Flood victim dies of starvation in Bihar

January 13th, 2009 - 2:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatpur (Bihar), Jan 13 (IANS) A victim of the August 2008 devastating floods in Bihar reportedly died of starvation early this month as no relief reached his family and he was unable to get any work, a social activist said. Local government officials have ordered a probe into the incident but denied Sharma died due to starvation.

Mahender Sharma, 45, a resident of Bharatpur village under Lalganj panchayat of Chatapur block in Supaul district, about 250 km from here, died of starvation Jan 2, leaving his family shocked and shattered, said social activist Nand Kumar Azad.

“It is a case of starvation death. Mahender Sharma, a flood victim, was not provided any relief and was without food for days before he breathed his last,” said Azad, the state convenor of Bihar Lok Swaraj Andolan, a voluntary organisation working in flood-affected areas.

Azad told IANS that Sharma, who worked as a daily wage labourer, died of starvation in the biting cold as he had no food and no clothes to cover his malnourished body in winter.

“It was shocking that Sharma died without food and clothes, a result of large scale corruption in relief despite millions of rupees spent for flood victims,” he said, adding that Sharma had to be buried as his family had no money to purchase wood for his cremation as per Hindu rituals.

“My husband died after starving for days. We had nothing to eat as no relief was provided to us because our names were not in the list of below poverty level (BPL) families of the village,” Sharma’s widow Rania Devi said.

Supaul district magistrate N. Sarwan Kumar said he asked the sub-divisional officer (SDO), Triveniganj to inquire into the case and submit a report.

“Only after the report is received, would any action be taken,” he said, adding that relief materials were being distributed by the mukhia (village chief) and panchayat (village council) members.

However, Kumar denied that Sharma died of starvation. “It is not true,” he said.

Sharma’s widow said the family’s small hut was washed away in the deluge and they had taken shelter at a relief camp near a national highway.

“We lived in the camp for more then two months but later government officials forced us to leave. We returned to our native village and somehow managed to build this hut with plastic sheets and bamboo,” she said.

More than three million people were rendered homeless in Bihar when the Kosi river, known as the “river of sorrow”, breached its bank upstream in Nepal and changed course Aug 18. Large tracts of land were flooded, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.

The displaced people were forced to live in the open along the roads without food, clothes and drinking water or in the relief camps set up by the state government.

Opposition leaders said 25 percent of flood victims were yet to receive the first instalment of relief material, and there were thousands without a proper roof over their heads or enough clothes to cover them in the winter chill.

It was in Supaul district early this month that hundreds of flood victims broke into a government depot and stole food grain to protest against the inadequate assistance provided to them by the state government.

The food grain looted from the depot was meant for distribution under various schemes, including the school mid-day meal programme.

Many flood victims repeatedly claim that even nearly five months after the floods, they have not been provided adequate relief. However, the state government has announced it is engaged in the second instalment of relief measures for the flood victims.

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