Odisha tribal woman dies of starvation during lockdown, food rights group alleges
The woman was buried instead of being cremated because there were no survivors in her immediate family to perform the funeral.Updated: Jul 15, 2020 06:59 IST
A 46-year-old tribal woman of Nayagarh district allegedly died after failing to get food, in the first probable case of starvation death during the lockdown, a group of activists said.
Dukhi Jani from Kaliamba village in Nayagarh, who was deserted by her husband, died on June 24 after going without any food for three days. Jani had gone to the local forest on June 24 afternoon when she collapsed and died.
She was buried instead of being cremated because there were no survivors in her immediate family to perform the funeral.
After the local media reported about her death, a fact-finding team from Odisha Khadya Adhikar Abhiyan had visited her village early this month and found that Jani did not have access to food for three days before she died.
“Jani depended on collection of non-timber forest produce from nearby jungles as she had no other source of income. Her access to subsidised food grain supplies from the public distribution system was limited and irregular,” said Sameet Panda, one of the members of the forum on food rights.
“Though she had an Annapurna card sanctioned in March 2016 that entitled her to get 10 kilos of rice free from the public distribution system, she had got the rice last in November 2018. She was deprived of free ration from November 2018. She was entitled to pension as a single woman but couldn’t get one in spite of applying several times via panchayat and block officials. This is a clear case of administrative negligence and apathy on many counts,” Panda said.
Panda said the tribal woman didn’t have a job card under MGNREGA, which could have provided her unskilled work. Neither did she get the Jan Dhan support provided by the central government as assistance during the lockdown. She didn’t get the rice and dal offered under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana even she had presumably did not have a ration card.
The investigating team’s members who spoke to local villagers said despite approaching panchayat and block officials, Jani could not get a ration card under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana.
“She got a State Food Security Scheme card only after she went to the district collector’s grievance cell on February 24 this year. She did not have any other social security scheme to support herself,” said Laxmidhar Singh, another member of the team.
Local sarpanch Trilochan Sahu said he had arranged for 15kg of rice and Rs 1,000 during the lockdown for her.
Anganwadi worker Basanti Behera said Jani was given cooked food for some days during the initial period of the lockdown by the community resource person of the gram panchayat but it stopped after some time.
“It was a sad case of complete social apathy. The person like Dukhi in such a dire case was not supported much by the community. Jani being a single woman without any income support should have provided with AAY card to provide protection from hunger and starvation,” a member of the Odisha Khadya Adhikar Abhiyan said.
“The current situation due to the pandemic has made many poor people like Jani vulnerable to starvation death,” the member added.
Nayagarh district collector Poma Tudu did not respond to messages or calls seeking the administration’s comment on the alleged starvation death.