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Starvation deaths in West Bengal - in the 1000s, near Jalangi

nabadip - Thu, 19 May 2005 16:21:37 +0530
From :

"Next day we proceeded to Jalangi which has been witnessing starvation deaths. If the neglect and poverty of Murshidabad had surprised us, much more was in store on the way to Jalangi. The bus taking us to Jalangi seemed to be the only vehicle on the road which had almost no vehicular traffic except a few buses moving in both directions. Even motorcycles were rare. Thus we reached Jalangi on the Indo-Bangladesh borders. The present "Jalangi" is a resettlement town as the river had gulped the old Jalangi which now lies on the eastern bank of Padma. People told us that the old town had 900 houses, none of which stand today. It is rare here to come across a modern house built with steel and cement. Most houses are small shacks built with bamboo which cost around Rs 2000 and last for ten years on average. These light shacks which have no foundations or pillars are often swept away during floods and strong winds. We saw men, and sometimes women too, sitting under large bamboo canopies built outside shack clustres where people were taking rest or playing cards or simply chatting. We were told that these people have nothing else to do so they are just passing time. What are the jobs available here?, I asked. None, came the answer, except occasional agricultural work or some digging or filling ordered by the authorities implementing programmes to create work for the poor. I was told the whole of Jalangi area has no industry except a bidi factory which employs around 100 persons.

You can see the river eroding lands, houses and graves along the coastline. We are told that the next season some of the houses on the edge of the coast will cease to exist. Jalangi's underground water is not potable as it contains dangerous levels of arsenic. The authorities have dug a few deep hand-pipes but these do not meet the demand.

The visible sign of state authority here is the string of the border security force (BSF) outposts along the river and an office of the Indian customs department. This office auctions smuggled goods intercepted by the BSF. Though Bangladesh land is on the other side of the river, even on this side we saw border demarcation signs. From the Indian side you could see Talpatti in Bangladesh's Kushtia district across the river.

We started moving along the coast where displaced people have built shacks in a number of clusters bearing the names of their lost villages. Everywhere we went people came out to tell us identical stories of how they lost their lands and homes, how their loved ones are dying due to lack of enough food, how the able-bodied are deserting the villages and going to Delhi, Mumbai, Gujarat and other areas of West Bengal in search of jobs leaving behind their women, parents and children. We came acorss a number of villages which had no pucca roads, like Ghoshpara, Farzipara, Rajpara, Paraspur, Dayarampur, Ghauripur Bhanganpara, Schoolpara…The last two stand on government land given to the villagers when they moved here long ago but they are still to receive the Rs 5000 grant each family was promised as a help to build their houses.

People here have undergone similar experiences. The river changed course, devouring their houses and lands and they had no choice but to move to other areas. Some like Ayub Ali of Paraspur, say they changed their abodes three times during the last decade as a result of this problem. Their other problem is that the authorities are not issuing them below poverty line (BPL) ration cards which allow them to buy subsidised rice and entitle them to at least 100 days' work in a year. Even for those who are lucky enough to get BPL cards, rice is not always available in the ration shops and their wages are not paid in full. They are supposed to receive Rs 62 for ech day’s work but it is not paid to them in cash. They are supposed to receive five kgs of rice and Rs 32 in cash but this is not what they actually get days later. CPIM cadres deduct two rupees from each day’s cash wage and 300 grams from the ration as donation to party fund. People here have agitated for long against this injustice. They went to the local government offices and even refused to receive the stinking rotten rice which was kept in the silos in the same area but the authorities preferred not to distribute it in time.

Others find casual work in private farms for which they are paid Rs 20 for a full day's work. Even at such low wages they manage to get work only for 10-15 days in a month. Every household here has gone through starvation-like situation during recent months. Since last February many homes have lost men, women and children as a result of the scarcity of food. English-language newspapers seldom publish these developments but Bengali newspapers, like Anand Bazar Patrika, have regularly published these tragic developments which are a sad commentary on a communist government which claims to serve the poor and defend their rights. This government has not even made good its promises of offering land to the uprooted villagers when the tragedy started to unfold about a decade ago.

These people are so poor and illiterate that they cannot raise their voice in the face of an apathetic administration or reach the media and courts. A majority of the victims are Muslims although some are Hindus as well and live in the same villages side by side Muslims. One of them, who identified himself as Degen Parawanik of Dayarampur village which is worst-affected, told us that there are 692 persons in his village on the verge of death due to starvation. We also met a woman here whose father-in-law, called Alimuddin, had died due to starvation only two months ago. His wife too died a week later. The woman told us that her neighbours now give them food from time to time in the wake of the death of her father-in-law.

In Paraspur we came across a woman who was stitching a kind of quilt which she called 'katha-sila". She told us that she was making it for a man in another village. How much it takes to complete the quilt and what she will get in return, we asked. She told us that it takes her three months to complete the quilt and she will get Rs 200 for her pains. In the same village we find an almost blind old man who introduced himself as Sariat Mondal. He told us that he has the BPL card which entitles him to get two kilos of rice each week at the subsidised rate of Rs 3 per kg but the rice is not always available in the ration shop. People told us that their children go to school which is free and they get mid-day meal on every school day."
nabadip - Thu, 19 May 2005 21:53:13 +0530
Pregnant mother dies of starvation in Nadia District, West Bengal:
nabadip - Thu, 19 May 2005 22:01:48 +0530
"Children died of hunger right on its doorstep. But UNICEF has taken no action whatsoever to intervene in the situation," said Kirity Roy, the protest organiser.

The number of death from starvation is growing among the poor, especially those families forcibly evicted from their homes at the Bellilious Park in Howrah municipality by the authorities without any compensation and resettlement. More than 1,000 children from the Bellilious Park have been living with their families in inhumane conditions for the past two years -- at a rubbish dumpsite in Belgachhia and on the streets along railway tracks and bypasses.

They are being deprived of basic facilities for survival, suffering from poverty, malnutrition and other diseases due to contaminated water and the filthy and unhygienic environment. Another 12,000 children face a similar fate in the districts of Murshidabad, Nadia and Dinajpur."


nabadip - Thu, 19 May 2005 22:18:55 +0530
“My uncle cried bhat dey, bhat dey (give me rice, give me rice) for three days before he died."

Starvation stench in Amlashol again


Midnapore, April 20, 2005: The spectre of starvation has returned to haunt West Midnapore’s Amlashol with a person from the Shabar tribe allegedly dying of hunger.

Last year, a panchayat samity member had raised the stink of five starvation deaths in the village. The government had contested the charge but had also initiated development work in the region.

Forty-two-year-old Lula Shabar died on Saturday after his wife Mugi and eight-year-old daughter Ledi left for his elder daughter Jaba’s house in Dhobakacha village, 15 km from Amlashol, as there was no food in the house.

Villagers said it was for the same reason that Jaba, 15, had eloped with 17-year-old Budhu Shabar four days before Lula’s death.

“No one was beside him when he died. The villagers arranged for the last rites and cremated his body,” said Budha Shabar of Amlashol, 220 km from Calcutta.

The administration, however, ascribed Lula’s death to tuberculosis. “Lula did not die due to starvation…. We have already inquired into the matter and found out that he was suffering from TB,” said subdivisional officer of Jhargram Ganesh Chaudhuri.

However, Kailash Mura, the panchayat samity member who had stung the government in June 2004, said malnutrition due to starvation had led to Lula’s tuberculosis.

“Lula had recovered from TB but was again afflicted with the disease because of starvation and malnutrition,” said Mura, who had won on a CPM ticket but later joined the Samajwadi Party.

When Jaba’s mother came to her house, she told her that Lula was ill. “For three days, they did not have anything to eat”, the 15-year-old said.

Mugi and Ledi have set off for Jharkhand in search of a job, Jaba said. “She still does not know that father is dead.”

In Amlashol, Lula’s nephew Rathu Shabar recounted Lula’s ordeal. “My uncle cried bhat dey, bhat dey (give me rice, give me rice) for three days before he died. But, from where shall we provide rice? We ourselves have virtually nothing to eat. The day before he died, we had given him some fan (starch water that is thrown away after rice is cooked). The next afternoon, he died,” said Rathu.

Asked why Lula was left without food despite the government’s various development schemes, Rathu said: “My uncle did not have any strength to work. As a result, he did not have money to buy the rice and foodgrain under poverty alleviation schemes.

nabadip - Thu, 16 Jun 2005 19:24:57 +0530

"At least three blocks —Balarampur, Santuri and Puncha (Haldi’s home), 260 km from Calcutta — are in the grip of hunger."
nabadip - Fri, 17 Jun 2005 14:01:05 +0530
"All 20 block development officers of Purulia have been told to fan out to the villages and identify those living in “abject poverty”.

If at all the officers land up at the right places, they would see many like Haldi, 70, who survive on Rs 5.47 a day before death.

At Ramaidi village in the Puncha block, 260 km from Calcutta, half of the 100-odd families appeared impoverished and suffering from malnutrition."
nabadip - Wed, 06 Jul 2005 21:44:46 +0530
Human rights bodies voice

Statesman News Service

Behrampore, July 5. — According to the reports of the human rights activists, terrible hunger is still confronting the inhabitants of the Jalangi area of Murshidabad.

A few months back it came to light that an acute hunger-situation prevailed over the Jalangi block in Murshidabad, which also happens to be worst-affected by river erosion. Several starvation deaths were also reported from villages like Dayarampur, Paraspur, Taltoli, Biswaspara of Jalangi. Officials of Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha ( MASUM), a human rights organisation in West Bengal, who visited the hunger-hit areas along the erosion prone Padma embankment yesterday, observed: “ About 14 mouzas ,out of the 30 in Jalangi block, have been washed away by the Padma in last ten years. Land holders have turned into landless labourers and the rehabilitation efforts made by the governments have come a cropper because of large-scale corruption in BPL service, G.R., Annapurna, Antyadaya and other such schemes meant for the people of Jalangi.

Mr. Kirity Roy, the secretary of MASUM, told The Statesman: “Some deltaic regions on the Bangladesh side, have emerged over the years but the civil administration and BSF do not allow the Indian peasants to cross over and cultivate these fertile lands. The Bangladeshis, however, conveniently sneak into Indian territory and farm on it despite the fact that the borderline is well-demarcated. This is matter of shame for the Indian administration.”

In a fax message to the district administration yesterday, the Hong-Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission also expressed concern that till date nothing has been done by either the officials of the local government or humanitarian organisations to alleviate the suffering of hunger victims at Jalangi area in Murshidabad.

“How is it possible that with growing international attention, starvation still persists in Jalangi?” questioned the AHRC message.

nabadip - Sat, 16 Jul 2005 23:24:51 +0530
Breached embankments pose a threat in Jalangi

Asim Pramanik , The Statesman
in Jalangi

July 15. — As monsoon sets in, river Padma flows in full spate and the result is disastrous for peasants living along the eroding embankments in Jalangi area of Murshidabad. More than one hundred houses along the Padma embankment have been washed away this week and the number of people rendered homeless is around one thousand.

The figure only adds up to thousands of erosion victims who lost their homestead due to the eroding river here over the years. The government officials, however, claim that there’s no shortage in relief materials and the need of the hour is to reach out to the victims.

“ How many times can one get on with the travails of being homeless? A single sheet of tarpaulin and two kg rice given as relief hardly makes any difference to a family of 9 to 15 members. We need erosion prevention works along the vulnerable embankments. Allocation of relief needs to be up to the requirement”, said, M. Manoj Singh, an erosion victims in Jalangi.

There are reports that several people died of starvation in the river-side villages like Dayarampur, Parashpur, Taltoli and Biswaspara after the farmers here lost their land to the menacing Padma recently.

Another victim, Faijuddin Biswas said, “ Boulders were dumped far away from the erosion site and we have heard that the administration has embarked on a plan to carry out anti-erosion works during the current monsoon season. During monsoon the boulders get washed away by the river facilitating corruption”.

The DM, Murshidabad, Mr N. Manjunatha Prasad told The Statesman, “ A team of irrigation engineers will visit the erosion site at Jalangi today. They would explore the possibility of starting anti-erosion works here. We have enough of relief materials and the victims were provided with tarpaulin, rice, dry food etc.”
A member of the flood and erosion prevention committee, Mrs Khadija Banu said, “ The governments appears to be indifferent to the plight of erosion victims. Now the people here are left with no alternative but to starve.”