By Yashi Jain
The government’s recent decision of linking the ration card to the Aadhar number to have access to subsidised food took the life of an 11-year-old girl. Santoshi Kumar, who hailed from an impoverished family in Simdega’s Karimati village in Jharkhand, died on September 28 due to starvation. She hadn’t eaten anything for the past 8 days as the local public distribution system (PDS) dealer denied the family food.
Family blames, government denies
The family, which does not have a stable source of income, no job or land, was eligible for subsidised food items under the National Food Security Act. However, the local ration dealer had refused to give Santoshi’s family their ration for the past six months because their ration card was not linked to the Aadhar number, as found by the non-profit Right to Food and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) Watch. In response, the government issued a report by district officials stating the cause of the death to be malaria. However, Santoshi’s parents claim that their daughter died begging for food, crying “bhaat, bhaat.” Chief Minister Raghubar Das has ordered an investigation and demanded a report in the next 24 hours to find out whether or not Santoshi’s family was denied food.
Vacations serve to be fatal
Santoshi would get food in school all the months since the family was denied food from the government. However, because the school had closed down for Durga Puja holidays, she did not get food for a couple of days. Out of 700 families in and around the village who are eligible for this scheme, 10 such families as Santoshi’s were stripped off their food by the local dealer. Activists insist that the denial of food is a straight violation of several Supreme Court orders since 2013. The order states that the possession of an Aadhar number cannot be made compulsory to avail the benefits under the various government schemes.
Technical problems interlinked
This Aadhar “seeding”, which is the official term for linking, also threatens to disrupt the mid-day meal scheme. The central government order that was announced in February also stated that children also need to have their Aadhar numbers in order to have access to mid-day meals. People are thankful that at least the school did not deny children food on this basis. Despite this incident, people in Jharkhand are still being threatened that if the seeding does not take place, they would be removed from the PDS list. Another major concern is the people whom the government is asking to make an Aadhar card, have no official ID proof and this has led to new confusions amongst them.
The blame game is on
Jharkhand’s minister in charge of Food and Civil Supply, Saryu Rai, blamed his own government, stating that his orders were denied even though he was the one in charge. He accused the state’s top officials as they issued contradictory orders when Rai had ordered not to deny food, they had approved the same. A team of five right to food activists conducted an independent investigation and brought the whole issue to light and they visited the family in Karimati village and state that the family still does not have access to food and sleeps on an empty stomach almost every day.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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