Deaths in Kushinagar District due to Malnutrition-Caused Illness

THE Right to Food Act and the much-hyped Ayushman Scheme have been reduced to a cruel joke for the poor, the latest example being Kushinagar District in Uttar Pradesh where the Musahar poor are suffering untimely deaths due to starvation, malnutrition and disease.

The Modi-1 government at the Centre, instead of bringing a complete Social Security Act for the poor, brought the so-called Food Security Guarantee Act. This Act reduced the earlier 50 kg ration per family to 5 kg ration per unit. For a worker, this barely guarantees 15 days food per month. Landless workers have lost even the bare minimum money with the stoppage of MNREGA in villages. This makes them extremely vulnerable to diseases caused by malnutrition. The government’s Ayushman Scheme is limited to mere propaganda.

The death of ten people from the Musahar caste (men and women, of whom many were the heads or sole earning members of their families) in Kushinagar from last July till date (about 2 ½ months) due to malnutrition-caused diseases exposes the government’s failure and hypocrisy. When reports of the deaths came, a 3-member CPI(ML) enquiry team visited Kushinagar on 10-11 September 2019. The team comprising State Committee members Rajesh Sahani and Harish Jaiswal and Kushinagar District in-charge Param Hans Singh reached Thadhibhar village in Dudahi Block. This is the same village where Yogi, before becoming Chief Minister, came on a Padyatra during which he claimed he would being wonderful changes in the lives of the Musahar people. There are more than 150 Musahar families in the Thadhibhar Gram Sabha. The names of the dead from Shahpur Patti coming under this Gram Sabha are Sudarshan (38), Vaidayi (35) and Beeppat (30). They died in mid-August from common fever. Ganesh (42) from Rajitola, Pankaj (17) from Rampur Patti, Magri (52), a 55 year old woman from Thadhibhar, Dukhi (58), Banka (57), Chanda (57) from Tarkulahi, and one more person aged 54—they all died between July and mid-September from common and slight illnesses, malnutrition being the chief cause of their deaths.

These families receive neither the attention of the government nor the benefit of government schemes. Under the Ujjwala Scheme, they were made to pay money to get gas stove connections. After the first time, no one took a refill cylinder. Antyoday cards have been issued to 45 out of 90 families in Shahpur Patti, 42 out of 80 families in Rampur, 4 out of 12 families in Thadhibhar Khas, and 6 out of 46 families in Rajahi Tola. These families get rations only twice or thrice a year. They do not have rations in their homes, and therefore being able to get food is an uncertainty for them. Daily wage work is available only occasionally in the villages at Rs 100 per day. They got only 12-15 days’ work through MNREGA last year. The houses they had got earlier under the Indira Awas Yojana are either incomplete or dilapidated and are in an unusable condition. Only a few people have been given electricity connections. Of more than 150 families, 100 were given pattas on 275 acres of land in ’75-’76 but only 7 or 8 families could get kabja (possession) of the land. Their pattas are adjacent to the road and dominant sections from a neighboring State have taken possession of their lands.

Hindutva organizations are also putting pressure to drive these families away. Most of the people live in huts made in barn spaces. The Tahsil administration also keeps torturing them to evict them. When the Shahpur Patti Pradhan and the Accountant have prepared a file of 70 people for residential pattas, the Accountant was removed. The Modi-Yogi governments and the BJP-Sangh Parivar make tall claims of nationalism and patriotism but their callousness towards people dying untimely of malnutrition and poverty does not display much patriotism. The CPI(ML) has decided to hold dharna protests on 25 and 30 September 2019 at various Tahsils in Gorakhpur District on issues including the demand to stop the starvation and malnutrition deaths of Musahars.