Hunger Deaths in Jahanabad: An Investigation


In a shocking development, three people died of hunger in as many days (between 10-12 August) in Ratu Bigaha village under Paraman panchayat of Ghoshi block in Jahanabad district: Ram Chalitar Dom, Kunti Devi and Janardan Mahato. A fact finding team of CPI (ML) leaders met the family of victims on 14 August. There are 112 families belonging to the oppressed classes. 28 families belong to ‘mahadalit’ category and out of this 25 families are mushahar families. All are agrarian labourers. There is no farm activity due to drought, hence these families have no employment. The fact finding team spoke to almost all the villagers and could not find even one who would say that the deaths were not reasons other than hunger. It also came to light that public distribution is defunct here since long and the villagers did not get any food grains through PDS. The villagers said that in absence of any employment hunger-death is inevitable. These deaths have blown off the mask off justice and development from the face of Nitish Government. The mismanagement and total failure of administrative machinery can be seen from the fact that most of these families were provided yellow card of Antyodaya and the red, BPL card (nobody has white card of Annapurna scheme) in June 2008, but till date no one has ever received anything on these cards as found out in investigation of most of the cards.

Dharna Demanding Drought Relief in Bihar CPI (ML)’s Jahanabad unit issued a press statement on 10th August—the day when first death occurred—and made it known that the hunger situation was quite serious and even mentioned the names of families who were facing starvation including Mahendra Paswan’s (husband of Kunti Devi) family. The newspapers of that area published the report prominently and but still there was no action by district authorities. On 11th August, about a thousand people were demonstrating on the question of drought and land reforms at the District Collectorate when the news of Kunti Devi’s death came in. The District Magistrate was immediately apprised of the starvation death and given a memorandum on the seriousness of the situation. Despite this, there were no steps from the administration for urgent redress and Janardan Mahato lost his life the next day. This is criminal negligence by NDA ruled Bihar government, which not long ago had tried to cover the worsening situation with India Shining media blitzkrieg.
It was only on 13th August when the dist. unit of CPI (ML) declared gherao on the Ghoshi BDO, some foodgrains and other things were hurriedly distributed to a few families on 14th, that too through the Red Cross. Till then no relief or help had reached from the Govt. The BDO of Ghoshi has reluctantly accepted the truth, yet, Nitish’s welfare minister maintains the deaths are due to malnutrition and not otherwise. Whatever the Govt. says the situation is extremely grave in every hamlet in Jahanabad where poor people live. The Govt. must immediately provide free grains, essential things and provide employment to prevent more starvation deaths. The DM and SDO of Jahanabad, responsible for these deaths must be terminated from their services and face charges of murder as these deaths are due to their criminal negligence. On 14th August more than 2000 people completely blockaded Ghoshi block and burnt the effigy of CM Nitish Kumar. People were deeply enraged and demanded suspension and punishment to the DM and SDO.

Protests on Drought and Hunger

In Patna, CPI(ML) leaders observed a 48-hour mass fast dharna on 9-11 August, protesting against inadequate droght-relief measures in Bihar, and demaning a range of measures to safeguard poor peasants and landless labourers, including payment of NREGA dues, reviving of government water taps, increase in diesel subsidy, and a widespread drought-relief programme across the State. The fast and dharna demanded that small seasonal dams be made on rivers, pump sets be used to replenish ponds, debt-free water supply be provided to sharecroppers, and they be given Rs 4000 per acre as diesel subsidy. Implementation of recommendations of the Land Reforms Commission was also demanded. The CPI(ML) State Secretary Comrade Nandkishore Prasad led the fast, along with the entire range of party and mass organisation leaders of the State.   

On 14 August, whole of Jharkhand virtually stood still as people led by CPI (ML) blockaded roads in most of the State. The demand was to declare the State as drought hit and urgently provide ten thousand crore rupees as relief package. The blockade was most effective in Bagodar where 3000 people led by Com. Vinod Singh (MLA) blockaded the main highway for five hours. Other prominent points were Birni, Saria, Bishungarh Chowk, Ramgarh dist., Bokaro City and Phusro, Nirsa in Dhanbad, Lohardaga in South Chhota-Nagpur, Albert Ekka Chowk in Ranchi, Bundu, Chakradharpur ,Bhawnathpur, Garhwa in Palamu,  Nala, Dumka in Jamtada district and Mohanpur and Sarwan in Devghar. At about 15 places in Giridih district blockades were laid in which more than 8000 people took part.