A day after HT published a report on hungry children eating silica-laced mud in Uttar Pradesh’s Ganne village, officials descended on the village, offering biscuits to them and help to their parents.
Later, the parents were forced to put thumb impressions on written statements — denying hunger-related deaths in the village.
The reason: a Supreme Court fact-finding team is to visit the area on Tuesday, following the HT report.
“The officials brainwashed and forced the villagers to put their thumb impressions on the statements that they could not read,” said Nazim Ansari, state secretary of Asangathit Karmkar Shramik Union, a body fighting for the unorganised labour.
At 9.00 on Monday morning, villagers at Ganne, 45 km east of district headquarters Allahabad, were surprised to see government officials appear in their village after a 12-km hike from the nearest road. They had not seen so many powerful people in Ganne in a decade.
“Sab puch rahe the ki ration milta hai ki nahi. Baad mein ek kagaz pe bayan note kar ke le gaye (They asked us if we get food grains from the fair price shop and noted down our statements),” informed Surya Lal (45) who could not read what was written on the papers.
Most villagers, however, are not eligible for getting food grains meant for those below poverty line (BPL), as they are not officially classified as poor. Of the 149 families in the village, only 45 have BPL cards.
Asked about his findings, ADM Shahi, who led the team, told this reporter: “Tumko jo chhapna ho chhapo, koi pharak nahi padhta (Publish whatever you want to. It will hardly make any difference).”
Based on his report, District Magistrate Sanjay Prasad issued a contradiction on Monday, stating that there was no incidence of starvation in the village and that none of the children were eating mud to quell their hunger.