Right To Food Campaign Protests Against Aadhaar Related Starvation Deaths At Jharkhand Bhawan
With the increasing number of starvation deaths owing to Aadhaar related issues in the state of Jharkhand, Right To Food Campaign, on July 13 at 2 pm, staged a protest against the same at Jharkhand Bhawan in New Delhi. Not only that, but they also submitted a memorandum to the resident commissioner where they demanded criminal proceedings against all those who were responsible for starvation deaths, mob lynchings and other incidences of violence, among other things.
Right To Food Campaign Protests
Right To Food Campaign took to their Facebook page and talked about the dismal condition of people who have been deprived of food because of Aadhar related issues in the public distribution system.
Protesters on July 13, gathered at the venue with colourful posters. Some of them were seen standing with pictures of those who died due to starvation. Next to the pictures, they even narrated the reason behind their deaths.
Premani Kunwar was one of them pic.twitter.com/Zakoskh6p9
— Road Scholarz (@roadscholarz) July 13, 2018
Some of their demands included “Delinking of Aadhaar from all public services” and “withdrawal of the “DBT for food security” pilot in Nagri in favour of the earlier system of rice distribution.”
Much has been said about the relevance and efficiency of Aadhaar in the Public Distribution System (PDS) across the country. However, noted social economist and activist, Jean Drèze said that over the last 10 months, Jharkhand has seen at least 12 cases of alleged starvation deaths. Seven of these deaths are allegedly because of the victims not getting ration due to Aadhaar seeding issues, reported The Telegraph.
Deaths Due To Aadhaar in PDS
While addressing the media in June, Mr Jean said, “The recent deaths of Savitri Devi in Giridih, Meena Musahar in Chatra and Chintaman Malhar in Ramgarh show the government’s lack of interest to address the issue of alleged hunger deaths in the state.”
He added that most of the victims belonged from the Dalit and tribal population, who have been living in poverty without access to any social security benefits since time immemorial, reported The Telegraph.
Hemant Soren, leader of the opposition party in Jharkhand, took to Twitter to express his displeasure with the present government. Not only that, he also posted a consolidated list of all those who allegedly starved to death because of Aadhaar-related issues.
You should hang your head in shame @dasraghubar ji. Because of your government's flawed policies, so many lives were lost and their families were devastated. You have made Jharkhand synonymous with Aadhar deaths. pic.twitter.com/vGfsQyFIvv
— Hemant Soren (@HemantSorenJMM) June 22, 2018
The controversial DBT pilot experiment
Even though over 96% of the people have expressed displeasure with the Aadhaar-linked direct benefit transfer (DBT) pilot experiment in PDS in Jharkhand’s Nagri block, the state government shows no sign of retrieving the programme.
Under the new pilot project which was rolled out in October 2017, poor households are to receive cash in their bank accounts amounting to Rs 31. By adding a rupee extra, they can buy rice from the ration shop at Rs 32 per kg. Previously, they would directly buy rice at Re 1 per kg.
To check whether the money has been credited to the bank, villagers had to make several trips to the banks which ultimately resulted in confusion.
Source: The Wire
The social audit which was conducted in April showed that an overwhelming majority of the respondents wished to go back to the old system. According to the report, 8,370 ration card holders across 13-gram panchayats were surveyed for the audit and only 16.8% said they received the DBT all six times in the last six months.
Protests Against the PDS
Ever since Aadhaar-based biometric authentication was made necessary (and later revoked) by the centre, Jharkhand’s PDS came under strict scrutiny when in February, thousands of people marched from Nagri block to Ranchi, demanding that PDS delivery return to the old system.
Food activists, as well as families, have alleged that the deaths have occurred due to glitches in the Aadhaar-based PDS in the state.
Last year, reports came out that said in some of Jharkhand’s some of most impoverished villages, people were being denied ration due to Aadhaar linkage issues. The plight of the people of Jharkhand first came out when eleven-year-old Santoshi Kumari from Jharkhand’s Simdega district died of starvation on September 28. She died as she went without food for eight days. Koyli Devi, Santoshi’s mother said that the family’s ration card had been cancelled as it wasn’t linked to their Aadhaar. Thus, they were unable to procure food. Premani Kunwar, another woman became a victim of Aadhaar soon after that.
The Logical Indian Take
Aadhaar is being forced down the throat of the Indian citizens under the shroud of welfare. It was introduced by the government for the protection of the poor and needy, but the most problems are faced by them. Activists and journalists are shocked and appalled that a person’s fundamental right to food is being denied because of a government policy.
A government is responsible for the welfare of the people of the country. What is frightening is that even after cases of deaths were brought in front of the public, such incidents keep on happening.
Also published on Medium.