Campaign alleges starvation death of youth in Odisha

The deceased’s sister, who had stayed empty stomach, survives

A teenager had died after reportedly remaining starved for five days in Odisha’s Nuapada district, alleged members of Odisha Khadya Adhikar Abhiyan (Right to Food Campaign, Odisha) on Tuesday.

The deceased’s sister, who had stayed empty stomach, however, survived. She was shifted to a shelter home after his brother’s death.

Wake-up call

Waking up late on the distress of siblings, the Odisha government issued ration card under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), a scheme to provide highly subsidised food to the poorest of poor families, three days after the death.

A three-member team of the Right To Food Campaign visited Sargimunda village of Karlakot panchayat under the Boden block of the district on July 13 after receiving information about the death of Goutam Behera, 17, a physically challenged youth. He died on July 6.

Mr. Behera was living with his sister Debanti, 22, as their father had deserted them after the death of their mother.

“At the time when the government has floated a number of schemes to ensure food security and social safety schemes, the news of a suspected case of starvation death of a disabled child in Nuapada district has come as a shocker,” said Sameet Panda, the lead member of the team.

Mr. Panda said, “after the field visit, the team was convinced that Goutam Behera’s is a case of starvation death as the deceased and his surviving sister had not taken any food for five days.”

Denied card

“The siblings were denied an AAY card even after repeated requests by them, villagers, social workers and a few media persons before the death,” charged Basudev Mohapatra, a senior journalist and member of the team.

After the death, the administration swung into action and hurriedly supplied 70 kg of rice after issuing an AAY card on July 9, Mr. Mohapatra alleged.

The team alleged that the district administration had exerted pressure for early cremation of the body without performing post-mortem.

The team recommended that the government make efforts to provide one meal per day from nearby Anganwadi centres or schools to persons or families living with hunger.

Stating that it was a clear case of starvation death, the team appealed to the government to take responsibility and avoid repetition of such cases in future.

Scheme discontinued

According to Raj Kishore Mishra, a senior campaign member, Odisha had discontinued emergency feeding programme for two lakh families in poverty-stricken KBK region since April 2015. Nuapada is part of the KBK region.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 7:34:00 AM |

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