The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought Action Taken Report (ATR) from the Chief Secretary over starvation death cases continuing in Odisha. Activist lawyer Radhakanta Tripathy moved the apex rights panel pointing out the negligence of the State Government in handling the situation.
On December 17 last, a 63-year-old man of Kamkeda village under Nuagaon panchayat in Nuapada district died of starvation. The deceased TK Mahananda was landless and begged for survival with his mentally-challenged daughter. His son was also mentally-challenged and had left home earlier. Mahananda was bed-ridden and was living with his mentally challenged children, and was unable to feed himself.
A landless, Mahananda was mentioned as 63-year-old in his voter identity card but was deprived of old-age pension till his death. An Antyodaya card of Mahananda was cancelled during the preparation of ration cards under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) as an official mentioned his monthly income as Rs 10,000. As a result, he was not receiving his quota of rice for the last three months. Left with little choice he and his daughter had to resort to begging for survival, Tripathy contended.
In another similar incident, Sua Dei of Gutupalli village under Balangir block of the district died of starvation on November 8 last year. The woman was alone at her house as other members of the family had migrated to other States in search of work due to an acute drought condition in Balangir district, the petition pointed out.
According to a report, out of the 49,187 people in 30 districts, who are on the verge of starvation, 42,081 are from Kalahandi, 5,416 from the western district of Subarnapur and 813 from Nabrangpur in south Odisha. The western districts of Kalahandi, Koraput and Balangir are considered to be some of the most economically backward areas in the country. In 1985-86, an official in Koraput district admitted that 200 people had died of starvation in the region of Kashipur. In 1988-89, another 300 people died but the Government claimed hunger was not the cause. There were 345 starvation deaths in 2014. Once again, the Government refused to accept hunger as the cause, blaming other incidents such as disease and snakebite.
The welfare schemes don’t reach the poor people of the remote areas. The starvation deaths have been continuing. The poor villagers, SCs and STs are the worst victims. The failure of the State Government and its negligence to tackle the issue of starvation deaths amounts to severe human rights violation, Tripathy alleged.
He requested the NHRC to investigate the case through the Special Rapporteur and direct the Chief Secretary of the State to send a detailed report to curb the phenomenon of starvation death in the State and pay adequate compensation and benefits of social welfare schemes, including free medical care, to the surviving family members.