The Politics of Starvation Deaths in West Bengal: Evidence from the village of Amlashol

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This article examines the local socio-political causes behind a sudden wave of starvation deaths that swept across the West Bengali village of Amlashol during the summer of 2004. Following the new paradigm of famine analysis where focus is placed on political failures, the article addresses three groups of political dynamics that together contributed to the starvation deaths: (i) political triggering mechanisms; (ii) underlying political dynamics; and (iii) village specific political dynamics. The article finds that the government’s escalating conflict with the Maoists turned a situation of chronic food insecurity into an acute hunger crisis, which was not mitigated by effective public policies at the local level due to extensive political patronage and a politicisation of the bureaucracy. Amlashol suffered disproportionally from this due to the village’s affiliation with a weak and politically marginalised panchayat. Within Amlashol, the casualties of starvation came primarily from one particular Scheduled tribe, the Sabars, due to issues of social stigmatisation, political exclusion and eroding livelihoods. The article provides a testament to the importance of addressing disaggregated political dynamics in contemporary starvation analysis.
TidsskriftJournal of South Asian Development
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)43-65
StatusUdgivet - 2011

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