Even 10 days after a 45-year-old man allegedly died after going without food for five days in Champakheda village in Rajasthan’s Chittorgarh district, the district administration denied that he died of starvation.
A caste angle has also emerged in the death.
Kishan Singh, the head of a family of six, was a Rajput — and that seems to have prevented him from seeking work or asking for food from other villagers who are lower caste Bhils.
Since theirs was the only Rajput family in the Bhil village, around 350 km from Jaipur, Singh did not deem it fit to work with Bhils, his wife Ganga Bai said.
“He would tell me to give whatever little food we had to the children and would eat only if anything remained,” she said. Ganga Bai had worked for 27 days in August and September in a tree plantation drive under the Centre’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, for which she was reportedly paid Rs 2,568.
Mangibai Bhil, 40, who lives in Bhilon ka Kheda, a village 1 km from Champakehda, said she and some other women found Ganga Bai had no food when they had gone to work in a farm a month ago. “She (Ganga Bai) said there was no food at home,” Mangibai said. “We were able to feed her after much coercion.” Another woman, Tulsi Bhil, said: “After the funeral, the Bhil families in our village made one and two kilogram flour packets and gave it to the family.”
Pappu, Singh’s 19-year-old son who works as a casual labourer in Madhya Pradesh, earning Rs 60 per day, said, “I don’t earn so much that I can support my family.”
Other members in the family include Singh’s unmarried elder brother, 11-year-old polio-afflicted daughter Prem and two sons Manohar, 8 and Prahlad, 6.
District collector Arushi Malik, however, claimed that the tehsildar’s record shows the family owns land. “He (Singh) was poor but not so poor that he would die of starvation,” she said.
But Pappu said the family did not have any land — some of it was sold and the remaining usurped.