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Hunger drives widow to commit suicide in Bihar

Patna, March 4 (IANS) A young widow, driven by poverty and inability to provide food for her children, burnt herself to death in a Bihar village, officials said Thursday. This is among half a dozen suicides in the state due to hunger in the last six months.

Baby Khatoon, in her early 30s, resident of Baddha Nuaon village in Kaimur district, some 170 km from here, allegedly immolated herself Tuesday after going without food for many days as she found no work since early January.

‘She along with her children were left in the lurch, the village head and government officials did not help her and hunger forced her to commit suicide,’ Kaimur District Board vice-president Raushan Ara said.

Jawed Ahmad, a villager, said that Khatoon’s three children — six-year-old Salim, four-year-old Munna, and two-year-old Dabloo — had gone without food for days.

‘Khatoon was upset when they demanded food but she could not fulfil their demand and she immolated herself,’ he said.

Ara said that Khatoon worked as a maid and a farm labourer but for over two months she had failed to get any work and people were reluctant to hire her for other jobs as she was physically weak.

‘She was neither provided work and food by the village headman nor supported by well-off villagers,’ Nurul Hasan Ansari, a social worker said.

Ara and Ansari donated money for her last rites after they were informed by some villagers.

Ara said that Khatoon’s husband Massin Dhobi died of tuberculosis last year.

‘Poor Khatoon sold everything for her husband’s treatment but failed to save him,’ she said.

A district administration official, Rajendra Prasad, told IANS over phone Thursday that he has directed a local official to inquire into the matter.

‘It was shocking for us as the state government had given one quintal grain to each PDS dealer to ensure that nobody died from hunger,’ he said.

‘In the last six-seven months, more than half a dozen people have committed suicide in the state due to acute poverty and hunger,’ said Rupesh, state adviser to the commissioner of the Supreme Court, monitoring the implementation of food-related schemes.

‘Last year farm labourers Inderdeo Mahto and his wife Kari Devi, both in their 60s and residents of Khushalpur village in Gaya district, consumed poison after going without food for days as they found no work and no food,’ Rupesh said.

In January Harsh Mandar, attached to the Supreme Court commissioner to monitor the implementation of food-related schemes said that Mahadalits, the poorest of the socially marginalised people in Bihar, are living in abject poverty in two villages in Gaya district.

‘It is a reality that the poorest of the poor Mahadalit families are starving in two villages in Gaya district,’ Mandar said.

Mandar visited Tetua Tola Kharuna village and Vanvara village near Dobhi in Gaya district, about 100 km from here, to interact with the Mahadalit residents and verify a report claiming that at least 100 people had died of hunger in Bihar.

The report of 100 people having died was filed by Rupesh, but his claims were dismissed by the state government.

Rupesh said the reports not only confirm the deaths due to hunger but ‘reveal the pathetic situation regarding implementation of food and social security schemes in Bihar’.

These schemes include the Integrated Child Development Scheme, the Midday Meal Scheme, the public distribution system, the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the National Maternity Benefit Scheme, the National Social Assistance Programme, the National Family Benefit Scheme and the Annapurna Yojana.

Nearly 40 percent of Bihar’s 83 million people live below the poverty line, the highest in India, according to a World Bank report.

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