“There was no trace of fat on their bodies. Postmortem showed that the stomach was absolutely empty” – is how a doctor described the condition of the three minor girls who starved to death in the national capital.
“It's a case of gross malnutrition,” Dr Amita Saxena, Medical Superintendent at Delhi’s Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital told ANI.
The three children, identified as Mansi (8), Shikha (4) and Parul (2), daughters of Bina and Mangal Singh, were found unconscious in their one-room house by their neighbours on 25 July.
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari and DPCC chairperson Ajay Maken visited the family and took to Twitter to slam the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. While politicians play blame game over the issue, the tragedy sheds light on the country’s failed food security schemes.
“Delhi’s Poor Face Food Security Crisis”
Anjali Bhardwaj of the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan (DRRAA) took to Twitter to slam the Centre for failing to provide food security to citizens.
“The issue of food security and social security of the poor and marginalised in Delhi is undeniable,” the organisation said in a press release.
Failure of Schemes, or Lack of Awareness?
Ideally, the three minor girls should have been protected by some of the most basic government schemes designed to provide food security:
- National Food Security Act (NFSA): Passed by the Parliament in September 2013, the Act provides subsidised foodgrains under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). Eligible persons are entitled to receive 5 kg foodgrains per person per month at subsidised prices of Rs 3/2/1 per kg for rice/wheat/coarse grains. The Act puts special focus on the nutritional support to women and children.
- Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS): Launched in 1975, the scheme entitles children up to 0-6 years to supplementary nutrition, pre-school non-formal education, immunisation and health check-ups.
- Mid-Day Meal: The programme supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes in government, government-aided and local body schools.
According to Scroll.in, the girls lived under a kilometre away from the nearest anganwadi. However, it is unclear if any of them were enrolled. The eight-year-old girl, a Class 3 student at the Poorvi Dilli Nagar Nigam Balika Vidyalaya in Mandawali, was entitled to a meal every school day under the midday meal programme. However, reports suggest she attended school for only two days in July.
As per the Scroll.in report, mother Bina had an Aadhaar card, as did one of the girls. However, the family did not have a ration card.
“The situation is especially dire for children, elderly and the homeless – who are the most vulnerable. The Abhiyan has repeatedly stressed the need to seriously strengthen the framework of food security and remove barriers which prevent people from accessing it. Making food security conditional upon peoples’ ability to produce identity proof/residence proof/Aadhaar etc. is inhumane and a violation of the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution,” the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan said in a statement.
Dipa Sinha, co-convenor with the Right to Food Campaign told Business Standard that the case must be probed to ascertain how officials may have failed to extend the benefits to the family. "If the family was left out of the purview of these programs, the inquiry must examine the reasons for their exclusion. The inquiry must fix accountability and ensure that officials who were in any way responsible for the exclusion of the family from these programmes are held responsible," she told the daily.
(With inputs from Scroll, The Indian Express and Business Standard.)