Civil society forums to campaign against hunger, starvation in Bengal

Kolkata, Nov 15 (IANS) A civil society network on Thursday claimed that starvation was a major problem in West Bengal and said several people’s organisations would join hands to start a movement on the issue.

The Right to Food and Work Campaign, West Bengal, made the statement following the death of seven members of the tribal Sabar community allegedly due to malnutrition in West Bengal’s Jhargram district earlier this month.

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Accusing the state’s Mamata Banerjee government of being in a “state of denial” regarding starvation related deaths in Bengal, the forum said research suggests poor children, women and elderly in rural areas are the worst affected.

“We shall be launching an investigation on November 18 into the six alleged hunger related deaths in Jhargram’s Lalgarh. Also the hungry people from 17 districts and 25 people’s organisations will join hands to initiate Bhukha Manusher Abhijan or the hungry people’s movement on December 16 to fight for an end to the problems,” Jamiruddin Khan, secretary of the campaign said.

The release issued by the forum also alleged that the coverage under Pradhan Mantri Matrutva Vandana Yojona for maternity benefits is nil in West Bengal while only 18 per cent of the eligible elderly persons in the state get pensions.

It also said the state government has reduced its food budget to Rs 8,037 crore in 2018-19 from Rs 8,791 crore in 2017-18 despite the problems and a state food commission with proper grievance redressal mechanism as per the National Food Security Act, 2013 is yet to be formed here.

“We appeal to the state government that it should stop being in a state of denial about starvation. It should recognise that hunger, starvation and malnutrition are the problems facing a large number of the state’s population and take up appropriate measures to tackle this,” Khan added.