The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which probed "starvation deaths in KBK (Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput) districts, Orissa", has concluded in its findings that hunger and malnutrition are indeed a cause behind some of the deaths in this impoverished region of the state.
The report signed by NHRC chairperson Justice AS Anand, Justice Shivraj V Patil and three other members was sent to the state government on September 7, 2006.
The 19-page report, which was accessed by Hindustan Times, says, "The Commission had, at the initial stages of the case, made it quite clear to all the parties that the issue under consideration was not of an adversial nature and should be treated as an exercise of a participative and constructive endeavour designed to develop a package of measures that could bring about perceptible improvement in the lives of the affected population in the KBK districts of state of Orissa. It deputed a team of officers comprising the Secretary General
and the Director General (Investigation) to visit the affected areas for an on-the-spot inquiry into reports of death by starvation. The team found that out of 21 deaths investigated, 17 were attributed to the high level of deprivation existing in the area as a result of extensive crop damage, inadequate income levels and insufficient out-reach of relief measures. It also found that prolonged
malnutrition and hunger compounded by disease had played the contributory factors".
The report does not mention the period when these deaths were reported, but it mentions that the case has its "origin in the reports of starvation deaths in the districts of KBK brought to the notice of the Commission by Shri Chaturanan Mishra".
The report also mentions that NHRC Special Rapporteur Chaman Lal has been visiting KBK from time to time and he last visited KBK districts from 11th to 23rd
December 2005. Chaman Lal submitted his report to NHRC on March 13, 2006.
While mentioning about hunger-related deaths, the report also expressed its satisfaction over a number of measures undertaken by the state government.
Some of the important findings of the NHRC are:
*It is seen that the "target of providing one tube well for a population of 250 persons in all the KBK districts had been fully achieved".
*The Commission has "noted with certain amount of satisfaction the expansion and efficient execution of various pension schemes as well as the Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP)".
*"KBK region has been equated with the country's most backward districts. It is, therefore, appropriate that not only funds are released by the Government of India in time but also that the same are increased, if necessary, but surely not curtailed."
*The Commission "appreciates the efforts of the state government to efficiently operationalise Annapurna and Antyodaya schemes under the public distribution system".
*The Commission "appreciates the efforts taken towards improvement of educational facilities for ST/SC students. Better results, as compared to the previous years, in class X examination is a proof of sincere efforts being having taken in that area".
*The Commission is "distressed to note the failure of the state government in effectively combating the menace of Malaria and even Diarrhoea in this region which keeps on reoccurring".
*The Commission is "concerned to learn from the report of the Special Rapporteur that a large number of primary schools are having a single
teacher and/or being run from a single room. This is not a satisfactory situation at all".
State government officials refused to comment on the NHRC report.