Monday, January 16, 2006

Starving musahar community is still facing exploitation and police torture

Starving musahar community is still facing exploitation and police torture
Sandhya and Mithiles of Shikher Prashikshan Sansthan informed that in village Damahi of Jangal Mahal under Rajgarh Block in district Mirzapur, people of musahar community were dying of starvation. On their information PVCHR, a partner of Right to Food campaign, formed an inquiry team and made a visit to that village on 1 November 2005, 24 Km. away from Chunar. Having traveled 6 Km. through an unpitched road inquiry team reached to Jungle Mahal. Leaving their car behind, members of inquiry team had to walk on foot a distance of 1-5 Km to reach the village
Following members were there in the inquiry team-
Mr. Lenin : State co-coordinator of Right to Food Campaign.
Shruti- Coordinator of Savitri Ba Phule Mahila Panchayat.
Sandhya- Mahila Adhikar Manch.
Anupam- a member of core team of PVCHR.
Statement of members of victim families and fellow villagers

Ramchander (18 Years) S/o. Sri Rajnarayan- I have 4 brothers, one of them is handicapped. I have no land. My mother was ill. She had been suffering from hunger-oriented illness.Taking debt I managed medical treatment for my mother. She had taken no food for 5 days before she died. But neither any official from Block nor village head nor any doctor came to my house. Village head says that he has purchased the vote and he does not care the poor people. Hardly, I find work in an agricultural field through out the whole year. Our livelihoods depend upon collection of dry woods from the jungles. Early in the morning, often we go to the Jungle without food to
collect dry woods. In the evening after returning from jungle I go to market to sell the bundle of dry woods. Next day, by selling the dry woods I earn Rs. 50 to 70. I mean for two days work, I earn Rs.50 to 70. There is no hospital in the village or nearby area. In emergency we have to go to Ahraura(a nearest market). Often patients die in the half way. There is no resource of drinking water in the village. We bring water to drink from the nearby river. I do work in the stone quarry of Rakesh Patel at Shakteshgarh. For medical treatment of my mother and for other essential requirements, I have taken a debt of Rs 10000 from my employer Rakesh Patel. He pays only Rs. 5 to 6 out of Rs. 10, which is actual wage rate. If one dares to leave the work, certainly would be beaten.

Amravati a 12 Years old girl of musahar community told that she used to go the Jungle to collect dry woods. She told that she did not have food for daily. Often she becomes forced to go without food.

Krishnavati Kol told that when musahars and Kols did make demand for their rights, they were called Naxalites. So many innocent persons were beaten badly and were taken away by police.

Ramdulari told that she belonged to Chamar community. There is a piece of agricultural land in the name of her mother. Lallan Patel, and backward caste man of neo-feudal approach, has taken possession over that land. He destroyed the whole plantation of Parval(a kind of vegetable plants) which valued up to Rs.10,000/-. Police took no action against the culprit Lallan Patel.

Ramshakal Musahar told that he had white ration card but never get any food grains. He works as a laborer in the stone quarry of Krishna kumar. He has taken debt from him up to Rs. 7000-8000/. He says that he cannot stop the work, as a labor, of that man until he did not pay the whole debt back to his Employer. If one dares to quit the work, he would be beaten badly.

Daughter of Heerawati (Heerawati died of hunger) told that she could have got only dry bread to eat. She collects Bajra from the fields and eats it without roasting or cocking.

Kevali 55 years (she died after visit of team) old women told that she had no ration card. Due to hunger, her daughter in-law named Heerawati had died 3 years ago and her other younger daughter in law Munga also died of hunger. Munga could not get food for 4 previous days, before she died.

Son of Kevali, Vishnu told that taking debt from his employer Rakesh Chauhan he, some how managed to give medical treatment for her mother. (Be it known that Kevali too died of hunger after some days.)

Phunnu s/o Late Sarju told that on 8th October his father Sarju died of hunger. For 5 days before he died, he could not be able to give him food. He does not get food for everyday. He works in the stone quarry of Rampos of Bairampur. He has taken a loan of Rs. 850 from his employer Rampos. He gets Rs25 to 30 as daily wage. He cannot leave the work on the basis of low wage rate because he has no option.

Secretary of Shikhar Prashikshan Sansthan Sandhya told that she had been working since 1997 among mushar, kol and dalit communities to organize and educate them. She told that until some years back, mushars had not been dying of starvation. They used to collect leaves from the Jungle but now they could not take the leaves from there. Forest department does not allow them to enter into the Jungle. There had been drought for last two years. Agriculture has been a matter of loss due to which they to not find agricultural work. Women of mushahar community are worst affected and they are dying.

Convener of Savitri Ba phule mahila panchayat Shruti was taken aback knowing that on the very day of Deewali, here people are going without food. These people do not have food grains. It is undoubtedly nothing but havoc of hunger. People do not have red cards. They are not getting food grains on white card. They do not find work under the scheme of Food for Work. Employers are exploiting the laborers. In such a situation how may these people save their right to life? Musahars have no food. Women of these families hardly get food in the last because due to patriarchal structure of family they can take food at last if it remains. This is the reason, why cases of hunger deaths of women are more common than the women.

Campaign Coordinator of Right to Food Campaign, UP Dr. Lenin said that, Chief Secretary, District Magistrate and Chief Minister were celebrating Deevali but at the some time mushahar community was facing starvation. It is shameful for independent India.

• Musahar of Damhi Tola of Jungle Mahal of Rajgarh Block in district Mirzapur has died of hunger and hunger oriented illness and still facing starvation.
• Widow women like Makhan Mushahar (75 yrs.) who is qualified for widow pension scheme, is deprived of the benefit of the scheme.
• Musahars of Damhi Tola are dying of Starvation but they do not have red cards. It they are qualified to get the benefits of food securities, then why is they deprived of that. Those who have white cards are not getting food grains.
• Collusion between police and feudal forces is being exercised to torture musahar and Kol communities. But Police do not take any action against the perpetrators belonging to upper caste under SC/ST Act 1989 and Bonded Labor Act, 1976, who take possession over their land forcefully and destroy their crops and pay wages less than the minimum wage rate. Thus administration and police are making violation of article 14 of the Indian constitution. It is crisis of Rule of law. Poor people are frightened and find them unable to exercise their essential rights and they are dying of starvation. It is happening due to prejudiced nature of administration. In the village people have not got work under the scheme of “food for work”. There is no ICDS center in the Musahar Tola which is violation of directions of Honorable Supreme Court.
• UP Government has already issued a GO dated 22 Dec.2004 under which a contingency fund has been set up to provide immediate relief for starving family but it has not been followed in this case.
• Negligence on the part of state Government and District administration:
It should be noted that on an earlier complaint made by us, DR. N.C. Saxena Supreme Court commissioner had given to chief secretary of UP (Hungercomp/311/UP dated 05.06.2005) the following direction:

Performance of the food Schemes
A look at the available information on food schemes implemented in these districts presents a very grim picture. In Varanasi, Sonebhadra, Jaunpur, Khusinagar and Mirzapur, from where the deaths are reported, only 31% of the children under 0-6 age group are covered by ICDS. Seventy-one additional ICDS projects (in addition to the existing 64 projects) are required to cover the population as per existing norms. Even among the existing 64 projects nearly 9% of the anganwadi centres are not reporting to your Department of Women and Child Development. The staffing in these projects is also very poor with non-appointment of 19% of the sanctioned anganwadi workers (AWWs) and 30 % of the sanctioned anganwadi helpers (AWHs) in Mirzapur and 11% of the sanctioned AWWs and 12 % of the sanctioned AWHs in Jaunpur (see appendix 2).In the case of employment related schemes, the five aforementioned districts have utilized only 78% of the allocated funds and 56% of sanctioned food grains under the Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana (SGRY). Again Mirzapur performed worst with only 39% utilization of food grains. This is despite the fact that Mirzapur is a poor district, and here the percentage of agricultural labour to main workers is 33.78 % (as against 21.4% for UP) and percentage of marginal workers to main workers is 3.39 % (as against 2.94 % for UP). Except Jaunpur in the other three districts (Varanasi, Sonebhadra and Khusinagar) too the proportion of agriculture workers and marginal workers to main workers is much higher than that in U.P. on average.
Though in addition to SGRY, the National Food for Work Scheme was also in operation in districts of Sonebhadra, Mirzapur and Khusinagar, only 7.5 % and 8.6 % of the funds and food-grains were utilized in these districts.
Another fact which is distressing is that in districts of Varanasi, Jaunpur and Khusinagar, women beneficiaries under SGRY constituted of only 13%, 4%
and 18% of the total beneficiaries, which is much below the norm of 30 %, which is the proportion of reservation for women in employment schemes.
In light of continued reports of hunger deaths and poor implementation of food schemes, I recommend the following:

o Set up district-wise enquiries on the reported hunger deaths and provide necessary assistance to these families.
o In a letter dated 9.11.2004, No. 3872/26-06-04, it was mentioned that to prevent malnutrition deaths, discussions are in process to make the village level officials and gram pradhan accountable and to provide adequate funds at district level to provide immediate relief to people in danger of hunger. It was also mentioned that I will be briefed on steps taken on these soon. I request you to kindly update me on the developments in this regard.
o Ensure that all AWCs are operational and reporting and all vacancies are filled in ICDS projects; further send us the details on the steps taken to increase the number of ICDS projects as per existing guidelines.
o Send a report on the reasons for low utilization under SGRY and NFFWSs and action taken to ensure full utilization of food grain and funds under these schemes.

1. Immediate relief should be given to the hunger victim families and action should be taken against village head and village secretary and lekhpal.
2. Under the Employment Guarantee Bill 2005, immediately, needy people should be given work for at least 100 days by preparing their list.
3. Action should be taken under Bonded labour Act, 1976 to release stone quarry workers, initiative should be taken to implement extensive rehabilitation programme for them. Stone quarries should be allotted to the workers on lease.
4. Owners of stone quarries are involved in illegal quarries work. It must be checked and revenue collection should be increased.
5. All qualified poor people should be given red cards immediately. Identifying the old women like Makhan,they should be issued Annapurna card.
6. Making judicial inquiry of the police atrocities against musahars and kols in the name of Naxalism,Rule of law should be established so that ultra
7. leftist violence in the reaction of feudal atrocities could be discouraged.
8. In the matter of forceful possession over the land of Ramvati by Lallan patel and for destroying her crop of Parval(a kind of vegetable plants) action should be taken under section 3(1) viii, 3(1) xi, 3(1)ix of SC/ST Act against the culprit. Under rule of SC/ST Act, making a visit of that village, DM and SP should take initiatives for rehabilitation of them under rule of the Act.
9. Strict implementation of Directions of Supreme Court¡¦s commissioners should be ensured.
Video footage of the statements given above made by members of victim families and fellow villagers is available on request.Report is translated in English and edited by Shiv Prasad Singh (Adv.)