the members of enquiry committee and pleaded that there was a need of emergency fund and accountability mechanism at village level to fight against hunger and malnutrition effectively. Dr. Lenin and Smt Shruti raised two main demands in their complaint dated 28 August 04 illustrating the case of Malka and Chandan. First demand was made that if information was not provided to district administration within time in the case of hunger and malnutrition then action should be taken against village Pradhan and village secretary. The other demand was to reject the registration of Manav Vikash Evam Uthan Samiti, which boasts to work for the welfare of children. It should be noted that village head Lalman Pal of village Rassipatti was associated with this samiti and which had its office at the distance of 100 metres from the house of the hunger stricken family. This incident of hunger and malnutrition was reported to AHRC in Hongkong and AHRC issued an appeal on his website which has a worldwide network of 2 million people and exerted pressure on state government of UP. On the other hand newspapers gave wide publicity to this case. Especially a journalist named Surojit Chetarji of Hindustan’ created pressure on district administration by continuous follow up of the case. And thus as a result of long battle UP Government got awakened and took initiative to formulize the rules of historical importance. Chief secretary Prabhat chaturvedi in his letter dated 9-11-04 to the commissioners of Supreme Court, promised to make an action plan to check the incidents of hunger and malnutrition. He commented “The incidents of hunger and malnutrition are taking place at village level. District administration and Government do not get the information of these incidents of remote villages within time. Therefore serious consideration is being made to give appropriate rights to the village level officials and to fix their accountability in this respect”

He further said, “At present sufficient fund has been made available to every district magistrate to provide help to needy people and direction has been given to them to provide instant help to avoid incidents of hunger and malnutrition.”

Thus due to continuous and effective advocacy done by PVCHR based on the facts, first time UP Government accepted that there had been problem of hunger and malnutrition in the state and had also identified slow down in handloom weaving industry and problem of unemployment among weavers. PVCHR thinks that it should be made an effective tool to protest the policies of WTO, World Bank and IMF. PVCHR has been campaigning against the policies of WTO and World Bank since 1996. On the initiative of PVCHR Colombo declaration was made on 30 May 2004, Banares declaration was issued on 26 June 2003 and in January 2005, South Asian People’s Conference was organized and a South Asian People’s Declaration was issued against the policies of Free trade and WTO, which are milestones in the struggle against hunger. On the death of 18 children caused by hunger and malnutrition, belonging to Ghasia Tribe who having displaced from Marcuri got settled at village Raup in district Sonbhadra, Dr. Lenin prepared an extensive report and complained with NHRC. NHRC expressing his serious concern over it, issued notice to chief secretary of U.P. government.

After that National Television & Media gave much publicity to this incident of children’s death and attracted the attention of various National & International Organization and inspired them to take initiative to stop such incidents. PVCHR has been working hard to organize the people of Ghasia Tribe. 70 Red Cards and 10 Annapurna Cards were distributed and an ICDS center was opened and now many children are joining school. PVCHR by developing cooperation with AHRC and VOP and by the help of MISEREOR (Germany) has advanced in the direction of making this Ghasia ghetto of Raup into an ideal village, which would be free from hunger and malnutrition within three year and Ghasia Tribe would be the center of establishment of people’s right against hunger and exploitation. The land on which people of Ghasia Tribe have been livings since 2000 belongs to Forest Department. PVCHR has been strengthening the struggle to ensure the possession of Ghasia Tribe over the land under section 122 B (4f), ZA&LR Act, and has also been struggling to ensure their right to vote.

Meanwhile PVCHR taking the matter of Ghasia Tribe of Raup village up sent a letter to NHRC on 7 September 2004,in which 62 hunger and malnutrition cases of death were reported in Eastern U.P. and a copy of this letter was also sent to the Commissioners of Supreme Court. Supreme Court Commissioners issued notice to Chief Secretary of U.P. Government and stated that Musahar, Nut, Kanjar & Weavers were in pitiable condition and deprived. Supreme Court Commissioner also proposed to setup an enquiry committee taking representatives of social organizations and civil society, to look in to the cases of deaths occurred in UP.

After this Musahar Vikas Pahal highlighted the hunger death of Nagina Mushar of Doghara village in Kushinagar District. On its report Ashok Sinha of Action Aid complained with Supreme Court Commissioners (SCC). SCC issued notice to Chief Secretary of U.P on 25 Nov.04. Government. Soon after this under the Right to Food campaign of UP, PVCHR, People’s Forum and Musahar Vikas Pahal having made a visit of Kushinagar prepared an elaborated report and sent it to the Supreme Court Commissioners and NHRC. NHRC in this respect issued notice to District Magistrate of Kushinagar. Dr. Lenin complained that Maharajgang District administration had cooperated with Musahar Vikas Pahal and had done good job for the upliftment of Musahar but Kushinagar District Administration had not been cooperating. After the notice of NHRC, District Administration of Kusinagar cooperated with Musahar Vikas Pahal, which has been symbol of people’s movement. To collect facts, to develop people’s movement and to increase the participation of victims have been strategy of PVCHR and Musahar Vikas Pahal in struggle against hunger and malnutrition and it has been very helpful for marginalized communities. This booklet based on critical study is being published with definite purpose to organize struggle against hunger and malnutrition and being requested to use it for people’s mobilization at large so that any official, responsible for hunger and malnutrition could be exposed and punished.

Thus on the basis of the facts as above mentioned it is clear that right to food is very much linked with the rule of law.

Brief of ruling of UP state dated 22 Dec. 2004:

Ø UP Government has accepted that there are cases of Malnutrition and Hunger in UP.

Ø An emergency fund has been established to provide immediate help to the hunger victims at village level.

Ø Rights have been given to Village secretary and village pradhan to provide the emergency help up to 1000 Rs. Per victim to all hunger victims in village.

Ø There has been established accountability mechanism from Village level to state level.

Dr. Lenin
Campaign Coordinator
Right to Food Campaign,UP
SA 4/2 A, Daualtpur, Varanasi-221002

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