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In another case of hunger striking the state of Jharkhand, a five-year-old Dalit child allegedly succumbed to starvation in Jharkhand's Latehar district on May 16. Her father who worked as a brick-kiln worker was not earning a single penny as all the construction and industrial activities had come to a halt during the lockdown.
The child, Nimani, had collapsed on Saturday evening and died on the way to the local health centre, several eye witnesses claimed, The New Indian Express reported.
Videos released by activists who visited the child's residence in Hesatu village, show family members claiming Nimani died due to hunger.
"She died of hunger," the child's mother, Kamlawati, said in one of the videos. "She had not eaten for four-five days. What can we eat when there is nothing to eat?" quoted Scroll.
1/3 Short thread: Hunger strikes again in Jharkhand (Hesatu village, Latehar): Dalit family, no land, no ration card, no food in the house. Eight children, all famished - one of them, Nimani (right), fell unconscious and died last evening. pic.twitter.com/JC1ALH3Pe5— Road Scholarz (@roadscholarz) May 17, 2020
2/3 Nimani's mother, Lalawati, was struggling to feed her children in the last 2 months, when her husband Jaglal Bhuiyan was trapped in a brick kiln in Latehar. pic.twitter.com/EsgALVGg8d— Road Scholarz (@roadscholarz) May 17, 2020
3/3 Jaglal Bhuiyan was getting food at the brick kiln, but his wages were being held until the end of the season. He was unable to send any money home. pic.twitter.com/MwJB970hB4— Road Scholarz (@roadscholarz) May 17, 2020
The district administration however has refused to "confirm" the incident, claiming that there was not sufficient evidence to attribute the death to starvation. "From what I have heard, the child had eaten breakfast and gone to a nearby pond to swim," Zeeshan Qamar, Latehar's district commissioner said. "She fainted and died in the evening. If she had eaten breakfast, how can it be a hunger death?"
This incident comes to light just days after Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal on May 14 said that the government ensured there was no starvation during the coronavirus pandemic in the country, claiming that the centre has focused a lot on citizens' health during the past three months.
Nimani's father, Jaglal Bhuiyan, said that he was away when his daughter passed away. The father claimed that he wasn't able to send any money home as he wasn't paid any wages amid the lockdown.
According to Jean Dreze, a right to food activist and economist who visited Hesatu on Sunday, the family of 10 people has no land or ration card. Dreze said that the village headman had confirmed that no rice was given to the family from Rs 10,000 contingency fund that is earmarked for those families with no ration card.
"He said that the fund had run out," Dreze added.
The headman had also written to the block development officer urging a second installment, however, he never received a response.
The family allegedly did not get any support from the government except for one installment of Rs 500 in the Jan Dhan Yojana account and was entirely dependent on their neighbours for survival.
"Neighbours used to give food to the family," an anganwadi worker Asha Devi said in her video. "But as one of them said, 'How much can they give?'"
Local PDS dealer, Ishwari Prasad Gupta, informed that there was no arrangement to give rice to households with no ration card, unless they have applied online. He said that he had received a list of 7 such households who are being given 10 kg of rice per month.
"I have been provided a list of 64 other households in Hesatu and Naihara having no ration cards, which has been sent to the BDO, but so far no provision has been made for them," he added.
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"The tragedy is a logical outcome of the central and state government's failure to extend food assistance to households without a ration card," the social economist said.
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