In perhaps the first Aadhaar linked starvation death 11 year old girl Santoshi Kumari died at her village, Karimati, in Jharkhand since her family’s ration card was not linked to Aadhaar.
Santoshi had not eaten for eight days before her death on September 28, according to a Scroll.in report; she was unable to avail of the mid-day meal she usually got in school due to Durga Puja holidays. Her father is mentally ill and unable to work, and while her mother Koyla Devi and 20-year-old sister try to get work cutting grass on others’ fields, they earn only Rs 80-90 per week. For months, neither the village nor surrounding areas have seen any MGNREGA work projects, Scroll.in says.
On the day of her death, Koyla Devi says Kumari asked for rice before she lost consciousness. “I went to get rice but I was told that no ration will be given to me. My daughter died saying ‘bhat, bhat‘,” ANI quoted her as saying.
Santoshi’s family held a ration card which entitles India’s poorest to cheaper rice, wheat and sugar under government schemes. A non-profit, the Right to Food Campaign and NREGA Watch, alleges that a local dealer cancelled the family’s food ration after a state government letter in March gave a three-week deadline for linking every ration card with Aadhaar. “My daughter died begging for rice…For four or five days, no one in the family had eaten,” said Santoshi’s mother Koyli Devi, who is being treated in hospital.
A report by district officials says the cause of death is malaria, but her family claims she died crying, “bhaat, bhaat (rice).”
Of some 700 homes in and around the village Karimati, 10 families – including that of Santoshi – were stripped of their ration card by a local officer.
Activists stress that cancelling a family’s ration benefits is a violation of several Supreme Court orders since 2013, which say that an Aadhaar number cannot be made compulsory for food benefits to poor families.
However a government press release dated March 27, 2017 said “Ration cards devoid of Aadhar number will cease to exist from 5th April, PDS outlets will work as mini bank: CS”
Here is the full press release (PDF)
Reviewing the PDS Department, Chief Secretary Mrs. Raj Bala Verma said that the govt. is committed for paddy procurement. She said that paddy has been produced in ample quantity and farmers should be motivated for paddy procurement. A door to door campaign should be run with the help of panchayat sevak and krishak mitra so that farmers can reach to the purchase center.
She said that the list of all the registered farmers should be made available to panchayat sevaks and krishak mitras so that they can contact the concerned farmers and inspire them for paddy procurement. The krishak mitras will be given promotion amount for procuring 50 quintals of paddy. 1.2 lakh metric ton paddy has been procured and 65 thousand farmers have been sent SMS out of 90 thousand registered farmers. She said that mill owners should be contacted and grains should be lifted from the packed godowns of the concerned districts.
She directed to work in the direction of providing the tribal 35 kilos rice at their homes. 35 kg packets should be made by sakhi mandals for all PDSs at block level so that they can be distributed through Panchayat sevaks. She directed to make the LDM and BSO responsible for it. Panchayat sevaks will be given Rs. 20 per bag promotion amount from the dept.
She said that all the ration cards which have not been linked with Aadhar number will become null and void on 5th April. Aadhar based ration card will be considered for food grains by the PDS outlets. Nearly 3 lakh ration cards have been declared invalid. Kerosene will be distributed through DBT from 7th March.
The CS said that PDS outlets will work as mini banks. Electricity bills, rail tickets, cash deposits and cash withdrawals can be done at PDS outlets. For this, the PDS owners are being trained. She said that they should be trained through DEGS.
PDS Sec Mr. Vinay Kr. Choubey and other officers were present in the meeting.