Violence imminent over starvation in West Bengal, AHRC warns governor
(Hong Kong, July
18, 2005) Frustrated and starving villagers in West Bengal, India may soon be pushed into violence unless the government acts to address their situation, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) warned the state governor on Monday.
"The AHRC has since March on numerous occasions warned the state authorities about the worsening conditions in Jalangi, Murshidabad district but still they have failed to act," Kim Soo A, urgent appeals programme coordinator, told Gopal Krishna Gandhi.
"The situation is now bordering on a catastrophe and violence is almost certain to ensue," she warned.
The Hong Kong-based regional human rights group said that although the chief minister of the state, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, visited the district headquarters on July 16, people in Jalangi were still getting no relief.
During the visit, Bichuddin, of Taltali village, attempted to commit suicide by drinking poison.
According to a local human rights group, Manabadhikar Surksha Mancha (Masum), large amounts of money had also been allocated for the villagers, but still they have seen nothing.
"At a meeting in the affected area on July 17, Manju Nath Prasad, the district magistrate, said that 110 million rupees have been given to deal with the situation, but the villagers have seen nothing," Kirity Roy, secretary of Masum, said.
"The people are in unbearable distress and they are just hearing lip-service from these officials," he said.
A delegation from Masum met with government officials in the district at the start of July and discussed the severity of the situation in detail, but obtained no commitments from them.
"This tragedy again speaks to the utter callousness of the Indian authorities in the face of avoidable death and utter poverty," Bijo Francis, programme officer of the AHRC, said.
"All of the bureaucrats and politicians from the local to the state and central levels know that people in Jalangi are dying from hunger and attempting to kill themselves out of sheer frustration, yet nothing is being done," he said.
"Where is the immediate relief and rehabilitation they need?" Francis asked.
"Is the Indian state so bankrupt and defective that it is unable to do anything to help its citizens even in a life or death situation?" he added.
The AHRC warned the governor that the police could push agitated villagers into violence unless the administration acts without further delay.
Starvation is occurring in Jalangi because the Padma River is eroding and swallowing up tracts of land, leaving farmers destitute.
Those worst affected are from the Dayarampur, Paraspur and Taltali villages.
Although the problem has become greater over many years, the government did nothing to address it and only now is being pressured to react, the AHRC has said.
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.
Asian Human Rights Commission
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