India is Still Fighting Hunger Five Months into the Lockdown. A 5-Year-Dies Dies of Starvation

Social Commentary

India is Still Fighting Hunger Five Months into the Lockdown. A 5-Year-Dies Dies of Starvation

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

A tragedy unfolded in Agra this weekend as a five-year-old girl of an impoverished family from Nagla Vidhichand village died after her family had gone without food for a month. While the fact that her family had been unable to procure food during the lockdown points to the likelihood of her death being caused by starvation, the local authorities are claiming that the girl died due to a bout of diarrhoea and fever. Ever since the story appeared in the news, outrage is growing over the administrative lapses that led to the underprivileged family going without food for such an extended period of time.

Reacting to the death of the child, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government, calling for a detailed report on the relief and rehabilitation being provided to the family, as well as the action being taken against the officials responsible for the lapses. In its statement on the matter, the NHRC observed that “a five-year-old innocent girl has apparently died due to starvation and illness while a number of social welfare schemes run by the central and the state government do exist.”

Sheela Devi, the girl’s mother, said that the family does not have a ration card, which made acquiring food difficult once the lockdown was implemented. In a conciliatory gesture, the local authorities have issued a ration card to the family and also given them food supplies of almost 100 kilograms, including rice and flour. Unfortunately for the five-year-old girl, it is too late.

This is not the first brush with tragedy for the family. In 2016, the family’s eight-year-old son also died due to hunger and illness as the family was unable to procure food in the wake of the demonetisation, Sheela Devi said to reporters. Currently, her husband is also fighting tuberculosis, leaving Sheela Devi as the sole breadwinner. However, there is very little work available in lockdown.

There have been many tragic stories that have come to light during this pandemic, but this might be one of the most heart-breaking ones yet.