Thursday, October 17, 2002

Twelve die of starvation in Rajasthan

At least 12 persons, most of them children under ten years of age, have died because of hunger in the past four weeks in two blocks of this remote district adjoining Madhya Pradesh. Villagers say the number of deaths in the past two months could be even higher.

With employment and local income dwindling, hunger is rampant and chronic in this area, which is located about 350 km from Jaipur.

Family members of the victims say none of them have had had a square meal in weeks. They say they are managing on a meal consisting of a roti every two days. Families of each of the victims have stories to corroborate this claim even though the authorities say the deaths were caused by disease.

A medical team that went there claims to have found some foodgrains in the victims' houses that an accompanying local reporter did not see. MLA Hiralal Sahariya denies there were starvation deaths. He agrees most people are surviving on less than one square meal a day, a meal of one roti made from a grass, which is harmful to health. But if someone dies due to this, you cannot call it death due to hunger, he says. He has in his file a written statement from the people, according to which the children died because of vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and stomach ache over a prolonged period.

However, no medical facility is available in the village despite official claims that the deaths were caused by disease. The villagers allege that the patwari and later the ADM, scolded and threatened them for saying that their children starved to death. There is no source of livelihood, and because of drought there is no food. Labourers are facing starvation and some tribals have no foodgrains left in their houses, said a joint statement by the villagers. Will Jaipur respond to the SOS?

Source: Hindustan Times, October 17, 2002

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