INDIA: AHRC calls on UP chief minister to act on starvation deaths or resign
AHRC calls on UP chief minister to act on starvation deaths or resign
(Hong Kong, September 26, 2005) The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on Monday called for the chief minister of the Uttar Pradesh to take "immediate, unequivocal steps" to stop starvation deaths in his state or resign.
Expressing outrage at news of continued deaths due to hunger or related illnesses in historic Varanasi district, the AHRC said in a hunger alert that chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav had failed to meet his obligation "to respect, protect and fulfill the right to food in accordance with domestic and international law".
"We hereby call upon you now to meet this obligation or resign your position," the Hong Kong-based regional human rights group said in its letter to the chief minister.
The AHRC drew the chief minister's attention to recent cases of starvation in Sankarpur village, where an estimated 400 families are in utter poverty due to the collapse of the local weaving industry.
It raised the September 18 death due to starvation-related illness of 40-year-old Kanhaiya, whose wife and three children have been left destitute. Claims by local authorities that they did not know of the death were "difficult to believe", the AHRC said.
It also deplored the authorities' handling of the starvation deaths in April and May of three persons from the same family. The surviving members of Vishambhar's family had been given only "a pitiful handout", the AHRC also said.
"This meager ration has now run out and Vishambhar is again begging for some money with which to buy some food from day to day," it noted.
The AHRC also pointed to repeated correspondence from the Supreme Court, which the state government apparently felt free to ignore.
Referring to a July 5 letter from Supreme Court commissioner N C Saxena, the AHRC observed that the commissioner had "received no evidence of any action taken by your government to address ongoing starvation deaths in Varanasi, Sonebhadra, Jaunpur, Khusinagar and Mirzapur districts".
The ongoing deaths showed "that Supreme Court orders are not being implemented in the state", Saxena wrote.
The AHRC urged the chief minister to order investigations into how state officers could ignore their legal obligations and allow persons in their localities to die from hunger despite Supreme Court orders and standing government policies and programmes intended to prevent such deaths.
"The negligent persons… should be held fully and criminally accountable for their failures," the AHRC said.
"The right to food will only be made effective when the concerned agencies and agents feel the weight of responsibility for the task, which can come only with proper enforcement," it added.
The Varanasi-based People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights is organizing a public hearing on starvation in the district at Pavadakar Bhawan, Maidagin, on September 30, which will be attended by staff of the AHRC along with prominent Indian jurists and other concerned persons.
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About AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
Posted on 2005-09-26
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