Monday, November 27, 2006


CHAT SESSION WITH CHIEF JUSTICE HILARIO DAVIDE: "Chat Session with Chief Justice Hilario Davide"

Why Karmeena Musahar died

Why Karmeena Musahar died

By Anosh Malekar

Five children have died of hunger-related causes in the Musahar community of eastern UP since May 2006. Entire families in this and other communities in the state are starving. In addition to extreme poverty, the Musahars’ low status in the caste hierarchy keeps them out of government food and employment schemes. As India claims to join the league of globalised nations, it cannot ignore these everyday realities of millions of its citizens.

All was quiet when we reached the village. There was no visible sign of the death that had occurred the previous night. It was not the first time the predominantly upper-caste Thakur-Brahmin village of 6,000 people was witnessing a death in the tiny settlement of Musahars, a community that has unfortunately become known as the “rat-eaters”.

Belwa is about 25 km from Varanasi in eastern Uttar Pradesh, on a flat land of mango groves and rice fields. The village is approached by an 8-km dust track off the Varanasi-Lucknow highway.

On August 31, 10-year-old Karmeena Musahar had come in the morning to the community centre and informal school run by a Varanasi-based NGO. That evening she ate some rice and vomited. She got a high fever and by 1 a m on September 1 she was dead. "She went peacefully,” her grandmother, Hirawati, said.

Karmeena's father Buddiraj was away with the men in the community to perform the final rites when we got there around noon. Her grieving mother Badama spoke about their impoverished existence while feeding morsels of coarse rice to her surviving sons, four-year-old Monu and two-year-old Jadu.

There was little to eat in the house for three months. Buddiraj and Badama are bonded labourers on a brick kiln, which was closed for the monsoon. They had taken an advance of Rs 1,000 from the brick kiln owner, Ramashray Singh, the previous season and were struggling to pay back the last few instalments totalling Rs 300. The family was surviving on rice, grain chaff, salt and chillies.

The pradhan (village head), Rajendra Tiwari, said this was not unusual. The Musahars have always lived in abject poverty. "They are our praja (subjects) and but for our benevolence would all have died of hunger," he said magnanimously.

Karmeena is the fifth child in Belwa to die of hunger-related causes since May 2006. Nine-month-old Seema Musahar died on July 28 after desperate attempts by her mother Laxmi to get Rs 1,000 from the Varanasi district magistrate’s emergency funds. Seema too had developed high fever and Laxmi had to pawn two old saris to get some money to treat her, which was not enough to save her.

Like most Musahar couples, Laxmi and her husband are bonded labourers at a brick kiln, drawing pitiful amounts of low-quality grain and chaff as payment. Laxmi's father Phoolchand also recently died of starvation.

The Varanasi-based People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR) and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) have documented these deaths, along with those of Muneeb Musahar, a three-year-old boy of the same village who died on May 29, Monu Musahar, a one-year-old boy and a newborn baby girl, who died without a name.

The organisations wrote to the district and state authorities that at least 30 of the 100 Musahar families in Belwa were starving to death. Most of these families were cooking food only once a week. They had no access to foodgrain from the public distribution system or any of the government assistance programmes.

When no one responded, the PVCHR and AHRC wrote to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Planning Commission. The district administration moved only after the NHRC issued a notice seeking explanations for the hunger deaths. The Hong Kong-based AHRC wrote to the authorities in New Delhi and took the case of the starving Musahars to the United Nations (UN), the international media and other rights groups. It also demanded that the State Human Rights Commission in Uttar Pradesh conduct impartial inquiries into the starvation deaths.

Lenin Raghuvanshi of the PVCHR said the authorities are inactive and hostile because the village headman, the district magistrate and other functionaries are “caste-conscious feudalists with an interest in keeping the Musahars as social outcastes”. When the DM, Rajeev Agarwal, finally visited Belwa, he only talked to the headman.

In a statement on July 27, the AHRC and PVCHR said, "India is trying to project itself as a State looking forward to a place in the league of developed nations. It has put a claim, as a leading Asian and global power, to permanent membership in the UN Security Council. However, the true measure of development is not economic growth: it is human dignity. By that measure India is among the least developed nations in the world."

High on hunger, low on development

One out of every three malnourished children in the world lives in India. As India claims to move towards becoming a global power, it has to face the fact that 46% of its under-three children are too small for their age. India has little chance of meeting a key United Nations Millennium Development Goal that aims to halve the prevalence of underweight in pre-school children by 2015.

In ‘India: Malnutrition Report’ the World Bank observes that malnutrition in India is a concentrated phenomenon—five states and 50% of villages account for about 80% of the malnutrition cases. Half of the country’s malnourished children live in rural areas. Boys and girls from the scheduled tribes account for 56.2% of the malnourished children. Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, all with a sizeable adivasi population, account for about 43% of India’s hungry children.

The Musahar children would be among the 60 million malnourished children in India that another recent World Bank report titled ‘India's Undernourished Children: A Call for Reform and Action', speaks of. They remain hungry in spite of the world’s largest feeding programme for school children. Often the mid-day meal in school is the only meal that children like Karmeena and Seema can get to eat all day.

Although the central government-sponsored mid-day meal scheme excludes children attending non-government aided schools, the programme, launched in August 2005, was expected to provide one cooked meal of 300 calories and 8-10 grams of protein content to about 12 crore children in more than 9 lakh primary schools across India.

The Musahars are recognised as a scheduled caste (SC). They survive on the margins of villages in isolated settlements. Their traditional occupation was hunting out rats from burrows in the fields. In return they were allowed to keep the grain and chaff recovered from the rat holes. In times of drought and food scarcity, the Musahars would resort to eating rats. Many Musahar families work as bonded labourers at brick kilns.

The Musahars have mostly been denied the benefits of the government’s food security and employment guarantee schemes. When they demand their rights, as they did in Varanasi district last year, the upper castes abused them and the official machinery said they were Naxalites.

In the eastern UP districts of Varanasi, Sonbhadra, Jaunpur, Khusinagar and Mirzapur, where Musahar deaths are frequently reported, only 31% of the children under-six years are covered by the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), according to a study done by the PVCHR and based on the government’s own figures. At least 71 ICDS projects in addition to the existing 64 are required to cover the entire Musahar population. Some 20% of the existing anganwadi worker posts and 30% of anganwadi helper’s posts are vacant.

The PVCHR found that the five districts have utilised about 75% of the allocated funds and 56% of sanctioned foodgrains under the Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana. The National Food for Work scheme at Sonebhadra, Mirzapur and Khusinagar districts has only used 7.5% of funds and 8.6% of foodgrains so far.

The darkest of conditions

Deaths related to starvation have been reported in other very backward communities of Uttar Pradesh, like the Nuts, a community of alms-seekers, the Ghasias or grass cutters, and the Bankars or weavers. In the weavers' colony of Baghwa Nala in Varanasi, thousands of looms are lying idle because cheap Chinese yarn and silk fabric imports have deluged the Indian market. Scores of weavers who made the famous Banarasi silk saris are out of work and facing starvation.

The Human Resource Development Ministry recently underlined the need to broaden the mid-day meal scheme to include children from non-government aided schools. But state government officials often resist helping schools run by certain minority groups or allow the scheme to exclusively benefit certain caste groups. Antyodaya ration cards and cash compensations for hunger-related deaths come only after much hue and cry by human rights organisations.

The Musahars continue to be ignored in spite of the fact that parties with a backward caste base, like the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party have been ruling the state in recent years. "The BSP cares only about Chamars, while the SP would not like to alienate its core constituency of other backward castes, who are the main exploiters of the Musahars," according to Raghuvanshi.

Union rural development minister Raghuvansh Pratap Singh visited Banthu village in Vaishali district of Bihar after 25 persons died of kala-azar (or ‘black fever’, a chronic and potentially fatal parasitic disease of the internal organs) in six months. Banthu has a sizeable Musahar population and is surrounded by a host of ‘VIP constituencies’ represented by Singh, Ram Vilas Paswan, George Fernandes and Rabri Dev.

"Kala-azar affects Musahars more than other communities because they are starving. The World Health Organisation has set 2015 for its eradication. But as long as the Musahars continue to face food scarcity I do not see any relief from kala-azar in north Bihar," said Reghupati (who is also Singh’s brother) of the Delhi-based Confederation of NGOs of Rural India.

Fellow activist and Bihar Panchayat Helpline convener Amar Thakur said the current kala-azar eradication programme was so devised that the impoverished Musahar had to spend nearly Rs 2,000 on tests to confirm the disease before they could become eligible for free treatment. Bihar accounts for 90% of all kala-azar cases, which affect 19 districts and close to 2 lakh people. Cases are also reported in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Jammu and Kashmir, where migrant labourers appear to have carried the disease, said Thakur.

About 300 Musahar families live in Banthu. In January, two brothers in their 30s died of extended starvation and kala-azar. The deaths led to protests by Reghupati and fellow activists. The district administration finally responded with Rs 25,000 cash compensation and a pucca house each for the widows, Sivanti Devi and Manju Devi, under the Indira Awaas Yojana.

The cash went into repaying old loans. There was little food to eat inside the pucca houses when we visited them in early-September. "We do not know how our children will survive the starvation after their fathers. Looking at how things have turned out for us, it is better if they never have to face such a future," the women said.

The Musahars live in dilapidated mud and straw huts surrounded by pools of stagnant water during the monsoon, which are a breeding ground for the sand fly that causes kala-azar. “People need food first before they can think of hygiene or proper housing or education,” Reghupati said. “Dealing with kala-azar means dealing with poverty and hunger. Nobody wants to do that in these times of globalisation."

The working group on elementary education in Delhi, of which the mid-day meal is a part, is preparing a strategy for the Eleventh Plan (2007-12). Perhaps it will have spared a thought for India’s 60 million hungry children before submitting its recommendations by the end of September. Otherwise, the government may have to think of more excuses for letting children starve to death.

A hungry generation

Under-nutrition, low weight, chronic illness, stunted growth—all are widespread among children in India

Inadequate or unbalanced diets and chronic illness are associated with poor nutrition among children. Almost half the number of children under three years of age (47%) are underweight. A similar number (46%) are stunted. As many as 18% of children are severely undernourished in terms of weight-for-age and 23% according to height-for-age.

Even during the first six months of life, when most babies are breastfed, 9-15% of children are undernourished according to the three indices -- ?weight-for-age, height-for-age, and? weight-for-height. At 24–35 months, when most children have been weaned from breast milk, almost one-third are severely stunted and almost one-quarter are severely underweight.

‘Wasting’ affects 16% of children under three years of age in India. The proportion of children who are undernourished increases rapidly with the child’s age through 12-23 months.

Overall, girls and boys are equally undernourished, but girls are more likely than boys to be underweight and stunted, whereas boys are more likely to be wasted. Under-nutrition generally increases with the birth order. Young children in families with six or more children are nutritionally the most disadvantaged. First births have lower than average levels of under-nutrition on almost all the measures, and children born after a short birth interval are more likely than other children to be stunted or underweight.

Under-nutrition is substantially higher in rural areas than in urban areas. Even in urban areas, more than one-third of children are underweight or stunted. Children whose mothers are illiterate are twice as likely to be undernourished as children whose mothers have completed at least high school. The differentials are greater in the case of severe under-nutrition.

The nutritional status of children is strongly related to the nutritional status of their mothers. Under-nutrition is more common for children of mothers whose height is less than 145 centimetres or whose body mass index is below 18.5.

All the measures of under-nutrition are strongly related to the standard of living. Children from households with a low standard of living are twice as likely to be undernourished as children from households with a high standard of living.

Hindu and Muslim children are equally likely to be undernourished, but Christian, Sikh and Jain children are considerably better nourished. Children from scheduled castes, scheduled tribes or other backward classes have relatively high levels of under-nutrition according to all measures. Children from scheduled tribes have the poorest nutritional status and a high prevalence of wasting (22%).

Inadequate nutrition is a problem throughout India, but the situation is considerably better in some states. Under-nutrition is most pronounced in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan. Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu are characterised by high levels of wasting among children. Nutritional problems are the least evident in Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, and Kerala. Even in these states, however, the levels of under-nutrition are unacceptably high.

Source: NFHS (National Family Health Survey) report

(Anosh Malekar is an independent journalist based in Pune)
InfoChange News & Features, October 2006

Monday, October 16, 2006



Sunita , owner of Danish Books has been summoned by the Chandrapur Police for interrogation today, 16 October 2006 along with Sh. Vijay Vairagade, a local social activist and his 16 year old son who is a minor. The police claim that they have clinching evidence against Sunita which proves beyond doubt that she has Maoist affiliations and is indulged in activities which are subversive in nature. However, the local thana and the police is not ready to part with any information regarding these charges to the lawyers who are there to represent Sunita.

It has been claimed by the police that Sunita belongs to Jehanabad of Bihar and her first husband was killed in police encounter. They also claim that 15% of the literature seized from the stall of the Daanish Book is of offensive nature and supports the politics of the Maoists.

To put the record straight Sunita has no connection with Jehanabad. Her parental family hails from Naugachiya District of Bihar. Actually by establishing a relationship between her and Jehanabad which is known for Naxal politics the MH police want to prove that she is also a naxalite. The police claim about her first husband being killed in police action is also a issue of imagination. Her first husband is a known leftist political activist and is based at Patna and very much alive. She is now married to Shri Dhruva Narayan, a reputed publisher, who has to his credit titles by Noam Chomsky, Samir Amin, Tariq Ali and other nationally and internationally reputed authors. Sunita has been active in student and women's movements and has worked with the National Commission for Women, a statutory body constituted by the Government of India for two years. She has also worked with Books For Change, a subsidiary of the ActionAid India, an international agency .

Sunita is a known publisher and distributor and she visits all major book exhibitions and fairs and put up her stall everywhere. As publisher and distributor gets calls from all kinds of people and they also visit her stalls. Chandrapur being on centre of police action against naxal activities in the region, police use their extraordinary powers to harass anybody. For last few months they have been raiding the houses of social activists and journalists and seizing books and implicating them in false criminal cases. According to reliable sources, the Chandrapur police intends to book Sunita under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

One needs to recall that yesterday on 15 october,2006 in a shocking and bizarre incident the Maharashtra Police, Chandrapur had seized 41 books from the stall of Daanish Books, which were displayed in the book exhibition which is held every year on 15-16 October, on the occasion of the Deeksha Day celebrations to mark the day when Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism 50 years ago . The books seized by the police for containing dangerous , anti state material include books like Marathi translation of the Thoughts of Bhagat Singh, Ramdeen Ka Sapna by B.D. Sharma, Jati Vyavastha- Bhartiya Kranti Ki Khasiyat by Vaskar Nandy, Monarchy Vs Democracy by Baburam Bhattarai, Nepali Samargaatha: Maowadi Janyuddha ka Aankhon Dekha Vivaran (The Hindi edition of eminent American Journalist Li Onesto's celebrated book Dispatches from the People's War in Nepal, Translated by Anand Swarup Varma), Daliton par Badhati Jyadatiya aur Unka Krantikari Jawab, Chhapamar Yudhha by Che Guevara and books on Marxism and Leninism and people's struggles. Non of the books seized by the police is banned or declared offensive by any state agencies.

A contingent of nearly 70 armed policemen surrounded the stall of Daanish Books this afternoon and remained there for more than three hours, making a list of books they wanted to seize. Earlier they made a list of more than 200 books. After a long argument Sunita had on telephone with the Chandrapur S.P., they removed many books and left with 41 books some of which have been mentioned above. They left the place after threatening Sunita that she would be arrested as they had information that she had Maoist links. When contacted, the S.P. assured Sunita that nothing would happen to her and he would personally come to see her next morning. But press circle is abuzz with rumours that Sunita might be arrested tomorrow as police suspect her to be a member of some Maoist outfit.

Friends, Sunita and Daanish Books are a familiar feature of many pro-people programmes or events where they put up their stalls unfailingly. They are publishers of repute with strong pro-people leanings. They publish and display books which are at many times critical of the state policies. Is it a crime to publish and display such books in a democracy like India? That such an action can be taken by the police without any hesitation shows that India is fast turning into a police-state and police feels free to indulge in such unlawful activities in the name of containing terrorism. They can seize books, arrest people and even kill them without any fear of public outrage.
We express our solidarity with Sunita and her colleagues at Daanish Books and condemn this highhandedness of the Chandrapur Police. We demand a statement from the Home Minister, Maharashtra on this incident.

This is an appeal to all of you to condemn this highhandedness of Chandrapur police and a request to all of you write to the S.P., Chandrapur condemning this incident and asking for their apology.

Telephone and Fax numbers of SP and DM of Chandrapur:
SP--Mr. Kadam 07172-255202 Fax: 07172-255800, Mobile: 09822943358
DM--Mr. Sanjay Jaisawal 07172-255300

Apoorvanand, Unv. Of Delhi
Shabnam Hashmi, ANHAD
Ram Puniyani, AISF, Mumbai
Anand swaroop verma, Freelance journalist and writer
Aditya nigam, Fellow, CSDS
Khurshid anwar, ISD
Nivedita Menon, Unv of Delhi
Purushottam Agrawal, JNU
Dilip Simeon, Fellow, Nehru museum amd Teen Murti Library,
Jamal Kidwai, Aman Trust
Charu Gupta, Fellow, Nehru Memorial Library
Mukul Sharma, Amnesty International, India
Vijay Pratap, Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam
Imtiaz Ahmad, JNU
Poorva Bhardwaj, Nirantar
Jaya Mehta, Sandarbh Kendra, Indore, IPTA
Vineet Tiwari, Gen. Secretary, MP Progressive Writers' Association, Sandarbh Kendra, IPTA
Nasirruddin haider Khan, Journalist, Lucknow
Arshad Ajamal, Social Activist, Patna
Rupesh, , Social Activist, Patna
Kavita Srivastava, PUCL, Jaipur
Premkrishna Sharma, PUCL, New Delhi
Piya Chatterji
Anil Chaudhary, INSAF
Prabhakar Sinha, PUCL
Vijay Singh, Delhi University
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Rajni Tilak, NACDOR
Harjinder Singh, Hyderabad
Gautam Navlakha
Anil Sadgopal
Hari Lamba
Hari Sharma, SANSAD
D Narasimha Reddy, Hyderabad
Ganesh N Devy, Baroda
Kamla Prashad, National Progressive Writer's Association
Tanvir Akhtar, IPTA
Bhanu Bharati, Playwright and threatre director
Alok Rai, Professor, Deptt of English, DU
Arun Kumar, JNU
Subodh Malakar, JNU
Kamal Nayan Kabra, IIPA
Ashok Vajpeyi, Poet
Vishnu Nagar, Poet and Journalist

Friday, September 29, 2006

Four dead and still counting

Four dead and still counting
[ 24 Sep, 2006 0046hrs IST TIMES NEWS NETWORK ]
BELWA (VARANASI DISTRICT): It's noon by the time Laxmina gets around to cooking but food's ready in a jiffy. Four rotis and a bowl of water in which she dissolves some salt. Dip, dip, dip...and three hungry kids gulp down their first and last meal of the day.

"By evening they will be crying again but I'll just give them a slap or two and they will quieten down and go to sleep," she says. Her face is deadpan but her voice betrays her desperation. It's been only a month since her nine-month-old daughter Seema died hungry and sick.

Before that in June, Laxmina lost her father Phoolchand. It's the monsoon months that are the worst in Belwa. With the brick kilns where most of this hamlet's Musahars work closed from July to October, death is forever at the door.

Bhotu, a 55-year-old bonded labourer freed some years ago, rattles off the names of those who have succumbed in the last two months: Muneeb, Monu, Seema and Karmina all aged between nine months and eight years.

Though the district administration claims the kids died because of various ailments, the villagers hotly contest this. "We cook once in three or four days, can our children be healthy?" asks Kismati, whose three-year-old son Muneeb died on May 29.

Just three days earlier, the primary health centre at Baragaon had recorded that the child weighed only 10 kg and suffered from severe malnutrition.

In a health check of children in Belwa, People's Vigilance Council for Human Rights (PVCHR), an organisation that works in the area, found that more than 80% of kids were malnourished.

"But it took three deaths for the district authorities to issue Antodaya Ann Yojna (AAY) cards (which entitles the holder to 35 kg of rice and wheat at a subsidised price of Rs 95)," says Lenin Raghuvanshi of PVCHR.

Before that they survived on low-quality grain and chaff doled out to them by the kiln owner instead of cash or just starved. "We go to work even when someone has died and the body is at home.

But even though the money is so little (Rs 140 for 1,000 bricks), the worst is when the kilns are closed. Then the people start dying," says Bhotu. And it starts with the children.,curpg-2.cms

Heart of darkness
Neelam Raaj

[24 Sep, 2006 0050hrs IST TIMES NEWS NETWORK]

Food is precious here. Be it scouring harvested cornfields to collect the scraps that have fallen unnoticed or following field rats to their burrows to scrape out stored grain, no effort is spared.

In tougher times, even undigested grain from cow dung is washed, cooked and eaten. For the Musahars of eastern UP, the battle to stave off hunger is fought grain by precious grain.

"Our life is worse than rats. Even they get more to eat than us." Coming from a Musahar, which literally means rat-eater the statement's no exaggeration. All around the narrow strip of land on which their small hutments stand are lush corn and paddy fields but the best they can hope for is one square meal a day.

Without land, even that's hard to come by. Of the five lakh Musahars in eastern UP, only 0.5% own land. Most don't own the land their huts stand on. Work is scarce, too. With mechanization reducing the demand for agricultural labour, they toil away at brick kilns and stone quarries for meager wages or subsist on sale of minor forest produce.

In this scenario, government schemes such as PDS, ICDS and mid-day meal could be the proverbial lifelines but they aren't. Complaints pour in from village after village.

"I can afford to lift only 10 kg of grain but the quotedaar (as the ration shop owner is called here) fills the entire amount in the ration book. He makes entries for three months even when I haven't bought anything," says Mahendra, a white-card holder from a village in Bhadohi district.

Colour coding has been used to distinguish ration cards ever since the introduction of the targeted public distribution system in 1997, with white denoting BPL families and red for severely impoverished families who are eligible for Antodaya Ann Yojna (AAY) cards.

At the Musahar basti in Gohilaon, Geeta has neither food nor a ration card. "My husband and I make mahua leaf pattals but we get only Rs 10 every second day. When my children cry too much, I go and beg for some food," she says, as an emaciated three-year-old clings to her.

Ramani, a widow, is one of the 11 in the hamlet of 35 families who has a red card. But unable to afford even the Rs 95 needed for lifting her quota of ration, she sold her card for a few kilos of rice.

"Complaints of large-scale irregularities in PDS have been pouring in. But all that the administration does is temporarily suspend the licence of a ration shop owner. In no time, they're back in business," says Rolee Singh, whose NGO Paharua recently held a public hearing in Bhadohi to draw attention to the issue.

If PDS and ICDS have failed the Musahars, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) hasn't come to their aid either. A case in point is Mirzapur district's Damahi village.

Jaisingh, who has been toiling at a stone quarry for over 10 years to pay off a debt of Rs 15,000, hasn't heard of the scheme or the promised 100 days of work though his village falls under it. Every day, he walks 15 km to the quarry even as the road leading to his village is laid by migrant labourers.

Paid a measly Rs 10 for a three-foot-long stone, he knows his loan will never be repaid or his stomach ever be full. Damahi's Musahar tola, which had five starvation deaths last October, has no anganwadi. The mid-day meal is served at the local school but discrimination persists. "If we are employed as cooks, children of other castes refuse to eat.

Even our children are made to sit separately in school and fed half of what the other kids get," complains a Musahar woman. Musahars are the "outcastes within the outcastes" and lack any kind of social status, explains Samar Pandey, a research scholar at JNU who has conducted several studies in the area.

"They lack even the institutional relationship of jajmani under which a landowning family lets a Dalit live and work on their land. Musahar women don't even get the mandatory saree gift on festivals or when the landlord's son is getting married."

Shunned and starving, that's life for the Musahars.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

EN SKOLA och 24 timmars kök för 500 svältdrabbade barn

Jag skrev 300 barn dock har jag precis fått ett email från PVCHR som säger att en färsk beräkning säger 500 barn som lider av svält. Donera generöst snälla!! Kram-Parul

EN SKOLA och 24 timmars kök för 500 svältdrabbade barn

Kära vänner,

Jag är så oerhört tacksam för ert fantastiska och kontinuerliga stöd. Jag undrar om era vänner/familjer/företag skulle vara intresserade av att skänka pengar, allt från 1 krona till 49 000 SEK. Jag har ett organisationsnummer skulle det behövas för företagssponsring. Företag får gärna skylta med sin sponsring på alla möjliga sätt.

Jag har undersökt med mina olika kontakter i Indien, och hittat ett svält drabbat område med 10 byar som innefattar 500 barn i Uttar Pradesh. Gruppen heter PVCHR och har jobbat i området i 13 år. Vår skola/24 timmars köket kan, enligt PVCHR placeras på ett sätt så att skolan/köket är tillgängligt för alla byar att ta sig till. Jag kommer att personligen vara i området så fort jag har pengarna som behövs.

Skolan/köket kommer att ha mat 24 timmar om dygnet och lärare och sk. social workers under dagen. Tanken är; först mat, växande tillit till sin omgivning och sedan lek och skola.

Budgeten för detta är till en början ca. 400 000 Indiska rupees, dvs. ca. 60 000 SEK, jag har 11 000 SEK och behöver enbart 49 000 SEK.

Projektets konto är NORDEA: 3480 5634235

Tusen tack för varenda krona som ni stöttat dessa barn med,

Kramar- Parul

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Interview – Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi

Interview – Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi

The situation of the untouchables from what it was in the 1947 has changed in theory as we look at it today. However, this change is negligible. The change in the approach by the upper caste towards the lower caste has also changed. In the past, I am told, that if anyone from the lower caste some 40 years ago breached the unwritten law of caste hierarchy, the person would be beaten up in public. Now the person will be shot and the village burned down and the women raped. Yet we say that there are laws in place in India which prevent such atrocities from happening. It is a big joke.

Say, for example, before a few years there was no law to punish crimes committed against the people from the lower caste. Now we have a law. The people who need to enforce this law are still the upper caste and those from the lower caste who are into law enforcing agencies are a small minority. The excuse is the members from the lower caste are not qualified on the ground that they are physically unfit, and do not have enough education. How on earth can these people be ever fit, if they starve for almost half of their life, if they are denied admission to schools and if their parents will have to engage in bone breaking work in remote areas and the children are also expected to work with their parents even if they are six or seven years in age. How can one expect a person from such background compete with the physique of a person form the upper caste who is fed with the best food and is privileged to get better education? Those who are lucky to somehow to get appointed in the police or other offices are either appointed at the lowest possible position as peons or cleaners and in the police as constables. They are just there to survive and are under the threat of their superior officers who are also corrupt to the root. Soon, to survive these persons also will become corrupt and would do no good to the community they come from and will not even help their own family. Several of them get converted to other religion so that they will be no more be associated with their original caste or community. So it is possible, that many of such converts would never show any sympathy to the members of their former community.

There is considerable amount of conspiracy, nationwide, against the lower caste. This was evident from the nationwide spell of destruction of statues of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. It is an irony that he is the father of the Indian Constitution and also a dalit who fought his way in the caste ridden society. The destruction of Amebkar statue happened in several places in Uttar Pradesh also. In one such incident, which happened in Piyari village, the people from the lower caste tried to fight against those who came to destroy the statue. To their surprise they found that among those who came to destroy the statue there were police officers also. The people from the Dalit caste faced them with sticks and tried in vain to prevent the distraction. The result was that the local police registered a case and a counter case. One against those who came to destroy the statue and one against those who tried to prevent the destruction. Of course when the police registered the case, they conveniently avoided those from the police department. The case was filed in a local court. However, soon to the surprise of the upper caste they found that the judge was from a lower caste, which is a rarity. Without notice to anyone involved in the case, the case was soon transferred to another court.

To transfer the case it need to be done with the sanction of a superior court. So it means that the superior courts also in a way connive with the upper caste. Nothing better could be expected from a place where in the recent past, a District Judge who replaced another District Judge who was on transfer, before occupying the chair used by his predecessor, who also happened to be from a lower caste, conducted some religious ceremonies in court to purify the chair occupied by his predecessor and also washed the chair with the water from the river Ganga, which is believed to purify the chair. Such is the judiciary in this country. Now you tell me how in such a country changes are possible?

Regarding the police in this place, particularly in Varanasi, even though there are a few hundred cases which I have brought to their notice about atrocities committed against the members of the lower caste, none of these cases were registered under the law which is implemented to punish people committing such acts, the Scheduled Caste Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act. In January this year in Hinauti village of Chandauli district a group of people from the upper caste committed rape against a young lady belonging with Nut (Dalit) community on the ground that one of them had breached the caste hierarchy. After a great effort on the part of victim and her family members, FIR was registered against accused person, but soon after family members of accused persons began to give threatening and made pressure to withdraw the case. In such whole situation police did nothing, but when human rights organizations including AHRC highlighted the matter through urgent appeal and media, then police come to their sense and took action against perpetrators. There are hundreds of similar incidents.

When one person from the upper caste commit a crime, whatever it may be, after trial the person who committed the crime is punished. However, when it comes to the lower caste the entire community is punished. The punishment is not by the court, but by members from the upper caste and the crime is not theft or murder. It could be anything from polluting the village well by draining water from it or washing in the pond thereby polluting the pond or even walking in the road while an upper caste was using the same road. The punishment is instant and often carried out by gangs of upper caste members by burning down the houses of the lower caste, beating the residents and often molesting or raping their women in public. In one such incident which happened in Narkati village when a similar upper caste police raided the village a five year old girl cried out loud since she was afraid of strangers. Her name is Anjali. These people who saw her crying did not spare her. She was also beaten up by police men when she was five years old. A complaint was lodged with the NHRC. Indian People’s tribunal headed by Justice Sukumaran was reported to UP Government. But no action has yet been taken. There is no law and there is no rule of law for these people.
The current trend is to charge anyone and everyone alleging that the person is a Naxalite. Even children aged from 9 are charged with offences allegedly of having involved in Naxalite activity. This happens with the knowledge of the court. Currently the Ram Nagar juvenile court has ordered detention of nine such children. If the police are corrupt, the judiciary is impotent also aid the police and other caste Hindus. It is general attitude of local police to make allegation against the men belonging to Dalit community as a suspect of “Naxlites”. But simultaneously they ignore the men of upper caste belonging to Shri Ram Sena, which is a private army of upper caste land lords Hindus.

It is very easy for anyone to say that we have constitution, laws, police and wonderful courts which passed beautiful judgments in the past. But what I stated above are the real facts and the real India. This is what I can say from my limitted experience from one state in India and this country have a few dozen more states and 1 billion people.

Interview of Lenin by Mr. Bijo Francis of AHRC,Hong kong

Dalit centennial report

Greetings from Rajesh Angral
Jai Bhim!

Recently we the dalits of Canada celebrated the 100 years of dalit heritage in Canada. I participated there and we celebrated the dalits centennial with pride. In this celebration dalits from all over the North America participated.
The celebrations were organized by the Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha of Vancouver under the chairmanship of President of Sabha Mr.Bill Basra and with the support of the honorary chairs Mayor Derek Corrigan (Burnaby) and Commissioner Lahori Ram (Economic Development, State of California).

The Dalit Indian Consul General Mr. Ashok Kumar also shared his greetings. He also shared the greetings and message of the Indian High Commissioner Ms. Shyamela Cowsik that “The Dalit Centenary celebrations will naturally give pride of place to one of the giants of the Indian independence movement, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, who was also one of the leading architects of the constitution of independent India” was also acknowledged and appreciated.
Others who participated and share their greetings from govt of Canada were councilor Sav Dhaliwal (Burnaby), MLA Raj Chauhan (Burnaby-Edmonds), MLA Dave Hayer (Surrey), MP Peter Julian (Burnaby), MP Sukh Dhaliwal (Surrey-N. Delta), Ex-Premier BC & MP Ujjal Dosanjh (Vancouver), MLA Sue Hammel (Surrey), MLA Bruce Ralston (Surrey), councilor George Chow (Vancouver), and Deputy Commissioner Paul McDonnell (Burnaby). MLA Hayer added to the celebrations by making a special presentation of a proclamation to the Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha.
Friends I would like to request you to publish this report to all the news papers, magazines and any other source of media print or electronic so that each and every Dalit should feel proud that their other dalits are celebrating 100 years and doing good advocacy for dalit issues. If it will be published in the media Non-Dalit will also accept that days are not far away when they have to treat equally the dalit and they have to share the equal Human Rights. Very soon we will build up an International Advocacy Group all over the world to do advocacy of Dalit Issues with various countries. Your suggestions are welcome.

Subject: Dalit centennial celebrated by the Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha of Vancouver (Canada)- Vancouver: Dalit-Canadians from across Canada gathered at the Shri Guru Ravidass Community center in Burnaby in the morning of August 20 and then in the evening they gathered at the Surrey’s Bombay Banquet Hall to pay tributes to the pioneers of Canada.

To have these celebrations blessed, the organizers invited Shri 108 Sant Naranjan Dassji and Shri 108 Rama Nandji of Dera Such Khand Ballan (Jullandhar, Punjab). Among other occasions, the Sabha had also previously invited Sant Niranjan Dass Ji and Sant Rama Nand Ji in 2000 to officially inaugurate the community center (and a temple) at 7271 Gilley Avenue in Burnaby.

Among organizations that came to participate included Shri Guru Ravidass Society of Calgary, Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha of Montreal, Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha of Ontario, Shri 108 Sant Sarwan Dass Charitable Trust of UK, Shri 108 Sant Sarwan Dass Charitable Trust of Vancouver, and Chetna Association of Canada. These organizations were represented by Sunil Raju, Sewa Virdi, Jaswinder Rana, Charanjit Banga, Tilak Toora, Sukhdev Rattu, Santokh Sund, Nirmal Chandarh, Kamlesh Chandarh, Virinder Bangar, and others.

Religious celebrations in the morning at the temple and social celebrations at the banquet hall were packed. All participants were displaying a sense of pride in their heritage and were cherishing the occasion that was one of the significant milestones in the Dalit history of Canada.

While the morning was blessed by the grace of Sant Niranjan Dass Ji and with the kirtan by Sant Rama Nand Ji, the evening was entertained by the pop-singer Kaler Kanth who provided a delightful entertainment with the music that was played by Kishore Kaler on the keyboard, Raymon Bhullar of Dhol Nation Academy on the Dhols, and Vijay of Vijay Academy and his team on other instruments.

The celebrations were organized by the Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha of Vancouver under the chairmanship of Bill Basra and with the support of the honorary chairs Mayor Derek Corrigan (Burnaby) and Commissioner Lahori Ram (Economic Development, State of California).

The Indian Consul General Mr. Ashok Kumar also shared his greetings. The greetings and message of the Indian High Commissioner Ms. Shyamela Cowsik that “The Dalit Centenary celebrations will naturally give pride of place to one of the giants of the Indian independence movement, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, who was also one of the leading architects of the constitution of independent India” was also acknowledged and appreciated.

Others who participated and graced the occasion by their presence included councilor Sav Dhaliwal (Burnaby), MLA Raj Chauhan (Burnaby-Edmonds), MLA Dave Hayer (Surrey), MP Peter Julian (Burnaby), MP Sukh Dhaliwal (Surrey-N. Delta), MP Ujjal Dosanjh (Vancouver), MLA Sue Hammel (Surrey), MLA Bruce Ralston (Surrey), councilor George Chow (Vancouver), and Deputy Commissioner Paul McDonnell (Burnaby, Parks and Recreation). MLA Hayer added to the celebrations by making a special presentation of a proclamation to the Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha.

Gurpreet Singh, broadcaster with Radio India also participated in these celebrations along with Ram Partap Kaler, Nirmal Chandarh, Harjinder Mal, Roop Ahir, Satpaul Mahey, Kamlesh Chandarh, Nagina Bangar, Gulshan Kalsi, Dyal Karra, Rajesh Angral, Sucha Jassi, Dr. KP Singh, Sunil Raju, Sewa Singh, Jaswinder Rana, Tilak Raj Toora, Charanjit Banag, and others.

Early settlers who came to Canada included Mr. Mahia Mehmi of village Mathida, Mr. Basanta Ram of village Mahilpur, Mr. Essar Ram of village Lageri, and Mr. Gurditta Ram of village Upplan. Descendents of these early settlers who came to receive the recognition included Jai Mehmi (from Victoria), Kamal Bhullar (of Surrey) and her brother Kewal (from Delta), Hukam Chand from Burnaby, and Sudarshan Ardhawa of Burnaby.

The primary reason for organizing these celebrations was to pay tributes to pioneers and the other reason was to display pride in the Dalit heritage”, said Bill Basra, president of Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha and the chair of the Dalit centennial celebrations committee. “We have a strong history, and our forefathers have survived the most secluded conditions that were imposed by the caste system and we are grateful to our forefathers for persevering and keeping the heritage alive ”, continued Basra.

The same sentiments were expressed by Lamber Rao and Gurmit Sathi, members of the Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha.

“This was a great occasion to reflect on our Dalit identity and heritage”, says Rao.

One of the other milestones that were laid at these celebrations was the national meeting of the Ravidassia organization that took place on August 19th at the Shri Guru Ravidass temple in Burnaby.

“This is the first time in the history of Canada that the Ravidassia organizations have come together to discuss their common platform and plan for establishing the national or international federation of the Ravidassia organizations”, says Amarjit Lealh, the 1st vice president of Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha.

The next national meeting of the Ravidassia organizations will be held in Calgary, announced Sukhdev Rattu of Shri Guru Ravidass Society of Calgary.

For this occasion, a souvenir magazine was also published by the editorial team of Gurmit Singh Sathi, Lamber Rao, and Jai Birdi. It was released at the temple by Shri 108 Sant Niranjan Dass Ji and at the banquet hall, it was released by the Indian Consul General, Mr. Ashok Kumar.

In addition to paying tributes to the early settlers, others were also recognized for their contributions. Among these included a renowned poet and an activist Amrit Diwana of Surrey and the Kabaddi star Lember Jassi, who now lives in Calgary.

“Celebrating these centenary celebrations is truly an honor and privilege that we will cherish for the rest of our lives”, says Roop Chandarh, treasurer of the Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha.

Chandarh also extended his congratulations to all on this auspicious occasion.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Starvation deaths continue in Shankarpur village of Varanasi

Starvation deaths continue in Shankarpur village of Varanasi
This is to inform you painfully that a starvation death has taken place in Shankarpur village, block Chiraigaon, dist. Varanasi of UP state of India. He was weaver by profession. Girija Prasad Rajbhar, son of Nirhu Rajbhar was suffering from hunger and malnutrition for last 8 to 10 months. Succumb to death on 11June 06 in the morning roundabout '7 'O' clock due to hunger and deficiency of medicine.

Girija Prasad Rajbhar, weaver by profession had totally lost his livelihood. Before his death he was working as daily wager and florist, hardly to arrange two times meal for his family. Despite hard working, beyond his capacity, he was unable to get rid of utter financial crisis and poverty. Some 5 to 6 months back when the breadwinner of the family finally got bed ridden, he had to die one Sunday morning due to the terrible deficiency of medical treatment. He has left his wife, three sons, and parents after him, to whom life has become a nightmare. Though the administration had already been informed about the plight of dead weaver, no any official seem to have come to address his concern. Now that the breadwinner is no more, the family is undergoing an inexplicable crisis. Old parents will do somehow but children are not getting enough food to feed them even once in a day. Every alternate day they are bound to sleep empty stomach.

Unfortunately Pappu Rajbhar, younger brother of Late Girija Peasad Rajbhar is also on the verge of starvation death. He along with his wife and son bound to undergo same hardships, which his elder brother underwent.

The root cause of weaver's suffering lies in the discriminatory behavior of the bigwigs of the village under the leadership of village head Sunder Yadav who belong to the Yadav community. Despite the fact that they are just 450 in number out of the total population of the village, they influence every scheme of things in their favor because they are powerful and dominating enough. Shankarpur is the symbol of absolute failure of rule of law. Village head is violating all Supreme Court’s interim order on Mid Day Meal and food security schemes.
Starving Rajbhar family is paying for the same power structure of the village.
Although the state government of Uttar Pradesh claims to be spending large sums of money on welfare schemes, still people are starving, despite the knowledge of the authorities and the wider public.
Dr N C Saxena, the Commissioner of the Supreme Court charged with following-up on the court's orders related to the right to food, wrote to the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh on 5 July 2005 stating that he has received no evidence of any action taken by the state government of Uttar Pradesh to address ongoing starvation deaths in Varanasi, Sonebhadra, Jaunpur, Khusinagar and Mirzapur districts. He stated bluntly in the letter that the deaths "show that Supreme Court orders are not being implemented in the state".
AHRC (Asian Human Rights Commission), Hong Kong and People’s Vigilance committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) issued the Hunger alert on the other hunger deaths of weavers in same village. FIAN International, Germany launched hotline campaign on same cases.
1. Give orders to issue a red card, food for work, and place him under other support schemes.
2. Take appropriate action against the negligent authorities for the death due to diseases of malnutrition and starvation and against the panchayat (village) secretary, village head and others for taking no action to prevent starvation deaths in the village.
3. Ensure the Dalit cook for midday meal in Primary school of Shankarpur Village according the Supreme Court order in case of PUCL v/s Govt. of India. Take appropriate action against the panchayat (village) secretary, village head and others for taking illegal action to remove the dalit cook and appoint the OBCs male cook.

Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Fax: + 91-522-2230002/2239234
1. Justice A. S. Anand
National Human Rights Commission
Sardar Patel Bhaven, Sansad Marg,
New Delhi - 110 001
Tel: + 91 11 23346244
Fax: + 91 11 23366537
E-mail: or
2. Justice A P Mishra
Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission
6-A Kalidass Marg
Lucknow Uttar Pradesh
3. Mr. Jean Ziegler
UNCHR, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
c/o Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Room 4-066
Palais Wilson,
Rue des Paquis 52,
Fax: +41 22 917 9010
4. Mr. Anthony Banbury
Regional Director
World Food Programme
Unit No. 2, 7th Floor
Wave Place Building
55 Wireless Road
Lumpini, Patumwan
Bangkok 10330
Tel: +66-2-6554115
Fax: +66-2-6554413
Email: or
5. Mr. Gian Pietro Bordignon
Country Director
World Food Programme
2 Poorvi Marg, Vasant Vihar,
New Delhi 110057
Tel: +91-11-26150000
Fax: +91-11-26150019
6. Dr. N.C. Saxena and Mr. S.R. Sankaran
Supreme Court of India
SAMYA, R-38A, 2nd floor
South Extention - part 2
New Delhi - 49
Fax: +91-11-5164 2147

Sunday, August 27, 2006

RTI and Appeal of Aruna Roy

Jantar Mantar ,

New Delhi
20th August , 2006

Dear friends,

The Government of India's decision not to table the RTI amendments Bill in this session of Parliament, is a great democratic success. We have all collectively contributed to it. There can be no doubt that the wide spectrum of overwhelming support for this issue, from many States, even those under floods, political parties , media, different individuals, groups and networks, Anna Hazare and Sandeep Pandey on an indefinite hunger strike, mobilizing support, has strengthened democratic processes and ensured accountability of an elected government to its people. The referendum has amply proved the tremendous interest and commitment of the ordinary citizen.

We are all aware that it is only a conditional commitment from the Government. The following is an extract from the PTI report on the governments commitment:

"Government has dropped the move to amend the Right to Information Act in the current session of Parliament to keep out of public purview file notings in some areas.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Suresh Pachauri said here that following a decision taken by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the amendment bill was not likely to be introduced in the current session Parliament concluding on August 25.He said there have been considerable apprehensions about the proposed changes and clarifications in the Right to Information Act. Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister have received several representations in this regard and it has been decided that the issue should be first discussed with all stakeholders, he said.

In view of this, Pachauri said, the bill to amend the RTI Act was not likely to be introduced during the current session of Parliament as decided by the Prime Minister." PTI

We would like to take this opportunity to tell you how much the Campaign to Save the RTI Act, (and its dharna at Jantar Mantar) appreciates your participation and support.

We are wrapping up the dharna, but not the Campaign! We have to work hard to keep up public pressure. We must take up the government's promise to engage with " stake holders", and ensure that this interaction takes place. Please continue:

With the referendum- the secnd round of counting will be on the 24th and results can be given at 65121727
With the signature and letter campaigns
Organising meetings and discussing the issue widely
Putting Pressure on political parties
Meet your MPs
Please do stay in touch.

In solidarity,

Aruna Roy

(On behalf of the Campaign)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Record Note of discussions held in the Brain Storming Session on Handloom Weavers — Assistance & Upgradation

Sub: Record Note of discussions held in the Brain Storming Session on Handloom Weavers — Assistance & Upgradation:
held under the chairpersonship of Dr. Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission, on May, 2006, in Yojana Bhawan, New Delhi.
List of participants is annexed.
A brain storming session on handloom weavers — Assistance & Upgradation was held under the chairpersonship of Dr. S’yeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission, to consider issues like:
• Hank yarn
• Enforcement of Handloom Reservation Order
• Credit data base/MIS on handloom sector
• Availability of credit
• Technology support
• Marketing support, and
• Other miscellaneous issues
Member (SH) welcomed all the participants to the meeting and thanked Shri B.N. Yugandhar, Member, Planning Commission, for sparing his valuable time for handloom weavers. She stressed upon the need to draw a clear picture from the brain storming session to provide major inputs to handloom weavers for assistance and upgradation. The Prime Minister had desired that a new direction need to be provided to the handloom sector so as to enable it to regain its past glory and improve the living conditions of weavers, most of whom were below the poverty line.
She further stated that her recent visits to Varanasi, Behrampur, Bhadhohi, etc, had given her an understanding of the ground level realities and the problems faced by the weavers. Most of the weavers were found to be living in very difficult conditions. The schemes/programmes under
implementation by various State Governments and Central Government were not showing the desired results and most of the weavers were unaware of these schemes.
All the participants were encouraged to enter into free and frank discussions and were free to come out with their feelings and suggestions. It was necessary to find out why funds were not reaching the targeted beneficiaries and why the desired outcome was not being achieved. She requested Member (BNY) to give his valuable suggestions for ameliorating the poor conditions of weavers.
Member (BNY) stated that he was happy to be present and thanked Member (SH) for giving him an opportunity to express his views for the betterment of weavers. About 40 years back the office of Development Commissioner of Handlooms was created at his instance when Shri P.N. Haksar was the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission. That time also non-availability of credit facilities, inadequate inputs for marketing, use of old looms and technology, inadequate availability of hank yarn, etc, were the problems faced by handloom weavers. These were perennial problems of the handloom sector, which persisted even today. While similar problems for other sectors of our economy were provided with some sort of solutions, the problems of handloom sector had remained unsolved so far. He requested the participants to discuss threadbare all major problems affecting them and also to indicate probable solutions needed as per their perception.
Member (BNY) further suggested that as indicated in the background note circulated by the office of DC(Handlooms), it appeared that hank yarn was available to handloom weaver in sufficient quantity. However, ground reality dk’ not match with this scenario and even today small pockets of handloom weavers were unable to get hank yarn in desired counts, quality and quantity. The suggestion of Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, for subsidization of hank yarn could also be considered in this meeting to evolve suitable solution for the hank yarn problem.
Member (BNY) further mentioned that the Prime Minister had also stressed the need to find out solutions about the hank yarn problem. The credit requirement of the handloom sector was not more than Rs.10,000 to 15,000 crore, which could be met by providing credit cards to weavers. The credit requirement of handloom sector could be included under the District Credit Plan in the beginning and NABARD might be able to provide refinancing facilities. Modernisation of looms and equipment was necessary and could be done on priority basis. New designs could be introduced to enhance marketability of handloom products. To improve marketing also, there was need to provide further impetus and new inputs so as to enable handloom weavers to sell their products in domestic as well export markets. The state governments should take up the problem of enforcement of Handloom Reservation Act vigorously and it needed to be ensured that powerlooms did not encroach upon the handloom sector.
Member (BNY) further stated that if necessary fresh programmes/Plan schemes could be introduced in the Eleventh Plan so that the handloom weavers’ profession could be considered dignified and the present tendency of abandoning this age-old tradition due to economic hardship could be reduced. He desired that each weaver should be able to earn at least Rs.2,000-3,000 per month to come above the poverty line.
Member (SH) stated that deep concern of the Prime Minister about the handloom sector had given an opportunity to provide radical solutions for the handloom sector. The weavers from Varanasi could also discuss their problems particularly narrated during her visit so that probable solutions could be worked out. It could also be discussed whether more funds could be provided to handloom sector for their upliftment. It was also observed that the present schemes were not able to delivery the required benefits at the doors of the weavers. All participants could discuss the agenda items and also indicate probable solutions.
Adviser (I&VSE) welcomed all the participants and requested them to give their view on the agenda issues as well as their personal views and experiences and probable solutions so that the handloom sector could be
strengthened and living conditions of the weavers in particular could be improved significantly.
During the discussions, the following major issues emerged:
1. For smooth and effective implementation of developmental and promotional schemes/programmes for the upliftment of handloom weavers identity cards with photo were considered as being essential. These cards could indicate the condition of the weaver, number of looms, type of weaver products, quantity of hank yarn required in terms of quality and counts, his credit requirements, ration entitlement, health facilities, admission in vocational training institutions/ ITIs, etc. Further, the same card could be used for multiple purposes.
2. Weavers falling below the poverty line could be provided RED/Antyodaya cards so as to enable them to have their entitlement of ration at subsidized rates also through the same card.
3. The need for providing new designs, quality dyes, and measures for protection of weavers’ designs through IPRs, copyrights, patenting, etc, was emphasized.
4. The need for reducing import of Chinese silk was stressed. Such imports were reducing the marketability of handloom products in competition with powerlooms. Chinese silk was more suitable for powerlooms, thus enabling powerlooms to produce handloom items and designs at cheaper rates.
5. Non-availability of credit from financial institutions was identified as a problem facing the handloom sector. This created the dependence of handloom weavers on middlemen and master weavers. Such financial dependence in turn created the opportunity for exploitation of the actual weaver by the middlemen and master weavers. The need for credit facilities for handloom sector could be met by providing them credit from banks/FIs on terms similar to those given to agriculture sector. NABARD
could be provided the corpus by GOl to enable it to refinance the credit/loans from commercial banks provided to weavers. The difference between the normal rate of interest and the rate charged to the weavers could be subsidized by the GOl. The annual subsidy burden of such a scheme was estimated to not exceed Rs.250-300 crore annually.
6. The cooperatives inthe handloom sector were presently performing well but historical debts/loans were dragging them down. The cooperatives could be relieved from their historical debt burden by waiver/write off of old debts/loans. If required a revolving fund could be created for this purpose to provide relief to cooperatives on a case-to-case basis.
7. For better and effective implementation of developmental programmes/ schemes, groups of grassroot workers involving weavers, experts, activists, state/Central government, etc, could be mobilised. Convergence should be made effective by involving all departments related to weavers’ development. To enable the implementing agencies to get adequate flow of Plan funds it was suggested that the present system of canalising Plan funds through state government/district treasuries could be discontinued and the implementing agencies should get Plan funds directly from Central Govt.
8. The schemes could be run in weavers’ clusters/colonies on a need based assessment. Evaluation of such schemes to be carried by independent organizations.
9. As far as possible the schemes could be made simple to follow, which even an illiterate weaver could understand. The schemes should not be only under cooperatives but weavers working with master weavers could also be covered to ensure that the 85 per cent of weavers outside the cooperatives also benefit.
10. For effective implementation of developmental programmes/schemes, the Implementing Agency should also ensure that benefits reached only the handloom weavers and not powerloom workers.
11.The need of establishing market places/sales outlets for handloom weavers at district level was emphasized and state governments could set up such district level markets exclusively for weavers, enabling them to sell their products without involving middlemen/master weavers.
12.A mechanism could be created for the handloom sector to enable the handloom weavers to supply their products for domestic as well as export markets through a marketing organization. Handloom weavers could participate in the functioning of this organization by becoming shareholders and could enjoy the benefits of wider marketing and increased earnings.
13. The need for creating national level raw material bank and national hank yarn price information bureau was stressed upon by various participants so as to enable weavers to get the required quality and counts of hank yarn at reasonable prices even within the smaller concentrations of weavers. The National Handloom Development Corporation could be strengthened and more number of yarn depots could be established so that availability of hank yam improved in smaller pockets of weavers.
14. It was also suggested that a data base with respect to demand for hank yarn in terms of counts and quality for handloom clusters could be set up to enable NHDC to supply the required quantity and quality of hank yarn to handloom weavers within the smaller concentrations.
15.The price fluctuations of silk yarn was more disturbing to weavers and the need for a raw material bank was echoed by most of the participating weavers.
16.To ensure reasonable wages to weavers of handloom products, it was felt that a Wage Board like organization could be established for handloom sector. To ensure reasonable wages for weavers from master weavers was a difficult task as it involved market-oriented aspects and hence this issue would need further deliberations.
23. For modernisation and technological development it was suggested that weavers could be consulted before taking up such scheme on a large scale. Experts in the field could also be involved while formulating schemes for handloom sector.
24. It was suggested that financial aid and marketing support to master weavers could be given based on the number of weavers with I-cards that they employ.
25. It was suggested that the marketing events organized by office of Development Commissioner (Handlooms) should encourage sales of only 100% Handloom fabrics and no products from powerlooms should be exhibited.
26.The handloom sector has got distinctive disadvantages of unorganised nature and weak financial base. To enable the handloom sectOr to grow in tandem with the economy it was felt necessary that all weavers should be organised in such a manner so that they become a vibrant and economically viable segment.
27. It was proposed that to help old aged/handicapped/disabled weavers, an old-age pension along with adequate welfare measures could be provided to enable them to live peacefully at the fag end of their life.
Prof. Abhijit Sen, Member, Planning Commission joined the discussions at this stage and stated that the handloom sector was depicting long, glorious tradition of Indian culture and heritage. This sector would need support from the government so that it could grow in line with other sectors of the economy. The handloom sector would also need specific inputs in terms of new designs, assured quality raw material at reasonable prices, adequate technological inputs like improved looms, weaving methods, modern dyeing techniques and marketing support, etc. Referring to the suggestion of carrying out pilot projects in the handloom sector, he stated that it was necessary to take up massive promotional programme for the whole country in place of
17. It was felt unanimously by all participants that there was an acute need for establishing ‘label’ or ‘mark’ to distinguish handloom products from powerloom products. It was also deliberated that labeling should Indicate the quality of yarn used, blending of various fibres, qualities of fabrics, types of finishing, types of dyes, colour fastness, etc.
18.To enable e-marketing of handloom products it was necessary to make available information about handloom products of the manufacturing organization on websites with proper facilities of e-marketing. This aspect would be most important in terms of achieving higher export targets and spreading the reach and demand of handloom products overseas.
19. A directory indicating specialities of weavers, their capacities, number of looms, etc, need to be prepared.
20.Special schemes for women weavers would go a long way in encouraging higher and better contribution from women weavers/entrepreneurs and female members of weaver families.
21. It was proposed that Weavers’ Service Centres (WSCs) could be entrusted with the task of enforcing the Handloom Reservation Act. The present enforcement agencies are not having sufficient manpower for proper enforcement of the Act. Technical training should be provided extensively to all enforcement officials to enable them to distinguish between powerloom and handloom products.
22.To ensure reliable data collection system for building up of a strong data base for handloom sector it was suggested that the final year/second year students of the 6 IIHTs could be deployed for collecting the relevant data from handloom sector. A census of looms and handloom weaver could be conducted at village level through local panchayats and administrative bodies. This would be particularly relevant for carpet weavers in handloom sector.
concentrating upon a few pockets. The handloom sector has all the potential to grow as the weavers had the background of ethnic traditions, weaving techniques, designs, etc.
Adviser (I&VSE) stated that all the participants, especially weavers and activists from Varanasi had provided excellent practical suggestions. It was suggested that in consultation with the office of DC(Handlooms), these would be evaluated and specific programmes/scheme could be formulated for the Eleventh Plan, ensuring faster growth and development of handloom sector. He mentioned that the weavers below the poverty line would need to be provided with immediate measures like RED/Antyodaya cards, multipurpose I.Cards and facilities with respect to health insurance and education for their children. There was an .urgent need to provide schools for chldren of hand loom weavers in remote areas and public-private partnership could be encouraged.
Concluding the discussions, Member (SH) thanked the participants for providing valuable inputs and she assured them that in consultation with the office of DC(Handlooms) specific measures would be taken up. She was concerned about inadequate health facilities in weavers’ concentrations around Varanasi, Bhadohi, Behrampur, etc. In the next brainstorming session more attention could be focused on these aspects to elicit view for focusing on precise proposals that could be taken up in those areas by the office of DC(Handlooms), state governments, NGO and other organisations involved in the handloom sector.
The meeting ended with a vote of thanks to the chair

Planning Commission
(Village &Small Enterprises Division)
Sub:Brain Storming Session of Handloom Weavers on 16.05.2006 under the Chairpersonship of Dr. Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission at Yojana Bhavan, New Delhi
1) Dr. (Mrs.), Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission .. .in Chair
2) Shri B.N. Yugaridhar, Member, Planning Commission
3) Prof. Abhijit Sen, Member, Planning Commission
4) Ms. Gunjan Veda, Consultant to Member (SH), Planning Commission
5) Shri R.C. Jharntani, Adviser (1&VSE), Planning Commission
6) Shri S.G. Raoot, Jt. Adviser, Planning Commission
7) Shri Shashi Kant, Deputy Adviser, Planning Commission.
8) Dr. D.S. Gangwar, AddI. Development Commissioner (Handlooms), Ministry of Textiles, Udyog Bhavan, New Delhi 110011
9) Shri Satyam Sharda, it. Development Commissioner (Handlooms), Ministry of Textiles, Udyog Bhavan, New Delhi 110011
10) Shri Manoj Jam, DDC(HL). O/o Dev. Comm. (Handlooms), Mb Textiles, Udyog Bhavan, N .Delhi
II) Shri J.N. Singh, Textile Commissioner, O/o Textile Commissioner, New CGO Bldg., 48, New Marine Lines, Mumbal 20
12) Shri N.M. Mugadur, Jt. Textile Commissioner, O/o Textile Commissioner, New CGO Bldg..48, New Marine Lines, Mumbai 20
13) Shri V.K. Goyal, Managing Director, NHDC Ltd., Vikas Deep, Station Road, Lucknow
14) Shri Banarsi Bahadur Bharti, Dy. Director, O/o the Regional Textile Commissioner NOIDA, UP
1 5) Shri S.P. Singh, Dy. Director, Weaver’s Service Centre, Chowkaghat, Varanasi 22 1002
16) Ms. Harmeet Sarin, Programme Officer, ILO, IHC, Lodi Road, New Delhi
17) Shri Adarsh Kumar, AIACA, D-602, Chittranjan Park, New Delhi
18) Shri D. Jayaramiah, Director (Retd.), G-6, Plot No.21, CSR Apartments, Huda Complex. Saroon Nagar, Hyderabad 35
19) Shri G. Govarthana, H.No.17-32, C/O Murli Saree Emporium, Srinagar Colony. Dilsad Nagar, Hyderabad
20) Dr. (Ms.) Rolee Singh, Convener, PAHARUA, C 14/160, B-2, Shambhunath Singh Marg, Sonia, Varanasi, UP
21) Dr. Lenin, Converner, PVCHR, SA4/2A, Daulatpur, Varanasi, UP
22) Shri Tanveer Ahmed Siddique, i-i 9/66 Ban Bazar, P.S. Jaitpura, Varanasi
23) Shri Nizzamudin, Bunkar Colony, PVCR, i-I 1/89 Nati Emil, P.S. Jaitpura, Varanasi, UP
24) Shri Mustaq All, Village Deendayalpur, Dubkian, PS changepur, Varanasi, UP
25) Shri Siddique Hasan, Convenor, Bunkar Dsastakar Manch, SA4/2A, Daulatpur, Varanasi
26) Shri Kranti Bhushan, PAHARUA Jan Sangathan, Hinchanpur, Chaksundar Pur, Gyan Pur, Badohi, UP 221308
27) Shri Mayank Misra, Regional Manager, ICICI, LOMBARD, GIC Ltd., Birla Tower, 25, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi 110001
28) Shri Puneet Anand, ICICI , LOMBARD, GIC Ltd., Birla Tower, 25, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi 110001.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

[AHRC Open Letter] INDIA: Inquiring officer of Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission must inquire impartially into cases rather than trying to broker

[AHRC Open Letter] INDIA: Inquiring officer of Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission must inquire impartially into cases rather than trying to broker for respondents
August 15, 2006

An Open Letter to the Uttar Pradesh State Human Rights Commission from the Asian Human Rights Commission (Hong Kong) & People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (India)
Justice A P Mishra
Uttar Pradesh State Human Rights Commission
6-A Kalidass Marg
Lucknow Uttar Pradesh

Fax: + 91 532-2726743

Dear Justice Mishra

INDIA: Inquiring officer of Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission must inquire impartially into cases rather than trying to broker for respondents

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and People’s Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR) appreciate the concern of the Uttar Pradesh State Human Rights Commission about the hunger deaths, acute starvation and fabrication of cases against human rights defenders reported from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The two organisations also appreciate the deputing of Additional Superintendent of Police Vijay Kumar Dixit to investigate these cases, but regret to inform you that he is not conducting his duties as required.

On 14 August 2006 the inquiry officer met a group of human rights defenders at the office of the Senior Superintendent of Police in Varanasi. Those present were Santhosh Patel, a human rights defender working in Belwa village; Lenin Raghuvanshi, convenor of the PVCHR; and S N Giri, a social activist. Among the respondents, Rajendar Thiwari, head of Belwa, and Mohan Ram, the Tahasildar from Pindara Tahasil, were also present at the meeting. However, the participants were shocked when instead of investigating the allegations the officer instead tried to have the complainants reconcile with the respondents unconditionally.

There is no question of reconciliation here. The AHRC and PVCHR have through their work reached specific conclusions about why people in the Mushahar and Nut communities are starving to death.

As the Additional Superintendent of Police appears to be confused about his role, we request that you give him further instructions. You may offer him the following questionnaire as a guide for his work, so that he will not waste any more time attempting pointless negotiations:

1. What action has the District Magistrate (DM) of Varanasi taken on the starvation death of Seema Musahar (aged nine months) in Belwa, which was brought to his notice on 29 July 2006? [AHRC HA-07-2006]

2. Did the DM take any action on the letter dated 11 July 2006 written by Laxmina Musahar asking for help to save her child? If the DM did not take any action, what prevented him from doing so?

3. What action did the DM take on the starvation death of Phoolchand Musahar from Belwa, which was reported to his office on 18 June 2006?

4. What action did the DM take after being informed about the death of Muneeb Musahar of Belwa on 29 May 2006?

5. The DM has categorically stated that all these deaths were from various ailments. What is the basis of this statement and which medical record can the DM produce to support it?

6. Since the reported deaths of Mrs. Jigna and Ms. Soni on 16 and 21 April 2005, what action did the DM take to prevent similar deaths in Sankarpur village?

7. Since the reported death of Mr. Kanhaiya from starvation-related illness on 18 September 2005 also in Sankarpur what action has the DM taken to give relief to his family? [AHRC HU-08-2005]

8. Why are starvation deaths and hunger in Varanasi most often reported from among the lower-caste community?

9. Do government public distribution shops function in all places in Varanasi?

10. How many persons living in Belwa, Oura, Sankarpur and Bagvanalla have been listed to receive free or subsided rations and join food for work programmes?

11. At what point have Musahars and other lower-caste residents of Belwa started to receive free or subsidised rations?

12. Why did the DM order the detention of Santhosh Patel when he tried to lodge a complaint with him on 10 May 2006 in connection with a case pending before the National Human Rights Commission? (Case No. 41875/24/2005-2006) [AHRC UA-156-2006]

13. Has there been a complaint against Mohan Ram alleging forceful collection of thumb impressions on empty papers from villagers in the Musahar part of Belwa in order to forge documents for the National Human Rights Commission? If so, what action has the DM taken against whoever in his staff made this groundless complaint?

14. How many persons from lower castes have their names included in the voters list in Varanasi, specifically from Belwa, Oura, Sankarpur and Bagvanalla? If the number of names is far less than the populations of lower-caste persons in these villages, why are there so many names missing?

15. Have any complaints been lodged with the DM against the Public Distribution Shop licensees (Kotedars) who are licensed to sell rationed articles in Varanasi? If so, what action has been taken on these complaints?

16. Are there any proper records of stock and sale kept at the local cooperative store in Belwa run by Ramesh Singh? Has the DM received any complaints regarding this shop? If so what action has been taken to inquire into these complaints?

17. What has the Varanasi district administration--and the DM in particular--done to prevent any further needless starvation deaths?

Answers to these and like questions would help the Uttar Pradesh State Human Rights Commission to reach a better understanding of conditions in the affected villages, and the need for appropriate action. The AHRC and PVCHR suggest that the Additional Superintendent of Police refrain from further compromising his integrity and impartiality and instead stick to this line of inquiry, looking into the details and surrounding circumstances of each case as he has been instructed. If he proves unable to do the same, it would lead us to suggest that he should be withdrawn from his duties and a more appropriate person be appointed.

We remain only too happy to provide any further assistance in this regard.

Yours sincerely

Bijo Francis

South Asia Desk Officer
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

Lenin Raghuvanshi

People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India

Sunday, August 06, 2006

An Open Letter to the District Magistrate of Varanasi, India by the Asian Human Rights Commission

[AHRC Open Letter] INDIA: Will local officials act on child deaths?
July 28, 2006

An Open Letter to the District Magistrate of Varanasi, India by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Mr. Rajiv Agarwal
District Magistrate
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Fax: 91 5422501450

Dear Mr. Agarwal

INDIA: Will local officials act on child deaths?

Today, July 28, 2006 a nine-month-old child, a baby resident of Belwa village in your district of Varanasi died due to malnutrition. Her case is known to you. Her name was Seema Musahar. Her parents, Laxmi and Chotelal had sought your help. The best you could do was get her admitted to the Varanasi District Hospital. That was not much good. Her mother wrote to you again on July 11, requesting 1000 rupees from your emergency assistance fund. She has not received any reply yet. Now the child is dead. The parents may soon end up this way too, as they have no land, no income, and no food.

They are not alone. We know that there are at least 30 other families in Belwa in similar conditions, and at least two other children have died of hunger in the same village during recent months, not to mention other persons in the village and those in other parts of your district.

Is it what you want? Although you have received many reports about these conditions, and are known to have visited Belwa in person, the deaths are continuing and there does not seem to be any sustained response to the situation. On the contrary, people from the affected communities and other sympathetic observers state that your attitude towards the Musahar community is one of disdain and contempt. The people have formed the impression that you do not care what happens to them. Human rights defenders have gathered that you are out to get them.

Please be informed that the Asian Human Rights Commission is reporting your actions worldwide, to the interest and concern of United Nations officials, the media and to other rights groups and professionals. Please be aware that we strongly condemn your continuing disregard for starving children and their families who are living in destitute conditions. We are calling for immediate action to stop further deaths and address those that have already occurred within your jurisdiction, including that of Seema Musahar.

Any death by starvation is a tragedy. A child's starvation death is a double tragedy. It is also a family tragedy, and an indication that many others are close to death. Where the concerned authorities have no interest in such deaths and do nothing to stop them, the tragedy is compounded many times over: it is nothing short of a disaster resulting from criminal negligence.

Whether or not you have anything to share by way of law, justice and humanism is what we are now asking. Whether or not you have any morality, human decency or capacity to recognise your obligations is what you must now prove. We are waiting for your response, as are the people of Belwa and your district.

Yours sincerely

Basil Fernando
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

Posted on 2006-07-28
Back to [AHRC Statements 2006]

HUNGER ALERT (India): Children dying of starvation due to uninterested government officials

HUNGER ALERT (India): Children dying of starvation due to uninterested government officials


Hunger Alert

28 July 2006
HA-07-2006: INDIA: Children dying of starvation due to uninterested government officials

INDIA: Starvation; hunger; malnutrition; government neglect; caste discrimination; feudalism; bonded labour; non-functioning welfare schemes

Dear Friends,

Staff of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) together with staff of the People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR) in Uttar Pradesh, India have received news that a child died of starvation this morning, 28 July 2006 due to wanton government inaction and neglect because of caste discrimination. Nine-month-old Seema Musahar died of starvation in Belwa village, Varanasi despite repeated desperate attempts of her family to get help from local officials. She is reportedly the third child to die of starvation in her village in the last couple of months. This is even though the poverty and hunger of the local community has been widely reported and is known to the officials. The starving people have allegedly received no help because they belong to an "untouchable" community. More children are sure to die in this village unless there is prompt action by state officials for the victims and against the local officials who appear to have deliberately failed to due their duties.


Nine-month-old Seema Musahar died this morning, July 28 in Belwa village, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh after desperate attempts of her mother, 35-year-old Laxmi Musahar to get help for her infant at the local health centre and other places. As the AHRC mentioned in a statement issued yesterday July 27 (AS-180-2006), Laxmi had to pawn her two saris to a neighbour to get some money with which to take her child to get treatment, but still this was not enough to save her.

Laxmi and her husband 40-year-old Chotelal have been out of work due to the struggle that they had joined against the persistent use of bonded labour in Varanasi. They had been working as labourers at a brick kiln for which they had received only pitiful amounts of low-quality grain and chaff as payment. The AHRC has written about this modern form of slavery going on in Varanasi in a previous appeal: UA-074-2006. After they had left the work, Seema's parents could get virtually no food, and Laxmi was not able to produce milk for her child.

On June 18, Laxmi's father, Phoolchand, had already also died of starvation. After that, the family met with the District Magistrate of Varanasi, Rajiv Agarwal, who is the responsible local officer, together with two other local officials, the Block Development Officer and Sub Divisional Magistrate. The parents explained that they had no access to any government welfare schemes. But the district magistrate just gave a note to admit them to the district hospital in Varanasi. Seema was admitted to hospital on June 26 but discharged on July 1 without getting adequate treatment.

On July 11 Laxmi wrote to the District Magistrate requesting 1000 rupees (USD 20) from emergency funds to help her family but received no reply. So it was that when little Seema was on the verge of death her mother again took her to the primary health centre some 9km from the village in the ultimately vain hope that she could be kept alive.


The PVCHR earlier documented the death of Muneeb Musahar, a 3-year-old boy of the same village as Seema, on May 29. Like Seema, he was taken for medical attention just before his death and found to be in a critical condition. On May 26 the primary health centre at Baragaon recorded that he weighed only 10kg and was suffering severe malnutrition. Yet, although in his case his family had been issued with a "red card" that would entitle them to government rations, Muneeb died. At least one other child there has died in similar conditions in the last two months.

According to what staff members of the AHRC and PVCHR have seen on the ground in Belwa, at least 30 families are starving. Many have said that they cook food only once every four or five days. There is no access to any public distribution schemes or government assistance programmes in the village.

All of this is going on despite the fact that the conditions in Belwa are well-known to the authorities and general public. The local news media have reported on the starvation deaths and severe malnutrition, as have groups including the AHRC and PVCHR, and have lodged complaints with the National Human Rights Commission, which has issued notices to the authorities. After such actions, not only have the local officers not taken steps as required but instead they have increased attacks on the local population which appear intended to drive the people back into total submission. These include the alleged extrajudicial killing of Santosh Kumar Singh by the police in March 2006 (UA-081-2006), as well as other incidents of harassment and arrest of local persons, including those working with the PVCHR (UA-156-2006; UP-122-2006; UA-068-2006; UP-166-2005), on the orders of the district magistrate. However, the local people have refused to be cowed and are continuing to fight against the attempts to silence them, most recently holding a public meeting on July 1 to demand justice for Muneeb's family and action to stop further deaths.

The reason for the deliberate inaction and hostility of the authorities is because the village head, district magistrate and others are reported to be caste-minded feudalists and landlords who have no interest in the conditions of the Musahars, an "outcaste" community. The AHRC has written about atrocities against Musahars and other so-called "untouchable" groups in earlier appeals, including: UA-032-2006; UA-019-2006. The District Magistrate Rajiv Agarwal is known to hold Musahars in contempt and is alleged to have publicly abused them. When on a previous occasion he came to the village under pressure due to appeals, he visited only to the house of the village headman, who shares his attitudes, and went away. He deliberately avoided having contact with any of the local people who are suffering. Some have accused him of deliberately starving them out of existence.

Belwa is also not the only village in Varanasi where people are starving to death. See for instance: HU-08-2005. Please also read about the People's Tribunal on Starvation in Uttar Pradesh in the December 2005 edition of article 2 (vol. 4, no. 6;


Please write to the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh to express outrage at these deaths and demand that there be redress for the families and urgent action to stop further deaths. Please also call for an immediate inquiry into the alleged negligence and caste discrimination of all the local authorities involved in these incidents with a view to having them removed from their offices and where necessary criminal proceedings started against them.

Sample letter:

Dear ________,

INDIA: Starvation deaths in Varanasi due to caste hatred of District Magistrate

Name of latest victim: Seema Musahar, 9-months-old, daughter of Laxmi Musahar (35) and Chotelal Musahar (40)
Names of the alleged negligent officials:
1. Rajiv Agarwal, District Magistrate, Varanasi
2. Abhimanyu Singh, Block Development Officer, Badagaon
3. Sameer Verma, Sub Divisional Magistrate, Pindra
4. Village head, Belwa
5. District Medical Officer, Varanasi
Place of incident: Belwa Village, Badagaon Block, Varanasi District, Uttar Pradesh
Date of incident: 28 July 2006

I am writing to you to express my outrage at the death of another child in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh as a result of deliberate inaction of caste-obsessed local government officials.

According to the information I have received, Seema Musahar died on the morning of July 28 in her village after desperate attempts by her mother to get help at a primary health centre some 9km distant. Seema died because her parents have been out of work due to the struggle against bonded labour in Varanasi, a form of modern-day slavery that I find incredible is still being practiced in Uttar Pradesh. Seema's parents had been working as labourers at a brick kiln for which they had received only pitiful amounts of low-quality grain and chaff as payment. After they had left the work, they could get virtually no food and Laxmi was not able to produce milk for her child.

I am shocked to learn that in addition to this on June 18, Laxmi's father, Phoolchand, had already also died of starvation. After that, the family met with the District Magistrate, Block Development Officer and Sub Divisional Magistrate, who are named above. Although the officials learnt that the starving family had no access to any government welfare schemes, the District Magistrate just gave a note to admit them to the district hospital in Varanasi. Seema was admitted to hospital on June 26 but discharged on July 1 without getting adequate treatment. On July 11 Laxmi wrote to the District Magistrate requesting 1000 rupees (USD 20) from emergency funds to help her family but received no reply, after which Seema died.

I am aware that this is by no means the only recent starvation death in Belwa and that many other people are at risk. Muneeb Musahar, a 3-year-old boy, also died of starvation on May 29. Like Seema, he was taken for medical attention just before his death and found to be in a critical condition. On May 26 the primary health centre at Baragaon recorded that he weighed only 10kg and was suffering severe malnutrition. Yet, although in his case his family had been issued with a red ration card, Muneeb died. At least one other child has died in similar conditions in the last two months in the village, where over 30 families are reported to be starving, and cooking food only once every four or five days.

All this is going on without there being any public distribution schemes or government assistance programmes in Belwa, and despite the fact that the conditions there are well-known to the authorities and general public. The local news media have reported on the starvation deaths and severe malnutrition, and the National Human Rights Commission has taken cognisance of complaints and issued notices to the concerned authorities. However, instead of taking steps as required, the local authorities have reportedly persecuted the people more and the District Magistrate has repeatedly ordered the arrest of human rights defenders working in the area.

I am informed that the reason for the deliberate inaction and hostility of the authorities is because the Belwa village head, District Magistrate and others are reported to be caste-minded feudalists and landlords who have no interest in the conditions of the Musahars. The District Magistrate is known to hold Musahars in contempt and is alleged to have publicly abused them. I am informed that when on a previous occasion he came to the village under pressure due to public appeals about starvation there, he visited only to the house of the village headman and went away. Some of the Belwa villagers have accused him of intending to starve them out of existence, and from the evidence available to me I share this concern.

At a time that India is pretending to become a world power, people in Uttar Pradesh are living under barbaric subhuman conditions. I demand that you act immediately to bring an end to their suffering, as follows:

1. Ensure emergency grants and subsequent full redress to the families of persons who have starved to death in Belwa, including the families of Seema and Muneeb Musahar. A special local committee of credible persons should be established for the purpose of ensuring that this is done.

2. Initiate full and fair legal and criminal investigations into the deaths, through an independent investigative team from outside of the district, with a view to laying charges against any persons found responsible for a failure of duty to prevent the deaths.

3. Suspend at once the District Magistrate, Block Development Officer, Sub Divisional Officer, Village Head and District Medical Officer identified above, subject to the completion of the necessary inquiries.

4. Launch all necessary government welfare schemes in Belwa and open a food distribution centre and primary health centre there without delay.

5. Allocate agricultural land to landless families in Belwa, with priority given to the families of victims of starvation deaths, and other necessary measures to see that the local people are gainfully employed and able to support themselves.

I trust that you will take immediate action with regards to the above as this is a matter of the utmost seriousness and one that places the reputation of the whole of India at jeopardy.

Yours sincerely,


Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Uttar Pradesh
Fax: + 91 52 2223 0002 / 2223 9234


1. Mr. Rajiv Agarwal
District Magistrate
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Fax: 91 5422501450

2. Justice A.P. Mishra
Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission
6-A Kalidass Marg
Uttar Pradesh
Tel: + 91 52 2272 6742
Fax: + 91 52 2272 6743

3. Shri Justice A. S. Anand
National Human Rights Commission of India
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi-110001
Tel: + 91 11 23074448

4. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
Government of India
5th Floor, Loknayak Bhawan
Khan Market
New Delhi 110003
Tel: + 91 11 2462 0435
Fax: + 91 11 2462 5378

5. Mr. Jean Zeigler
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
c/o Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Room 4-066, OHCHR, Palais Wilson,
Rue des Paquis 52, Geneva
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 9179010

6. Mr. Doudou Diene
Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
1211 Geneva 10,
Tel: + 41 22 917 93 88
Fax: + 41 22 917 9006

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Posted on 2006-07-28
Back to [2006 Urgent Appeals]