New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday issued a notice to the Delhi state government on alleged starvation deaths in the national capital. According to complaints made to NHRC, 1,027 people have died of starvation in Delhi between 1999 and 2011.

NHRC has asked chief secretary D.M. Spolia for a detailed report within six weeks. The development stems from a government reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query by activist Nayyar Alam, a resident of the Seelampur area.

According to the reply, starvation related data was compiled by the ministry of home affairs in “the accidental deaths and suicides in India" report on the basis of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

According to the report, two-thirds of the starvation deaths, nearly 740, occurred in West Delhi. The RTI reply also stated that a total of 62 deaths were due to poverty—15 from starvation and 47 suicides due to abject poverty—in west Delhi in 2011 alone.

Activists are demanding that deaths due to poverty and starvation be examined by investigating agencies.

“Even in rural areas, is is difficult to establish the cause of death," said Ritika Khera, a food security expert at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

“People usually say the person died of starvation but the clinical definition is that the deceased should not have a single morsel in his stomach," she said.

“Starvation is a more complex and chronic problem which cannot be limited to the amount of food in a person’s stomach," she said. While the state government has initiated small efforts to provide food to the homeless, it is not on a large scale. States such as Tamil Nadu and Orissa have roped in anganwadi centres to provide meals to homeless destitues which could be a possible solution," she added.

Right to food activists maintain that while the data regarding starvation deaths is alarming, they are conservative estimates.

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