All unclaimed bodies and deaths on India’s streets, except those from accidents, must be treated as starvation deaths unless proved otherwise, a Supreme Court-appointed panel has said.
In a letter last month to the court, its committee on right to food said in all such cases, besides the mandatory inquest (judicial investigation), there should be a post-mortem “to ascertain if death was caused by severe food deprivation”.
“If death by starvation is proved, punitive action (should be) taken and compensation given,” said the panel, comprising ex-bureaucrats N.C. Saxena and Harsh Mander.
The panel urged the court to "direct all state governments and union territories to conduct a comprehensive survey and identify urban homeless within six months".
The panel also requested the court to issue detailed guidelines on the implementation of this plan.
Every year, hundreds of homeless and destitute starve to death on the streets, particularly during the winter months.
"There is ample scientific evidence to show that due to increase in basal metabolism rate with fall in temperature, the body requires higher calories to maintain body temperature," it said.
The panel wants the court to ensure all rural and urban homeless are given Antyodaya Anna Yojana Ration Cards within six months of the date of the court's order.
For the urban homeless, it has several recommendations: kitchens (at a ratio of 1:20,000) that provide a wholesome
meal within Rs 10 for all working homeless males, for Rs 5 for women and free of cost for children, aged, infirm and destitute; high-quality residential schools for street children within a year; permanent 24X7 shelters in 62 cities/towns by March 2011 and in remaining cities in the next three years; 30 per cent of these should function as specialised shelters for women, aged, disabled and mentally challenged.