Even without the tag of God’s Own Country, Kerala has some of the best human development indices in the country, as thousands of Malayalis reminded Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he compared Kerala to Somalia. But a week ago, all this was drowned out by news of not one, but two instances of apparent deliberate starvation, which claimed one woman’s life.
On Sunday, a shocking tale emerged from Malappuram district. During a routine visit, a member of the Edappal panchayat, KP Rabiya, found a woman lying next to her mother who had been dead for about a day. Rabiya immediately informed police.
Fifty-five-year-old Shobhana was dead, while her 26-year-old daughter Shruthi was lying near her. Both were emaciated, displaying the effects of having been starving for a week.
Shobhana is believed to have been mentally-challenged. She and Shruthi, belonged to a wealthy family, and along with other members of their family, are said to own property worth lakhs in the neighbourhood.
Speaking to the media before police took her away for medical attention, Shruthi appeared to have no idea that her mother had died. She spoke in a child-like manner, her answers unconnected with the questions asked.
Police said that though they had relatives living nearby, the mother and daughter were never visited or seen to by anyone. Even after Shobana’s death, Shruthi's relatives appear reluctant to be involved or help in her care.
In another tragic case, on Thursday, the Kottayam district police rescued a five-member family who had been starving for many days.
Police visited the family's house in Pambady after receiving multiple complaints from neighbours that a man from the household was misbehaving with people.
When police arrived at the house, they found Kuriakose, aged about 60, bed-ridden. His wife Mariamma, and their children, Jainy, Mathew and Vinodh, appeared to be starving.
“They were in a pathetic situation, too weak and sick because of starvation. The mother and three children were mentally ill. Though the father was mentally sound, he was suffering from physical illness. So, there was no food in the house,” Pambady Sub Inspector MJ Arun, who rescued them, told The News Minute.
Despite their weak condition, Mariamma allegedly attacked the policewomen who tried to helped her so she could be shifted to a hospital.
They have all since been shifted to a hospital for medical attention. Kuriakose is being looked after at an old age home.
As with the mother and daughter in Malappuram, this Kottayam family were well-off in financially.
However, thanks to their struggle with mental illness, and the refusal of neighbours to engage with them, the family had fallen into a desperate condition.
“None of the neighbours had tried to maintain contact with this family. Nobody was even aware that they were slowly starving,” Arun said.