The New Indian Express
27 April 2020
GUWAHATI: Human rights body – Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) – has sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention alleging that the Chakmas and Hajongs in Arunachal Pradesh are facing hunger and starvation as they were not included in the government’s economic package.
“About 33% or 22,000 of the 65,875 Chakmas and Hajongs are children. Hunger and starvation have engulfed them because of the violation of the right to food during the pandemic. This purposeful starvation of the children is an act of inhumanity and cruelty,” RRAG director Suhas Chakma said.
He said families covered under the economic package get rice at Rs.5 a kg while others get it at Rs.22 a kg. But the Chakmas and Hajongs were forced to buy it as Rs.29 a kg.
“On April 12, the state government announced the economic package for vulnerable sections in these difficult times of COVID-19 pandemic, among others, to provide 5 kg rice and 1 kg pulses per head to beneficiaries under Pradhan Mantri Garib Anna Yojana…
“However, on April 14, Arunachal Pradesh issued notification stating that any tea estates, commercial establishments, individuals of Diyun circle in Changlang district can purchase rice through the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) received from Food Corporation of India (FCI) at Rs 27 per kg for wholesale selling and Rs 29 for retail selling,” Chakma said.
He said the Chakmas and Hajongs do not have ration cards as the state government had illegally and arbitrarily seized those through an order on October 25, 1991.
“The Chakmas and Hajongs, having suffered state-sponsored discrimination in the last 56 years, are living below the poverty line and being forced to buy rice at Rs 29 per kg. In fact, Rs 29 per kg is a clear violation of the order issued by the Government of India to the FCI on April 9, 2020 to provide for 3 months at Rs 22 per kg for rice uniformly across the country to all beneficiaries not covered under the National Food Security Act,” Chakma said.
He said the denial of food was a violation of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
“The Chakmas and Hajongs are citizens of India. Out of the 65,875 Chakmas and Hajongs, about 61,238 Chakmas and Hajongs are citizens by birth as per Section 3(1) of the Citizenship Act and about 5,097 Chakmas and Hajongs have been exercising the right to vote as citizens of India. There are about 4,637 survivors of migration during 1964-1969 but not a single application of these survivors of migration has been processed as on date despite the judgment of the Supreme Court,” Chakma added.
He urged Modi to provide all Chakmas and Hajongs with rice at Rs. 5 per kg immediately till June 2020 or any time as may be extended by the Centre and take all necessary measures to fully implement the National Food Security Act including identification of eligible households among the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal, and their right to receive foodgrains at subsidised prices by persons belonging to eligible households under Targeted Public Distribution System, nutritional support to pregnant women and lactating mothers, children etc.