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COVID-19 Lockdown: Starving Musahar Kids Were Eating Grass in Varanasi, Says Ground Report

The report has miffed the Varanasi district administration which has sent a notice to the local Hindi daily that carried the report.
COVID-19 Lockdown: Starving Musahar Kids Were Eating Grass in Varanasi

Varanasi: The Varanasi district administration has served a notice to the editor of Jansandesh Times, a 16-page newspaper, which runs from the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The notice sent to Vijay Vineet, the editor of the regional Hindi daily, seeks an explanation over a news report published on the Musahar community children eating grass during the lockdown.

Vineet said he went to the village on a tip-off and found the kids eating grass because they had no other food to eat.

“I found these kids eating grass and I reported it because a situation like this is a blot on humanity and as a journalist, I could not stop myself from penning down this incident. This situation has raised serious questions about starvation and poverty in the state,” he said. Vineet has been a journalist for the past 35 years and had earlier faced the brunt of Mirzapur district administration for publishing a report on kids being served salt and bread for their midday meals.

The report about the Musahar children was published in the newspaper on March 26, two days after the lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said Vineet.

The editor added, “When I went to the village along with my colleague, I found that these people from the Musahar community had not eaten food for four days since the Janata Curfew, which was requested by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

“When I enquired more, I got to know that these kids who were eating the grass had their last full meal four days ago when there was a Terahvi ceremony in the village and these kids brought some pooris (deep fried breads) and had eaten them after drying those in the sun,” Vineet told NewsClick, adding, “The breadwinners of these Musahar families are stuck at the brick kiln where they work and they could not be home because of the lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus spread. So,these families have no money.”

Vineet said that after his report, these families were provided 2 kg arhar dal and 10 kg of rice by the husband of the village head. “An investigation was also ordered by the district magistrate, but it lacks any food experts. Now, the district magistrate, Kaushal Raj Sharma, has claimed that what the kids ate was not grass, but actually a kind of lentil rich in protein. He has even gone to the extent of saying that he fed the same “food” to his kid; got even a picture clicked and made it viral,” said the editor.

Vineet told NewsClick that he spoke to a few food experts from the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) who were of the opinion that this grass was not fit for human consumption and could lead to diarrhoea even in the cattle, if eaten in excess.

Vineet said that he has replied to the notice, but refused to disclose his reply and dodged the question by saying that it was “the time to fight coronavirus” and that he will deal with the administration and keep on reporting the truth.

Varanasi district magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma, in response to a media query, claimed that the new report was biased but he has ordered a probe in this incident.

Vineet added that the notice was sent to him on WhatsApp at 1.30 am and the hard copy was received by him the next day through the local police. He was asked to publish a ‘Khandan (retrieval)’ of the story; otherwise, he may face legal charges, they said.

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