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Posted Online on Thursday 14, April 2005 10:30 IST


Another starvation death in Murshidabad

By Nadim Ahmad, The Milli Gazette

Published in the print edition of The Milli Gazette (16-30 April 2005)

Jalangi, Murshidabad, 6 April: Local authorities here are sitting on at least 1652 quintals of rice of the National Food for Work Project (NFFWP) while they have allowed another 843 quintals of rice to rot along with Rs 240,000 under Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (Full Village Employment Scheme - SGRY) which was allotted for 12,000 working days for Jalangi Panchayat Samity and lies unutilised. In the current year 1652 quintals of rice have been made available to them by the previous month which is also in danger of being left to rot. District Magistrate Mr. NM Prasad accepted that he has no information regarding this. As regards starvation deaths in the area Mr Prasad accepted that the administration has been slow to move. Had they moved efficiently and in time they could have saved a few lives, he said. On 19 March Mr. Prasad had a meeting with the local authorities at Berhampore Zilla Parishad regarding the poverty eradication programme there. He reprimanded the concerned officials for not taking or being up to the required level of functioning. 

As for the local Block Development Officer (BDO) Mr Kanchan Chaudhary, he has the information because he was informed officially by the authorities concerned of the NFFWP. The area chairperson Bharti Ghosh inspected the stock some 15 days earlier at the Jalangi godown and found that the condition of the stock is not good. Zilla Parishad President Ms Aisha Siddika Begum has assured that she would look into the matter herself as reported in the local news paper (A.B. Bangla, Kolkata) of 4 April 2005. 

Today I met some local people, Rupjan Bewa, Nirupma Mondol and Sinltu Mandol at Dayarampur in the Ghoshpara panchayat. They informed me that at least 200 women and 600 men had worked two months back under the NFFWP project but they are still waiting for their payments.

There was one more victim on 2 April 05 of the on-going rage of starvation deaths as reported in the local newspaper here (A.B. Bangla, Kolkata) dated 4 April 05. I personally met the family members of the victim Rumpa Sharma, a girl aged 16. Her mother told me that on the fateful day Rumpa had asked for some food two or three hours before taking her life, and also had a scuffle with her younger brothers on the food left in the house, which she could not eat because her younger brothers did not share it with her. Mother went out to find some food for her. On returning home, she did not find her daughter. When she (mother) asked about Rumpa’s whereabouts, she was told by her elder daughter that Rumpa was in her room weeping. The mother started cooking food, and having done that she called out Rumpa. When she did not get any reply, she went to Rumpa's room. She found the door closed from inside. After a few calls, she peeped into the closed room from the adjacent room which shared a window with the other room. 

She could not believe her eyes. Her beloved hungry Rumpa was hanging from the roof-bamboo. Later on the dead body of the victim was brought to the local police station and sent for postmortem report to Berhampore. At the Jalangi police station, ASI Mr. Sarkar told me that the postmortem report had not been received till now. He also claimed that the case is not of starvation but that the girl had some differences with her father and mother. During the last two and a half months at least 9 persons have died of starvation in Dayarampur village alone. They are: 1. Alimuddin Sheikh, 60 years, 2. Janera Bewa, 50 years, w/o Alimuddin Sheikh, died eight days after her husband, 3. Afijan Bewa, 60 years, 4. Sattar Sheikh, 50 years, 5. Jamera Bewa, 50 years, 6. Ajijul Mondal (originally of Paraspur now living at Dayarampur), 60 years, and 7. Ajijul Mulla s/o Muljan Mulla. Family members say he died a few months back, 8. Gadal Mondal, 16 years, s/o Sasticharan Mondal. Reportedly he consumed Caoh (chune ka pani) by mistake during night stealthily due to acute hunger assuming it to be toddy, 9. Rumpa Sharma d/o Somendra Sharma, 16 years, who committed suicide on 2 April 05.

There is information about starvation deaths from other areas such as one casualty in Paraspur village. Victims names are Gohar Mondal, 50 years, who was suffering from anemia and Dhiren Mondal, 55 years, of Taltoli. These deaths have occurred in the Ghoshpara Panchayat area. The Ghoshpara Panchayat Pradhan Santosh Ray denied to provide any information regarding starvation deaths. He claimed that most of the deaths had occurred due to old age. He reused to offer information about the number of below poverty line (BPL) ration cards issued to people below poverty line in his area. He also refused to divulge any information regarding the APL or AAPL ration cards. 

The local MLA, who belongs to the CPIM, also denied any starvation deaths. However, he confirmed that there are 25% people below poverty line out of which 20% have been allotted BPL ration cards. 

There are many other families at Dayarampur village who are suffering from the starvation and anyone of them could die any day. Out of these I have seen four persons identified as Supria Bewa, 60 years, mother of Ajijul Mondal the deceased, Amina Bewa, 65 years (paralysed) and Manjura Bibi. Another family which is in acute poverty is Janara Bibi’s of which one casualty Afijan Bewa has already been reported.

Most of the starvation deaths have been reported from Dayarampur, in Ghoshpara Panchayat area, which I have not touched in terms of relief work because there Mr. Salim and Mr Jahangir Sheikh of Murshidabad Gram Unnayan Samity are doing relief work and have done some distributions of rice (8 or 7 kg per head).

People who have their land are allowed to go to the other side of the Padma river when they submit their voters identity cards. I was not allowed to cross the river to take photographs and was asked to take permission from the area headquarters at Roushanbagh in Lalbagh, Murshidabad.

A local active person, Gopal Sharma of Dayarampur, has started an agitation against the dire situation prevailing in the area, but the police have arrested his mother Sewa Sharma, 72 years, as well as his son Parimal Sharma at 8 pm in the evening of 30 March 05, and have threatened to arrest Gopal Sharma himself if he does not stop his activities. Now the arrested persons are languishing in jail at Berhampore. The Police has accused them of harassing Parimal Sharma’s wife. A case was lodged against them on 04 February 05 under No. 25/05 Jalangi P.S. They have been sent to jail under G.R. 173 / 05 u/s 498 A, 307/34 IPC. «

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