PUCL Bulletin, November 2002

Varanasi PUCL report
Starvation and famine conditions in Chandauli

District Chandauli is to the east of Varanasi. It touches the State of Bihar and has dozens of forests all around. It is divided into two parts, Chakiya and Chandauli. One of the Tehsils is Naugarh. There are a number of hills, rivers, and canals. There are three big dams: Chandraprabha, Bhaisora, and Naugarh. Waters from Naugarh dam go up to Chandauli. But the irony is that the water from this dam is not available to Naugarh itself. The farmers of Naugarh mainly depend upon rainfall. The area is known for rice cultivation and locally it is known as 'rice bowl'.

The main villages of this area that are in the grip of drought are Samera, Sadhopur, Vinayakpur, Magarhi, Khesar, Gangapur, Devakhat, Narkati, Basauli, Golawad, Chhedarikala, Navauarikala, and Kuwaradih.

About 30 percent of the agriculturists of this area are mainly depended upon farming. Another 20 percent are landless farm labourers who depend upon farming, labour collection of Tendu leaves, Mahua, Chiraunji, etc. About 50 percent have some land but they also have to depend upon such activities to make the two ends meet. Farming activities are available for about 3 months. The other activities are available during about two months. Other than this, if there is some development project of the government it can generate some income. Rest of about seven months these people have no work. Rice and some rabbi crops are the main stay whatever that may mean of these people. Every farmer is entitled to 45 rupees or 5 kilograms of grain (rice), along with 23 rupees as wages. Generally they get only 5 kilograms of rice. For the last more than two and a half months, rice transplantation has stopped because of absence of rain. Both men and women have no work, and the activities of collection leaves, etc, have also stopped.

The members of the PUCL team along with members of other teams visited these villages on August 11,2002.

Following facts were revealed:
Nandu Lal, a Harijan of Basauli village informed us that the population of the village was about 2500. More than 40 percent of these have no land. He said that agricultural labour did not get work for more than 15 days in the month of July. The going wage rate was 23 rupees per day and 5 kilograms of rice. They were paid rice but not money. They might be paid money when it was received. No one can get work without paying a bribe of 10 percent. Generally, the village population comprises Kol, Chamaar, Kharbaar, Yadav, Gosain, Giri, and ironsmith (Lohaar). There are some Muslims also. Main vocation is agriculture. When there was no work in fields, they went to Varanasi and Rohertsgunj. 28 persons in the village have been given red card. No one has received blue card. The blue card is given under Annapoornaa programme. The village Pradhan has given this to his known and moneyed families. Most of the people have received the yellow card. They get oil on this card.

Bachcha Lal, S/o Shiv told the team that during the President's rule many people were branded members of MCC (a banned organisation) and were arrested. There was oppression of Dalits when Rajanath Singh was the Chief Minister. Such oppression still continues. The police believes that Dalits are generally in the MCC and therefore, they terrorise them. The MCC had helped us in getting wages for Tendu leaves. The police still terrorize us if we demand wages for Tendu leaves.

he residents of Vinayakpur village informed the team that everyone was given white card. They have not been provided any relief from the government or from any other source. Most of the villages are Mushair or tribals. Guput, S/o Sukhdev of this village told the team that they are paid 5 kilograms rice as wages, along with water to drink. Work in the fields has come to a standstill because of failure of rains. People used to make donaa of leaves (a bowl like utensil of leaves) but these days there is no demand for that. For the last two and a half months they are just sitting around. Formerly, they could get some food grains from the Zamindar, but due to extended failure of rains that source also has dried up. Bachaoo (Mushar), Ramlakhan (Harijan), Bachchan (Mushar), Samundari (tribal), Munnu, etc., told the team that they were given no card except Samundari who was given a white card on which we can get kerosene oil at the rate of Rs.2 /- per liter.

Maddar of the same village told the team that his family worked as labourers as they were landless. They were happy if they could eat once in days. There was no succor from any source. No one has been able to transplant. If the situation continued they will be reduced to beggary. He revealed that he had reported this to Graam Pradhan. Khukhun is the Graam Pradhan. The Graam Pradhan and the Secretary conducted search of his house to see if he had hidden some food grains in his house. When nothing was found, they abused him and went away. But did not provide any help. Samundari, Vandhu, and others made similar statements.
Faujdaar, S/o of Chaturi said that he had a plot of land which he was cultivating for the last 50 years and on which he had planted Arhar. It was cordoned off by the Ranger of the forest Department. The ranger had cordoned off about 150 Bighaas of land belonging to 100 households and the villagers have been evicted.

Kaushaleshwar, S/o Bachchai, caste Paswan, of village Amdahaan said that the total population of Amdahaan and Charanpur was about 2500. The main vocation of the villagers was farming. This year transplantation of rice is not taking place in more than 75 percent farms. Most of the people in Charanpur belong to Kol and Chamar caste and are landless. Most of them live in abject poverty. The situation is very precarious. Some people have nothing to eat. Mongal, S/o Prakash and Ramji revealed that they were dying of hunger. If the situation does not improve the whole village will face starvation. Most of the people are taking only one meal a day. There is no help from the anybody.

Muraahun, S/o Bhahelu of village Amdahaan and Ashok Narayan Singh of village Lalitapur Basoli also narrated similar woes. Dense forests surround most of the villages of Naugarh. Small time farmers populate villages like Vinayakpur, Samera, Sadhopur, Deori Galaan, etc.. These people have plots ranging between 2-10 Biswaa (one Biswaa is a 20th part of a Bigha. The official Bigha equals about five eights of an acre). These people have been farming on these plots for about 40-50 years. For the past few years the forest department have been evicting them form these plots. They have no one to turn to.

There seem to be no method in dividing the people into BPL (Below Poverty Line) on APL (Above Poverty Line).

The local officials and the Graam Pradhans have distributed rations cards under Antyodaya and Annapoornaa schemes. People who do not deserve have received such cards. Less than one percent of the people have these cards. The distribution of these cards exemplifies glaring corruption.

The government has taken no steps to deal with the conditions of drought prevailing for the last more than two and a half months. Two villages have died in Kuwaraadeeh and the situation continues to be serious in Amdahaan, Devakhat, and Vinayakpur. There has been some rain in the second week of August but no one can say whether it will be enough for transplanting rice. About 30 percent of the work of transplantation has not taken place. There has emerged another problem. The bigger farmers have given the work of transplantations to contractors who were bringing in cheaper labour from the neighbouring Bihar.
Almost everywhere the villagers said that if there was no improvement. They will be reduced to beggary; otherwise, the children will die of hunger. The government owes under various schemes about 19 lakh rupees to the villagers. They are receiving only assurances that they will get money when the funds are received. The government machinery in some places is a mute spectator and at others is eyeing the government funds like a vulture.

If the poor and the starving villagers raise their voice they are warned that they will be declared Naxalites and will be killed in encounter.

Recommendations by the PUCL team:

  1. Affected areas visited by the team should immediately be provided relief as prescribed by the Supreme Court of India in the writ petition on famine deaths filed by the Rajasthan PUCL.
  2. Food grain for work scheme should be implemented immediately.
  3. The agriculturists should be given land deeds immediately and those villagers who have been evicted should be given their lands.
  4. Oppression by the police and government machinery should be stopped immediately and the guilty officials should be punished.
  5. The government initiate scheme to make available employment opportunity to the farmers.

PUCL Varanasi to take appropriate steps as per the above recommendations so that the affected people get some relief.

PUCL Varanasi expresses its thanks to Prof. Deepak Mallik, Ms. Bindu Singh, Ramesh Yadav, Fr. Anand, Tulsi Batra and Gurinder Singh President, PUCL, Varanasi for their help in the preparation of this report.

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