Bihar Govt in denial over starvation deaths?
The Bihar government is unaware of any starvation death in the state. Though Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had recently directed all district magistrates of 38 districts of the state to keep a tab on any case of starvation, it has not received information of even one instance.india Updated: Oct 21, 2009 19:34 IST
The Bihar government is unaware of any starvation death in the state. Though Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had recently directed all district magistrates of 38 districts of the state to keep a tab on any case of starvation, it has not received information of even one instance.
However, the Advisor to the Commissioner of Supreme Court, to monitor the implementation of food-related schemes of the Bihar government, has said in a report there have been 100 starvation deaths in the last three years in the state - based on media reports.
The report was submitted to the Commissioner of the Supreme Court N.C. Saxena on October 16.
The report, which points to gaping holes in implementation of different schemes, assumes significance as 26 out of 38 districts in Bihar had been declared drought affected.
The state's Minister for Food and Consumer Protection Narendra Singh expressed surprised. "We are not aware of this figure. How can you prove that the deaths were caused by starvation? They might have died due to some disease," he said.
Rupesh, the state advisor to the commissioner of the Supreme Court, does agree that it is difficult to establish starvation deaths because even after three days food can be traced in the dead bodies. "But, surprisingly enough, no post-mortem was carried of people who died of starvation," he said. "It is a fact that people died of hunger in Bihar in the last three years due to the failure of food- and work-related government schemes.
He cites the example of Ratubigha village in Jehanabad district and Jhamawara village in Nalanda district, where the block development officer did not send the body for post-mortem or get a medical report after an alleged starvation death. "In Tetua Tola Kharuna village in Gaya district, Murti Devi in her late forties died on October 10. Although the local administration denied that she died of hunger, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered a probe," he said.
The schemes mentioned in the report include the Integrated Child Development Scheme, the Midday Meal Scheme, and public distribution system, the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the National Maternity Benefit Scheme, the National Social Assistance Programme, the National Family Benefit Scheme and the Annapurna Yojana.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in its investigation into alleged starvation deaths in Orissa had laid down some important principals. First of is that death is not necessary as evidence of starvation. In the words of Chaman Lal, former special rapporteur of the NHRC, "a person does not have to die to prove that he is starving."