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
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