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Two Starvation Deaths in Fortnight Rattles West Bengal

Confusion caused due to overlapping ration schemes and unemployment appear to be direct causes behind the starvation deaths.
4 Malnutrition Deaths Reported in Basti

Kolkata: Two tragic starvation deaths in the previous fortnight during the 76th independence day celebrations have rattled the state. Both the two deaths were reported from backward regions of West Bengal - one from Bhulabheda of West Medinipur district and the other from Kranti block of Malbazar in Jalpaiguri district.

The first incident involves the death of Sanjay Sardar died on August 3 due to malnutrition as he was left without food for days. The family has been in dire straits after he contracted tuberculosis in the month of June and Sanjay, a daily wage earner, could not go to work.

Though on paper there are schemes like Laxmi Bhandar and other schemes; however Sanjay didn't have the required Scheduled Caste (SC) certificate, resulting in his family not receiving the stipulated Rs 1,000.

Based on a report by a Bengali news daily, a team from the Right to Food and Work Campaign visited Bhulabheda recently and surveyed the condition of people living there. In the fact finding report it is stated that the death of the daily wage earner should be seen in the context of the food crisis that has set in the area. Sanjay’s family admitted to the fact-finding team that getting even one square meal for a day was difficult for them. Moreover as the family didn't have Aadhar card linkage with their ration card, they did not get the stipulated Rajya Khadya Suraksha Yojana (RKSY 2) ration which is monthly 1 kg of rice and 1 kg of wheat.

Sanjay Sardar was a migrant labourer who lost his job during the first lockdown, according to the report. After coming home in March 2020 he did not get any work in the village. Sometimes, he got paid as a farmhand but that was extremely irregular. While the family needed an Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) ration card, the government instead gave them a RKSY 2 ration card which is meant for relatively better-off persons. It should be noted that in AAY scheme, a family gets 35 kgs of rice and wheat and cereals.

The second starvation death occurred in a closed tea garden where a tea garden worker, Dinesh Orao, lost his life on August 13 due to malnutrition as he was left without food for months.

The name of the tea garden is Raj Project Garden. As the tea garden owner, Dharmendra Thakur arbitrarily closed the plantation on July 10, Orao’s family had been starving for months.

“The owner of the garden is singularly responsible for this death,” family members of the deceased told reporters.

It may be recalled that in the Malbazar area, a number of tea gardens including Nageshwari tea estate, Bagrakote tea estate, Kilkote tea estate and many other tea estates are closed, and this has resulted in widespread hunger among tea garden workers in the area.

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