Jharkhand: After The Death Of 11-Yr-Old, A Rickshaw Puller Allegedly Dies Of Starvation
A 43-year-old rickshaw puller, Baidyanath Ravidas, allegedly died of starvation on Saturday, October 21, in Dhanbad, Jharkhand as he did not have an Aadhaar-linked ration card thus, could not procure any food.
He was a resident of Bhalgarha Niche Bagan under Jharia police station and the news was first brought to light by Koylanchal Sambad. It is alleged that Ravidas was sick for the past 15 days and hadn’t eaten since the last seven.
“The ration card was in the name of Ravidas’ brother. After he died three to four months back, the family has been unable to procure food. The locals informed us of their condition – the family was starving,” said Vivek Pandey of Koylanchal Sambad to The Logical Indian.
When we contacted Dhanbad Deputy Commissioner A Dodde, he rubbished the allegations and said that Ravidas died of his ailment and was suffering for the last six months. He also added that reports claiming that the family had been applying for a ration card for the past four years are false as the application was received only a month back.
The district administration has claimed that Ravidas suffered from asthma, reported Hindustan Times.
“The Deputy Commissioner and local politicians are claiming that Ravidas died of illness, but his son told us that despite trying to apply for ration card online, the didn’t get enough help to complete the process. When asked about the postmortem results, the DC said that the family “did not permit” a postmortem, which I believe is false,” added Pandey.
The DC also said it isn’t possible that the family was hungry for days as it has four earning members, each of whom earns not less than Rs 3,000 a month, reported Hindustan Times.
National Secretary of Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Kashinath Chatterjee, who is a Right To Food activist told The Logical Indian that Ravidas’ wife works as a domestic help and earns about Rs 1,500-2,000 per month. To make ends meet, their 13 and 14-year-old daughters also work in people’s houses even though it is against the law. The government had not included them in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category and this made getting a ration card even more difficult.
“If you visit their house, you’d know the conditions they live in,” continued Chatterjee, adding that Ravidas’ death was definitely cased due to starvation.
He also revealed that nearly 70% of the people in the area do not have ration cards and the 30% who do, got it after paying about Rs 2,000-3,000.
“What is even more disheartening is that when we reached the house of the family, the Deputy Commissioner was already there, making them sign papers which said that the death was caused due to illness,” said Chatterjee.
“It is a criminal offence on the part of the administration to coerce the family into signing the papers. About 20 officials had visited the family members who were obviously greatly intimidated hence, gave their signatures. It is unbelievable for the DC to resort to such criminal methods to hide the truth,” he added
On questioning the DC about his alleged role in coercing the family to sign papers, he told The Logical Indian that they were only giving a statement which was void of any influence.
Ravidas’ death comes less than a month after the death of 11-year-old Santoshi Kumari of Simdega district, Jharkhand. She allegedly died of starvation as her family’s ration card was cancelled for not being linked to Aadhaar.
“Even in Santoshi’s case, the district administration claimed that she died of illness. The investigation is underway but the administration is trying to hide facts. Santoshi’s mother is under so much pressure that there are attempts to throw her out of the village because ‘gaon ka naam kharab ho raha hai’ (the name of the village is getting maligned),” said Pandey.
There are some media reports which say that Santoshi’s mother was an alcoholic and spent all of the family’s money on buying liquor instead of food for her children. Chatterjee rubbished these claims and said that the family is being maligned to ostracise them from the village.
The Logical Indian take
The government’s entire premise of Aadhaar was helping the poor. It said that the 12-digit unique identity number would aid the poor receive social benefits in a better and a more transparent manner. But we’re talking about people who have low technical knowledge, are not adept with the internet and reside in areas with poor network connectivity. Problems like fingerprint mismatch and banks lacking enough branches in rural areas have marred Aadhaar-linked welfare schemes like the public distribution system.
How is Aadhaar the need of the hour when our rural areas lack electricity, water, food, banks and irrigation facilities? Without basic infrastructure and human rights remaining unfulfilled, what does the government truly wishes to achieve with Aadhaar?
Even though further probe will confirm if Ravidas died of hunger, The Logical Indian community strongly condemns the manner in which the government is pushing to make Aadhaar compulsory.
India is one of the largest grain producers in the world despite which, more than 20% of its 1.3 billion population goes to bed hungry.
For every Indian to be able to feed themselves, food needs to be available, accessible and affordable. Food is our right, not luxury and the government needs to set its priorities straight.