Pattnayak & Anr Vs. State of Orissa & Anr  INSC 4 (9 January 1989)
M.M. (J) Dutt, M.M. (J) Saikia, K.N. (J)
1989 AIR 677 1989 SCR (1) 57 1989 SCC Supl. (1) 258 JT 1989 (1) 46 1989 SCALE
of India: Article 32.
Interest Litigation--Letter by social workers alleging-Starvation
deaths--Exploitation of landless labour- ers--Children-Selling of--Treated as
writ petition--Direc- tions by Court.
and Poverty: Social justice--Orissa Relief Code--Paras 39, 40--Social Welfare
Measures--District Level Natural Calamities Committees--Induction of social
workers in committees.
social workers addressed a letter to this Court bringing to its notice the
miserable conditions of the people of the district of Kalahandi in the State of
Orissa on account of extreme poverty. The
said letter was treated as a writ petition. The petitioners in this petition
alleged that in the district of Kalahandi on account of extreme poverty, there
are starvation deaths and in order to save themselves from starvation deaths,
people are compelled to subject themselves to distress sale of labour and paddy
resulting in exploitation of landless labourers, deprivation of legitimate
price of paddy to small peasants. It was also alleged that on account of 'chill
penury' people of Kala- handi district are even forced to sell their children.
other writ petition, Indian Peoples' Front al- leged miserable conditions of
the people of Koraput district in addition to the Kalahandi district. It was
alleged that the starvation deaths, drought diseases and famine have been the
continuing phenomenon in the said two districts.
petitioners accused the Government of Orissa of its failure to 58 protect the
lives of the people of the two districts of Kalahandi and Koraput and sought
directions that the State of Orissa should be directed to take immediate steps
to alleviate the miseries and sorrows of the people of the said two districts.
view to ascertaining the correct state of affairs and to know whether the State
has implemented the social welfare measures, and the adequacy of such measures
to meet the needs of the people, the Court directed the District Judge of Kalahandi
to submit a report. The learned District Judge in its report submitted that the
State Government has implemented social welfare measures and there was hardly
any case of starvation death.
correctness of the facts found by the District Judge in his report was
challenged by the petitioners, particular- ly the question of starvation
deaths. The petitioners sug- gested that for the purpose of supervising relief
work, a Committee of 11 member should be constituted comprising members of
well-known social organisations.
behalf of the State it was stated by the Attorney General that district level
Natural Calamities Committees consisting of Collector, Officials, MPs and MLAs are
already existing and these Committees review the progress of relief work and
the measures taken to meet the drought conditions.
submitted that members of voluntary social organisa- tions can be inducted in
these existing Committees instead of constituting a new Committee as suggested
by the peti- tioners. The attention of the Court was also drawn to para 39 of
the Orissa Relief Code dealing with enquiry in cases of starvation deaths and
relief measures to be taken in such cases. It was stated that for the purpose
of alleviating the miseries and sorrows of the people in the district of Kala- handi,
State has already undertaken appropriate social meas- ures, namely, allocation
of Rs.8054 lakhs for Kalahandi during the Sixth Plan, constant vigilance under
the direct supervision of the Chief Minister for redressal of the distress of
the people, undertaking of massive scale labour intensive work to provide
employment, free feeding programme in areas of acute distress, Emergency
Feeding Programme in drought affected areas and crop damage areas, undertaking
of a number of major, medium and small irrigation projects, digging of tube-wells
for drinking water, starting affores- tation programme to prevent recurrence of
drought condi- tions, fixation of minimum purchase price for paddy, provid- ing
adequate funds to purchasing agents to purchase surplus paddy at prescribed
rates, direct procurement of entire paddy through Food Corporation of India and
State Co-opera- tive 59 Marketing Federation, strict implementation of the Orissa
Agricultural Produce Marketing Act and free supply of seeds to agriculturists
in drought affected areas.
these petitions, the Court,
1. It is not disputed that the people of Kalahandi and Koraput are very poor
and most of them have been living below the poverty line. Though the report of
the District Judge is against the starvation deaths the happening of one or two
cases of starvation deaths cannot altogether be ruled out. [1E-F]
Paragraph 39 of the Orissa Relief Code makes ample provision for taking steps
in case of starvation deaths. [63D]
State Government shall nominate at least S per- sons belonging to the recognised
voluntary social organisa- tion like Sarvodaya Gandhi Peace Foundation,
Ramakrishna Mission, Bharat Sewa Sangha and registered voluntary agen- cies as
contained in the State approved list of voluntary agencies as members of the
said existing district level Natural Calamities Committees of the Districts of Kalahandi
and Koraput. [64B-C]
said Committees shall hold one meeting every two mouths and shall be
responsible for looking into the starva- tion deaths and the welfare of the
people of these dis- tricts. These committees shall also keep a watch over the
working of the social welfare measures taken and which are likely to be taken
by the State Government. [66A, B] The social welfare measures and prompt action
taken by Government of Orissa will help in ending the miseries of the people.
JURISDICTION: Writ Petition (Civil) No. 12847 of 1985 & 1081 of 1987.
Article 32 of the Constitution of India).
Amicus-Curiae, Kishan Patnayak-in-person, and Ranjan Dwivedi for the
Advocate General, Orissa, R.K. Mehta, Inderjit Roy, Ms. Mona Mehta, K.R. Nagaraja,
and Ms. Madhu Moolchan- dani for the Respondents.
Judgment of the Court was delivered by DUTT, J. Writ Petition (Civil) No. 12847
of 1985 has its origin in a letter written by Shri Kishen Pattnayak and Shri Kapil
Narayan Tiwary, two social and political workers, addressed to the Hon'ble the
Chief Justice of India. In this letter, they have brought to the notice of this
Court the miserable condition of the inhabitants of the district of Kalahandi
in the State of Orissa on account of extreme poverty. It
is alleged that the people of Kalahandi, in order to save themselves from
starvation deaths, are com- pelled to subject themselves to distress sale of labour
on a large scale resulting in exploitation of landless labours by the
well-to-do landlords. It is alleged that in view of distress sale of labour and
paddy, the small peasants are deprived of the legitimate price of paddy and
they somehow eke out their daily existence. Further, their case is that being
victims of 'chill penury', the people of Kalahandi are sometimes forced to sell
their children. It has been prayed that the State Government should be directed
to take immedi- ate steps for the purpose of ameliorating the misery of the
people of the District of Kalahandi.
receipt of the said letter, this Court directed the same to be treated as a
writ petition and it was registered as such.
writ petition being Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1081 of 1987 has been filed by
the Indian People's Front.
writ petition not only relates to the misery of the people of Kalahandi, but
also of the people of another district, namely, the district of Koraput. In
this writ petition, it has been alleged that the starvation deaths of the
inhabitants of the districts of Koraput and Kalahandi are due to utter
negligence and callousness of the adminis- tration and the Government of Orissa.
It is alleged that the starvation deaths, drought diseases and famine have been
the continuing phenomena in the said two districts since 1985.
Government of Orissa has been accused of utter failure to protect the lives of
the people of the two districts.
State of Orissa appeared in both these writ peti- tions
and opposed the same by filing counter-affidavits denying the allegations of
the petitioners. The State of Orissa filed
two statements one dated October
20, 1986 consisting of
160 pages and the other dated December 1, 1986
consisting of 181 pages. In these statements, it has been alleged by the State
of Orissa that the State Government has
implemented the social welfare measures in the district of Kalahandi.
order to ascertain the correct state of affairs, this Court by its order dated
January 16, 1987 requested the District Judge of Kalahandi to enquire as to
whether the State Government has, in fact, implemented the social wel- fare
measures in the district of Kalahandi and whether such measures were adequate to
meet the needs of the people there. The learned District Judge was asked to
submit a report to this Court. It was further directed by this Court that the
learned District Judge, while preparing his report, would consider the
feasibility of the implementation of some suggestions made by the petitioners
regarding the steps to be taken for the purpose of ameliorating the condition
of the people in the said district.
learned District Judge has since submitted his report which runs into 36 1
pages. The petitioners are not at all satisfied with the said report of the
learned Dis- trict Judge. They have challenged the correctness of facts found
by him, particularly with regard to the question of starvation deaths. It has
been stated by the learned Dis- trict Judge that there was hardly any case of
starvation death; on the other hand, there has been implementation by the
Government of the social welfare measures.
not think it necessary to consider the report of the learned District Judge. It
is agreed by the parties including Shri Pattnayak, the petitioner No. 1 in Writ
Petition No. 12847 of 1985, who has appeared before us in person, that some
steps should be taken for the purpose of alleviating the miseries and sorrows
of the poor inhabitants of both the said districts. It is not disputed that the
people of the districts of Kalahandi and Koraput are very poor and most of them
have been living below the poverty line. Although the learned District Judge's
report is against the alleged starvation deaths, we are of the view that the
happening of one or two cases of starvation deaths cannot altogether be ruled
out. Shri Pattnayak laid much emphasis in his submissions on the duty of the
Government to take immediate steps to prevent starvation deaths. He has submitted
before us some suggestions in writing, So far as prevention of starvation
deaths is concerned, his suggestion are inter alia that the Government should
constitute a 11- Member Committee, of which the majority should be social
workers, for the purpose of supervising matters arising out of drought and
other natural calamities. This committee may be called the Kalahandi Relief
Implementation Committee (KRIC). The nonofficial members should not be members
of any political party and should belong to well-known organisa- tions of
social work, such as, Sarvodaya Gandhi Peace Foun- dation and registered
voluntary agen- 62 cies, as contained in the State approved list of voluntary
agencies. He has also enumerated the duties of the Commit- tee.
learned Advocate General of Orissa, appearing on behalf of the State of Orissa, has drawn our attention to
paragraph 39 of the Orissa Relief Code which provides as follows:
Reports on starvation:
spite of taking adequate precautions in providing relief works for able-bodied
persons, and gratuitous relief and feeding programmes for those who cannot
under- take physical labour and other relief meas- ures, reports of starvation
cases very often appear in the Press. Whenever a report of death due to starvation
is published and it comes to the notice of the Collector, he shall immediately
cause an enquiry into the allega- tion. The enquiry shall be conducted by a gazetted
officer in the presence of the Sar- panch, Ward Member or some gentlemen of the
village and the result of the enquiry reported in the Pro forma in Appendix VI
within 48 hours, if possible. The Pro forma is not exhaustive. The Collector
should include such other information which he considers necessary to give
Government a complete picture of the situation in which the alleged death has
taken place. If all the information cannot be col- lected forthwith a
preliminary report should be furnished immediately to be followed by a complete
After the receipt of the enquiry report, the Collector shall review the relief
measures undertaken in the area and also if he deems proper, may visit the area
himself or depute a senior officer to take stock of the situation and be
satisfied about the adequacy of labour employment, food position, and other
relief arrangements. He should take further steps to alleviate distress in the
area as far as possible. In case he considers necessary to further strengthen
the relief measures, he shall furnish concrete proposals promptly with
necessary justification through the Revenue Divisional Commissioner to the
Board of Reve- nue/Special Relief Commissioner." In this connection, we
may also refer to paragraph 40 relat- ing to 63 verification of Press reports
and issue of contradiction, if any. Paragraph 40 reads as follows:
Verification of Press reports and issue of contradiction, if any--Besides
alleging starvation deaths, reports on large scale migration of population on
account of lack of work, scarcity of drinking water, outbreak of epidemics etc.
appear in the Press very often.
Collector shall take steps to get such reports immediately verified by proper
enquiry or otherwise and if found true should take immediate remedial action.
Proper publicity relating to the relief measures undertaken should also be
given. If on the other hand, the report is found inaccurate, exaggerated or incor-
rect a contradiction stating the correct facts may be issued by the Collector
immediately. Copies of such contradictions should be made available to the
higher author- ities." It is apparent from paragraph 39 that ample
provision has been made for taking steps as soon as the report of starvation
death is published or any starvation death comes to the notice of the
also submitted by the learned Advocate General that there is a district-level
Natural Calamities Committee consisting of the Collector, other officials and
the popular representatives like MPs and MLAs of the district, who are required
to review the progress of relief work and the measures taken to meet the
drought conditions from time to time. He submits that instead of constituting
another Com- mittee, the Natural Calamities Committee will serve the purpose. Shri
Pattnayak also agrees that another separate Committee need not be constituted,
but he submits that the Natural Calamities Committee should include at least
five non-official and non-political members belonging to well- known organisations
of social work, such as, Sarvodaya Gandhi Peace Foundation and registered
voluntary agencies, as already suggested by him. The learned Advocate General
states that the Government has no objection to induct into the Committee
non-officials, such as, representatives of the recognised voluntary organisations
as suggested by Shri Pattnayak.
circumstances, we direct the Government of Orissa that it shall, within a month
from date, nominate the names of at least five persons belonging to the recognised
volun- tary organisations like Sarvodaya Gandhi Peace Foundation, Ramakrishna
Mission, Bharat Sewa Sangha and registered voluntary agencies as members of the
said 64 Natural Calamities Committee of the district. We also accept the
suggestion of Shri Pattnayak that the Committee shall hold at least one meeting
every two months. The function of the Committee will not be confined only to
the cases of starvation deaths, but it shall be responsible for looking after
the welfare of the people of the district.
given to understand that there is also such a dis- trict-level Natural
Calamities committee in the district of Koraput. We make it clear that the
Government will also nominate at least five such persons belonging to recognised
voluntary organisations within a month from today and the Committee will also
perform the same functions.
as the district of Kalahandi is concerned, it has been urged by the learned
Advocate General that the Govern- ment of Orissa has already undertaken
appropriate measures for mitigating the miseries of the people of that
steps which have been taken by the Government may be stated in brief. The State
Government has allotted a sum of Rs.8054 lakhs for Kalahandi during the Sixth
Plan. The State Government is fully aware of the situation in Kalahandi and
constant vigilance is maintained under the direct supervi- sion of the Chief
Minister to redress the distress of the people. The labour intensive work has
been undertaken by the government on a massive scale to provide employment opportu-
nity to the people of the district of Kalahandi. During the year 1984-85, in
areas of acute distress, free feeding pro- gramme has been undertaken on a
massive scale. During 1987- 88 the coverage under the Normal Feeding Programme
was 2,12,800 persons. Besides, 1,20,000 persons were also cov- ered under the
Emergency Drought Feeding Programme covering all the drought affected areas of
the district. In 128 Gram Panchayats where crop damage was more than 50%, 1,20,000
persons were covered under the Emergency Feeding Programme during 1987-88.
During the current year, preliminary survey indicated that crop damage was
likely to occur in 74 Gram Panchayats and, accordingly, 40,000 persons from the
said affected areas have been covered under the Emergency Feeding Programme in
addition to the Normal Feeding Programme for 2,12,800 persons. Under the Area
Development Approach Pro- gramme for Total Backwardness Scheme covering certain
blocks, about 20,000 persons are being fed under the Feeding Programme.
According to the Government, 2,72,000 persons are being covered by the Feeding Programme
in Kalahandi district in 1988.
is a drought-prone district and Government has, according to the learned
Attorney General, already taken a number of 65 major, medium and small
Irrigation Projects in the said district to provide irrigation facilities for agricultur-
ists. 485 tube-Wells are stated to have been dug as a major source of drinking
water in Kalanandi. The Government has also started aforestation programme so
as to prevent the recurrence of drought conditions.
facilities are stated to have been given to the weavers of the district.
measures have also been taken for ensuring that poor cultivators are not
coerced to sell their surplus paddy at a lower rate on account of their
poverty. The Orissa Agricultural Produce Marketing Act is being strictly
implemented. The entire procurement of paddy has been en- trusted to the Food
Corporation of India and the State Cooperative Marketing Federation. These two Organisations
specialised in such purchases, are possessed of godowns and have their local centres
throughout the State for purchase of surplus paddy. The FCI at the request of
the State Gov- ernment, has established purchase centres at Junagarh, Khariar
Road and Kesinga in the district of Kalahandi. The FCI has also made
arrangements for direct purchase of paddy at Dharmagarh, Junagarh and Narala.
The State Cooperative Marketing Federation has also opened direct purchase centres
at Boden and Sinapalli in the district of Kalahandi. Fur- thermore, when
surplus paddy comes to market, additional purchase centres are provided for
purchase of the surplus paddy.
minimum purchase price for paddy is fixed by the Government of India. Adequate
funds are provided to the purchasing agents to purchase the surplus paddy at
the rates prescribed by the Government. State Government also ensures that
unscrupulous traders do not coerce the farmers to sell paddy at a distress
to agriculturists is also being given by the Government. Due to drought
conditions, the Kharif crop was damaged in some areas of Kalahandi district in
1987-88. To enable cultivators to undertake resowing, Government is stated to
have supplied seeds free of cost in mini-bags.
measures which have been taken and are being taken, as stated in the written
note submitted by the learned Advocate General, have been briefly mentioned.
There is no reason not to accept the statements made on behalf of the State of Orissa that the measures, stated above,
are being taken for the purpose of mitigating hunger, 66 poverty, starvation
deaths, etc. of the people of Kalahandi.
such measures are taken, there can be no doubt that it will alleviate to a
great extent the miseries of the people of Kalahandi. Such measures are also
being taken in respect of the district of Koraput. The Natural Calamities
Committee shall also keep a watch over the working of the social welfare
measures which are being taken and may be taken in future. Shri Pattnayak also
does not dispute that if such measures are continued to be taken, it will be a
great relief to the people of Kalahandi and Koraput. We hope and trust that in
view of the prompt action that has been taken by the Government, soon the
miseries of the people of these two districts will be over.
prayed for by Shri Pattnayak, the petitioners are granted liberty to mention
before this Court, if necessary.
Writ Petitions are disposed of as above. There will be no order as to costs.
Petitions disposed of.