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[Hunger Alert] UPDATE (India): Call for more attention for hand-loom weavers suffering from hunger and Tuberculosis in Varanasi

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert Update: AHRC-HAU-001-2009

30 January 2009

[RE: HU-005-2007: INDIA: A handloom weaver suffering from
tuberculosis and poverty for 22 years]

———————————————————————

INDIA: Call for more attention for hand-loom weavers suffering from
hunger and Tuberculosis in Varanasi

ISSUES: Right to health; extreme poverty; government neglect

———————————————————————

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has recently received
information that a handloom weaver living in the Lohta area suffers
from Tuberculosis (TB). Lohta located in the Varanasi district has
been dominantly occupied by handloom weavers who suffer from poverty
and TB as their industry declines. The AHRC has continuously reported
the weavers’ extreme poverty. This aggravates their health situation
due to infection with TB, particularly in Lohta. The local government
has not taken any substantial action in this area, while reporting a
reduction in the number of TB cases.

UPDATED INFORMATION:

The AHRC has been reporting the extreme poverty and TB which are
endemic with handloom weavers living in Lohta of Varanasi District
since 2007.

It was reported in HA-012-2007
<http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2007/2592/>
[Handloom weavers and their family members may die from tuberculosis
in Uttar Pradesh due to poor living conditions] that eight handloom
weavers and their families in Lohta suffered from TB and hunger. In
another previous case, HU-005-2007
<http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2007/2606/>
, Mr. Mahmoodul Hasan also suffered from TB for many years.

All of the weavers living in Lohta found it difficult to provide food
for their family as the weavers had lost their jobs due to the decline
of the handloom weaving industry. These weavers infected with TB even
could not do any other work as they became weaker. This vicious
circle of the extreme poverty and the ailment constantly threatens
the weavers and their families’ lives.

Another handloom weaver, Mr. Ahmed Ansari living in Lohta reportedly
suffers from TB. He went to the Primary Health Centre (PHC) of Kashi
Vidhyapith Block and was put on medication for the last three months.
However, as is shown in many other weavers’ cases, he also had to stop
treatment in order to support his wife and four children. Moreover, he
had no other option for making a living other than pulling a rickshaw.
The more he works, the worse he gets as intensive physical labour
aggravates the disease.

It is reported that R S Verma, Chief Medical Officer said that the
Designated Microscopy Centre (DMC) covering all eight Blocks in
Varanasi district has made diagnostic facilities available to all
sections of the society. However, Ahmed could not access the DMC in
Lohta as the facilities are not properly known to the handloom
weavers who are the most vulnerable group infected with TB.

Due to the extremely indigent living conditions of the handloom
weavers, they can neither provide daily food for their families not
get them fully treated. While the weavers infected with TB get
treated, other family members find it difficult to obtain food.
Eventually this forces the infected weavers to go back to work to
feed their families. Incidentally, the weavers cannot even find work
such as rickshaw-pulling, or construction work on a regular basis.

Although there are some facilities established under the Revised
National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP), and success stories
were reported, there is no additional support for the rest of the
family members while the main bread winner infected with TB is under
treatment.

In a people’s tribunal for weaver’s and artisans organized by the
Varanasi-based People’s Vigilance Committee (PVCHR), in collaboration
with Action Aid International India (AAIA), the AHRC and Bunkar
Dastakar Adhikar Manch (BDAM) on 18 December 2007, many handloom
weavers in Varanasi district appealed against their poverty and the
deaths from TB infection and hunger. For the details on the tribunal,
please go to the Ethics in Action
<http://www.eia.rghr.net/archive/2008-ethics-in-action/vol.-2-no.-1-february-2008/the-spread-of-tuberculosis-amongst-varanasi2019s>
.

The AHRC demands that the local government take more positive action
to eradicate TB infection and death by TB in Varanasi. In particular,
in the Lohta area, the relevant authorities should directly care for
the many handloom weavers exposed to TB infection and lack of food.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write a letter to express your concern about the handloom
weavers suffering from lack of food and TB infection in Lohta,
Varanasi.

The AHRC has also written a separate letter to the UN Special
Rapporteur on the Right to Health and World Health Organisation
calling for their intervention.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: Please stop Tuberculosis and extreme poverty threatening
handloom weavers in Varanasi

Name of the victim suffering from TB and hunger: Mr. Ahmed Ansari and
other handloom weavers who are either suspected to be or infected with
TB, living in Lohta area, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh

Relevant government authorities: Ministry of Health and family
welfare

Location: Lohta Panchayat, Kashi Vidhyapeed block, Varanasi district,
Uttar Pradesh

I am writing to express my concern about the handloom weavers
suffering from TB infection as well as lack of food in Varanasi.

I have learned that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has
reported the handloom weavers’ extreme poverty and endemic aliment
among them since 2007. The AHRC along with local human rights groups
held a tribunal for weavers and artisans living in the Varanasi
district. Many of the weavers, coming from different areas in
Varanasi to participate in the tribunal, suffered either from lack of
food or from a TB infection which sounded alarms to the people of the
world.

I have discovered that all of the weavers living in the Lohta area of
Varanasi district found it difficult to provide food for their family
as the weavers have lost their jobs due to the decline of the
handloom weaving industry. The weavers infected with TB even could
not do any other work because they were too weak. This vicious circle
of the extreme poverty and the persistent presence of TB infection
threaten the weavers and their families’ lives on a daily basis.

I was recently informed that another handloom weaver, Mr. Ahmed
Ansari from Lohta reportedly suffered from TB. He went to the Primary
Health Centre (PHC) of Kashi Vidhyapith Block and was kept on
medication for the last three months. However, as is shown in other
cases, he also had to stop his treatment in order to support his wife
and four children. Moreover, he had no other option for making a
living other than pulling a rickshaw. The more he works, the worse he
gets as intensive physical labour aggravates the disease.

I am aware that the rate of TB infection in India was the highest in
the world according to the World Health Organisation report 2007. I
am also aware that the relevant local governments have made efforts
in order to stop the spread of TB such as the establishment of the
Designated Microscopy Centre (DMC). Despite this, many handloom
weavers who are more exposed than others to TB infection and poverty
cannot access proper facilities to get fully treated.

Therefore, I urge you to take more positive and substantial action
and give more attention to the handloom weavers in Lohta of the
Varanasi district. Please take note that the weavers and their
families need an appropriate livelihood and regular food while the
main bread winners attempt to completely recover.

I further urge you to ensure that the handloom weavers should be
helped to be freed from their extreme poverty resulting in the lack
of adequate food. Unless the handloom weavers have appropriate work
to support their families with sufficient nutritious food, the Indian
government will never eradicate TB.

Yours sincerely,

—————-

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss

Minister

Ministry of Heath and Family Welfare

Chamber No.348, Nirman Bhawan

New Delhi -110 011

INDIA

Fax: +91 2306 2358

2. Dr. Jagdish Rai

State TB Officer (STO)

26-F, Swasthya Bhawan,

Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

INDIA

Fax: +91 522 262 3980

3. Ms. Mayawati

Chief Minister

Chief Minister’s Secretariat

Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

INDIA

Fax: + 91 522 223 0002 / 223 9234

E-mail: csup@up.nic.in <mailto:csup@up.nic.in>

4. Secretary to the Government

Uttar Pradesh State Government

5th Floor   Lal Bahadur Sastri Bhavan

Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

INDIA

5. Dr. S.J. Habayeb

World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to India

World Health Organization India Office

534, ‘A’ Wing, Nirman Bhawan, Maulana Azad Road

New Delhi   110 011

Fax: +91 11 23062450

6. Stop TB Department

World Health Organization

20 avenue Appia

1211 Geneva 27

Switzerland

Fax: +41 22 791 31 11

Email: tuberculosis@who.int <mailto:tuberculosis@who.int>

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme

Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia <mailto:ua@ahrc.asia>
)

—————————–
Asian Human Rights Commission
19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building,
998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) – 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) – 2698-6367

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