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

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

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. 

How GMOs would destroy non-GMO crops: Aruna Rodrigues' key submissions in SC

Counterview Desk The introduction of Bt and HT crops will harm the health of 1 billion Indians and their animals, believes Aruna Rodrigues, who has made some 60 submissions to the Supreme Court (SC) during the last 20 years. As lead petitioner who filed Public Interest Litigation in 2005, during a spate of intense hearings, which ended on 18 January 2024, she fought in the Apex Court to prevent the commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Indian agriculture. 

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

Corporatizing Indian agriculture 'to enhance' farmer efficiency, market competitiveness

By Shashank Shukla*  Today, amidst the ongoing farmers' protest, one of the key demands raised is for India to withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO). Let us delve into the feasibility of such a move and explore its historical context within India's globalization trajectory.

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Livelihood issues return to national agenda ahead of LS polls: SKM on Bharat Bandh

Counterview Desk  Top farmers' network, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has claimed big success of Grameen Bharat Bandh and industrial /sectoral strikes, stating, the “struggle reflected anger of farmers, workers and rural people across India”, adding, the move on February 16 succeeded in bringing back peoples’ livelihood issues in the national agenda just ahead of the general election to the Lok Sabha.

A 'distorted narrative' of Indian politics: Congress failing to look beyond LS polls

By Prem Singh*  About 15 days ago, I told a senior journalist friend that there are not even two   months left for the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi is roaming around on a delectation (tafreeh). The friend probably found my comment exasperating and replied that he is not on a delectation trip. The conversation between us on this topic ended there. 

How retraints were imposed on academic freedom on the IIM-Ahmedabad campus

By Sandeep Pandey*  This is the seventh consecutive academic year when I would have gone as a visiting faculty member to the Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad to teach an Elective course on Transformational Social Movements to the second year of Post Graduate Programme students. But the invitation has not come so far and it looks like it is the end of my teaching stint at IIM, at least, so long as the Bhartiya Janata Party remains in power at the centre.