Action Highlights- Letter Campaign Action 2
FIAN letter campaign 0519UIND from 2005
Highlight Action 2: Starvation deaths due to violations of the right to food in Medak,A.P.,India
Deaths due to hunger have been reported to FIAN from the districts of Medak, Anthapur, Karimnagar, Mahabubnagar and Nalgonda, at regular intervals. The problem is not lack of food but rather the lack of will on the part of the state of Andhra Pradesh to meet its obligations under the right to food. The malfunctioning of public distribution system and non implementation of the relief measures in drought regions are reasons for the hunger related deaths.
Andhra Pradesh is the fifth largest state in India and the biggest and most populous state in the south of India. There is a high prevalence of hunger in Andhra Pradesh with a large section of the population struggling to survive. Andhra Pradesh has experienced long periods of drought especially in the districts of Medak, Anthapur Karimnagar, Mahabubnagar and Nalgonda, making the situation of the poor very difficult due to lack of work and access to food. The poor therefore depend on the public distribution system to access food.
The public distribution system in India is made up of ration shops across the country through which grains, sugar, cooking oil and so on are sold at subsidized rates. In 1997, inspite of the continuing high incidence of undernutrition affecting about one third of its population, India made the participation in the programme depend on a pre-selection: Depending on the type of card allotted a person is entitled to subsidised items from the ration shops. Those below the poverty line can get a BPL (Below Poverty Line) card. The poorest among the BPL families are entitled to the AAY (Anthyodaya Anna Yojana Scheme), which entitles them, to highly subsidized rates of wheat and rice. The process of identifying the poor is flawed as many times the poorest do not get identified as AAY recipients. This failure in the functioning of the PDS denies many of the poor access to food leading to hunger and deaths due to starvation.
Most of the poor who fall prey to hunger related diseases are very poor, landless, agricultural wage-labourers and without any means of earning a livelihood. Due to lack of means of livelihood the poor do not get food to eat and sometimes have to decide whether to eat once a day or once in two days. Some who happen to hold a card lack the money to buy the subsidized food from the PDS shop: Subsidies alone - without a minimum food income programme - cannot secure the human right to food. Such programmes however are missing, even though they are required under the human right to food.
India is a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Therefore it is duty-bound under international law to fulfil its people's right to feed themselves. By not addressing the situation of hunger and starvation in the state of Andhra Pradesh and not providing relief to the people suffering from hunger, the state of Andhra Pradesh and hence India has violated this right and its international obligations under the Covenant.
An urgent action is needed to address these violations of the right to food in Andhra
Please write polite letters to the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh with a copy to the Prime Minister of India requesting them to meet their obligations under the human right to food and guarantee access to food to all those suffering from hunger and facing starvation in the mentioned districts.
Recipients of letter:
Dr. Y.S.Rajasekhara Reddy
Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh
Chief Minister's Bungalow,
Greenland's Circle, Begumpet
Dr. Manmohan Singh
The Prime Minister of India
South Block, Room No. 152
New Delhi- 110001, India
English translation of the letter
Honourable Mr. Chief Minister,
Recently I received the disturbing news of the deaths due to starvation and hunger related diseases from the districts of Medak, Anthapur Karimnagar, Mahabubnagar and Nalgonda, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The persons who died due to hunger and starvation were landless labourers, daily wagers and unemployed due to lack of work with no means to earn a livelihood.
It is shocking that these deaths occur despite the fact that India has enough food to feed her poor and is a food exporting country. The public distribution system in the country is meant to prevent situations of hunger and malnutrition and yet in Andhra Pradesh hunger related deaths are reported at regular intervals. Mr. Chief Minister, it was brought to my notice that the victims of hunger did not have access to the subsidised food grain from the public distribution system (PDS) and drought relief as prescribed by the Supreme Court of India.
As a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights India - and therefore Andhra Pradesh - is duty-bound under international law to fulfil its people's right to feed themselves. As a person working internationally for the implementation of the economic, social and cultural rights I would like to ask you to,:-
1. Take steps to properly implement the public distribution system and employment guarantee programmes and provide those suffering from hunger and malnutrition the means to access food.
2. Order an investigation into the incidents of starvation deaths and the related administrative failures.
3. Take the necessary steps to prevent the recurrence of such violations of the right to food in the mentioned districts.
Please keep me informed of the action you plan to take in this regard.
see also Letter Action 1