Tribal woman dies due to starvation in Odisha, Congress demands enquiry
The woman did not have a job card under MGNREGA, which could have provided her unskilled work. Neither did she get the Jan Dhan support provided by the Centre as assistance during the lockdown<b></b>
A 46-year-old tribal woman of Nayagarh district in Odisha allegedly died due to chronic hunger last month, making it in all likelihood the first case of starvation death during the lockdown, said Right to Food activists in the state.
As news of the death was widely reported, Odisha Congress has approached the state human rights commission on the issue and Pradipta Nayak, a human rights activist, has filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission of India.
The RTF campaign had sent a fact-finding team upon hearing that Dukhi Jani, 46, a single tribal woman, had died after going without food for three days in Kaliamba village under Nayagarh’ Nuagaon block on June 24.
“The death of Dukhi Jani appears to be a case of death caused by chronic hunger and starvation, as the deceased had no or little food for a long period of time and went without food for three days before her death,” said Sameet Panda of RTF. He was one of the members of the fact-finding team.
The team observed that despite several schemes run by the government for social safety and food security of the poor and the underprivileged, their entitlements are not always realised, either because of insensitivity and apathy on the part of the local administration or flawed implementation of rules and regulations.
The team found that the ailing lady, despite being an abandoned single woman without any income support, didn’t have an Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) card. “She should have had it. Her Annapurna card was cancelled for reasons known to none; depriving her from having access to the public distribution system for 15 months is gross injustice. As a single woman she was also entitled to pension as social security, but she didn’t get any despite repeated applications with local authorities. She was finally allotted a ration number, but it isn’t clear why she wasn’t provided with rice and dal under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana,” underscored Panda.
The woman did not 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.
The team also found violation of norms specified in Odisha Relief Code with regard to the official designated for investigating the case and persuading to cremate the dead body without post-mortem. This could be an attempt to suppress the reality that it was a case of starvation death, said the fact-finding team.
“The current situation due to pandemic has made many poor people like Dukhi vulnerable to starvation. The administration must initiate a special drive to identify the vulnerable people and protect them from hunger,” said another member of the fact-finding team.
After the issue came to light, on July 16 seven members of Odisha Congress approached OHRC. The PCC president Niranjan Patnaik condemned the state government, demanding that the state take cognisance of the issue and accept its failure. The party had asked for an enquiry by the State Relief Commissioner. The district CPI-M committee had visited the village to understand the issue.