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Bokaro deaths caused by illness, not hunger: Jharkhand Minister to Assembly

Bhukkhal Ghasi died in March, months after the JMM-Congress government came to power. Incidentally, Hemant Soren had made deaths caused due to starvation during the BJP rule a major plank in his poll campaign.

Written by Abhishek Angad | New Delhi | September 24, 2020 8:36:02 am
jharkhand hunger deaths, bokaro hunger deaths, JMM-Congress government, jharkhand government, jharkhand govt on bokaro deaths, jharkhand assembly, hemant soren, jharkhand newsAfter Bhukkhal’s death, his 14-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter died in May and August, respectively.

The Jharkhand government has told the Assembly that the deaths of 42-year-old Bhukkhal Ghansi and his two children in Bokaro were not caused by “hunger”, but by “illness”.

Bhukkhal Ghasi died in March, months after the JMM-Congress government came to power. Incidentally, Hemant Soren had made deaths caused due to starvation during the BJP rule a major plank in his poll campaign.

“Naamo Bhukkhal, marlo bhi bhookhal (His name was hungry and he died hungry),” Bhukkal’s wife Rekha had told The Indian Express after his death. The family did not have a ration card and did not have access to subsidised foodgrain under the National Food Security Act.

After Bhukkhal’s death, his 14-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter died in May and August, respectively. These two deaths were also said to be caused by hunger.

In response to a question by BJP MLAs Amit Kumar Mandal and Amar Bauri, Food Minister Rameshwar Oraon said in a written response Tuesday, “As per the letters of Deputy Commissioner of Bokaro…Bhukkhal Ghasi aur uske do bacche ki maut bhook se nahi hokar bimari se hui (Bhukkhal Ghansi and his two children did not die to hunger, but due to illness).”

“As per the letters, Bhukkhal Ghansi’s daughter Rakhi Kumari was affected by some genetic disease, and after hospitalisation, she would get better, but become ill again. She died on August 31. Ghansi’s son also died during his treatment in Sadar Hospital in Bokaro and it was a case of illness too,” the reply added.

However, Asharfi Nand Prasad, convenor of the Right to Food Campaign in Jharkhand, said the family suffered from “malnutrition” as per their fact-finding exercise. “The government did not take the issue seriously even after Bhukkhal’s death. The family was suffering from malnutrition and starvation… the deaths of children could have been avoided,” he said.

The Jharkhand State Food Commission, a statutory body for monitoring implementation of National Food Security Act, had also visited the family. “The Civil Surgeon in the visiting team measured the BMI of every member of the family which was less than the recommended value. It seems that the family is suffering from ‘chronic hunger’,” the Food Commission’s report had said on March 12. This letter was sent to many officers, including the Chief Secretary and Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister.

In his reply, the minister also informed that the family had been given Rs 40,000 after the deaths and the first installment for constructing a house under Baba Bhimrao Ambedkar Yojana. The family is currently in a government accommodation, he informed.

Over the phone, Rekha told The Indian Express, “Nitesh and Rekha have died. We are doing fine now.”

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