Skip to main content

Another aadhaar-related starvation death in Jharkhand village, reason said to be biometric fingerprint "failure"

By Siraj Dutta and Mithilesh Kumar*
Etwariya Devi, a 67-year-old widow, died of hunger and exhaustion on December 25 in Sonpurwa village of Majhiaon block of Garhwa district, Jharkhand. She lived with her son Ghura Vishwakarma, daughter-in-law Usha Devi and their three children in a dilapidated kutcha house. The family has a hand-to-mouth existence and is routinely unable to access adequate nutrition.
Surviving the day on only a meal of rice and salt is not uncommon for the family. The shortage of food worsened for Etwariya Devi when the family was denied ration from October to December 2017, and she did not get her pension for the months of November and December.
Etwariya’s family was denied their monthly entitlement of 25 kg of grain under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) for three months preceding her death. In October, Usha Devi’s fingerprint could not be authenticated in the aadhaar-based biometric Point of Sale (PoS) machine at the local ration shop and she was told by the ration dealer to come back some other day.
When she went back after a few days, she was told that the ration stock had finished. The dealer did not give her ration in November as he claimed that he was not allotted grains for that month. No grain was distributed at the ration shop in December till Etwariya Devi’s death, as the PoS machine was allegedly dysfunctional.
A general complaint of the people of the village is that the dealer does not distribute ration as per the transactions made in the PoS machine. In October, for most ration card holders he transacted twice the monthly entitlement of grain and kerosene quantities, but distributed for only a month.
Denial of ration to Etwariya’s family is yet another example of the disruptions in the Public Distribution System (PDS) caused due to its mandatory integration with aadhaar. Dealers have started tampering with digital records in order to hide accumulated stocks. One way they do this is to separate authentication and distribution – get people’s fingerprints and/or tell them that they would get rations later, and then play hide-and-seek.
As per the online records, ration was allotted to the dealer for October-December. But the dealer did not distribute ration to many cardholders claiming that he did not have adequate ration stock. These irregularities show that the introduction of Aadhaar-based biometric authentication has failed to curb leakages in the PDS. In fact, it has created new barriers to the access of rations.

Denial of pension

Etwariya Devi used to receive her monthly old age pension of Rs 600 a month in her aadhaar-linked bank account at the local Community Service Provider (CSP) centre, under Jharkhand Grameen Bank. She last collected her pension in October 2017. In November, no pension amount was credited in her account.
When she went to withdraw her pension for December, after authenticating her fingerprint in the PoS machine, the CSP operator told her that the authentication had failed. But as per the bank statement of Etwariya’s account, a transaction of Rs. 600 was made on that day (December 8).
In the CSP model of banking, the money is electronically transferred from customer’s account to that of the CSP operator once the customer authenticates the Aadhaar-based transaction. Once the money is credited to the CSP’s account, the payment is made to the customer. The CSP operator of Sonpurwa claims that the internet connectivity was disrupted just after Etwari Devi authenticated her fingerprint, because of which her pension amount was not credited to the CSP account.
Etwari Devi’s death due to starvation follows on the heels of another death due to prolonged hunger and exhaustion in the district. It may be recalled that 64-year-old Premani Kunwar succumbed to starvation after she was denied her ration and pension due to linkage of these programmes with Aadhaar.
Starvation death of another person in the same district exposes the lack of seriousness in the government towards addressing the issues in delivery of ration and pension. Disruptions in the delivery of ration and pension in Jharkhand continue unabated. For those living on the margins, denial of such crucial entitlements leads to the violation of mere right to life.
The Jharkhand Right to Food Campaign has demanded immediate dismissal of the ration dealer of Sonpurwa and registering FIR against him for embezzlement of PDS grain and tampering of PDS records; immediate shift to “offline” delivery of PDS entitlements; transfer of all ration shop licenses from private dealers to Gram Panchayats or self-help groups; and introduction of pulses and edible oil in the PDS.
---
*Right to Food Campaign, Jharkhand

Comments

TRENDING

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

'Attack on free expression': ABVP 'insults' Udaipur professor for FB post

Counterview Desk   People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan, condemning what it called "insult of Professor Himanshu Pandya" by students affiliated with with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad (ABVP) in Udaipur, has said he was evicted from the class where he was teaching after raising "ugly slogans", forcing him to "leave the university".

Enhanced rock weathering leads to 9-20% higher crop yield, help climate resilience

By Aishwarya Singhal, Lubna Das*  Enhanced rock weathering -- a nature-based carbon dioxide removal process that accelerates natural weathering -- results in significantly higher first year crop yields, improved soil pH, and higher nutrient uptake, according to a new scientific paper, released in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed open access mega journal published by the Public Library of Science since 2006.

NE India: Creating 'greater divisions', BJP claims to have overcome tyranny of distance

By Makepeace Sitlhou*  In March, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, said at an election rally in Arunachal Pradesh that previous governments had not cared for states that sent only two representatives to the country’s Parliament, as Arunachal and several others in the Indian Northeast do. Modi failed to see the irony of his claim given that he has not visited Manipur, which has only two representatives in parliament, since the outbreak of an armed ethnic conflict that has raged on for nearly a year. The toll from the violence stands at more than 200 lives lost, and many thousands displaced.

Will numerically strong opposition in Lok Sabha strengthen democracy?

By Prem Singh*  After the first phase of the 18th Lok Sabha elections, which were conducted in seven phases, it was already indicated that a large part of the country's population had decided to contest the elections against the present government. A large number of unemployed youth and the already agitating farmers played a major role in this act of protest. 

Heatwave in Bundelkhand: 'Inadequate attention' on impact on birds, animals

By Bharat Dogra, Reena Yadav*  While the heat wave and its many-sided adverse impacts have been widely discussed in recent times, one important aspect of heat waves has not received adequate attention and this relates to the impact on birds and animals.

Adivasi rights leader arrested, 'taken away' in unregistered police vehicle

By Our Representative   In a surprise move, a People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) activist, Sunita Potem, who has been raising issues of Adivasi rights in Bastar, has been arrested from Raipur. She was arrested by a team led by DSP Garima Dadar on June 3 "after being pulled out of her room at 8:30 in the morning by the team", sources said.