Monday, January 15, 2018

Jharkhand starvation deaths: Result of fake savings by cancelling jobs, ration cards, pensions not linked to aadhaar

By Our Representative
Amidst news of yet another starvation death in Jharkhand (click HERE), the Right to Food Campaign, Jharkhand, has said that recent investigations by it has revealed “a clear and disturbing pattern” of the manner in which aadhaar has ended up excluding people from rations, pensions and jobs, generating “fake savings” in the bargain.
“The pattern”, says the top campaign organizations, is as follows: First the authorities “cancel the job cards, ration cards or pensions not linked with aadhaar”, after which they “declare that the concerned persons or cards were fake”; and then comes the final step – to count the money being saved as “savings due to aadhaar”.
Noting how in Jharkhand the rural jobs scheme NREGA cards have been cancelled in large numbers to meet “100% aadhaar seeding” targets, the NGO says, this was admitted by the secretary, rural development, at a meeting with the chief secretary on November 2, 2015, when he admitted that job cards not linked aadhaar had been cancelled “to increase the rate of aadhaar seeding of NREGA workers.”
Pointing out that the statement is recorded “in the minutes of a meeting with the chief secretary Jharkhand on November 2, 2015”, the NGO states, “In April 2017, the Central government claimed that nearly 1 crore ‘fake job cards’ had been cancelled with the help of aadhaar.”
Santoshi Kumari
“However”, it underlines, “In response to a Right to Information (RTI) query, the Central government later gave a breakdown of the reasons for cancellation – ‘fakes’ and ‘duplicates’ accounted for only 12.6% of all cancelled cards, or less than 1% of all job cards.”
Revealing that last year aadhaar-less ration cards were “cancelled en masse in Jharkhand”, the campaign body says, “On September 22, 2017, the Jharkhand government claimed that 11 lakh fake ration cards had been cancelled thanks to aadhaar.”
“But”, it notes, “Verification in Latehar and Khunti showed that most of the cancelled ration cards are not fake. Many of them belong to families that were unable to link their ration card with aadhaar. One of these families was that of Santoshi Kumari, the 11-year old girl who died of hunger in Simdega district last September.”
Also disputing the Jharkhand government claim that 2 lakh “fake” pensioners had been removed from the pension lists with the help of aadhaar, the NGO says, “A verification of about 100 cancelled pensions in Khunti revealed that few of them – if any – were fake. Many belonged to people who had simply not been unable to link their pension with aadhaar.”
“In October 2016”, the NGO notes, “The district administration in Khunti (and perhaps elsewhere in Jharkhand too) stopped paying social security pension to those who had failed to link their aadhaar with bank account and pension list. Some of them were able to do so later, and their pension resumed, but they lost the payments due to them in the intervening period. Others are still struggling…”
Pointing out that last year between September and December 2017 at least four persons died due to starvation – Santoshi Kumari, Ruplal Marandi, Premani Kunwar and Etwariya Devi – the NGO states, this is the “direct result of the action and inaction of the state government and the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI).”
Etwariya Devi
Claiming that it has put forward “clear evidence” that these deaths were due to the stopping of their legally entitled rations and old-age pensions because of aadhaar related issues, the NGO regrets, “The state government has ignored evidence that the mandatory linking of aadhaar to welfare entitlements has caused exclusion of the most vulnerable citizens.”
“Moreover”, it adds, the UIDAI has “refused to take any action against those responsible for scores of violations of people’s legal entitlements to social welfare due to aadhaar”.
Noting that “this exclusion has been deceitfully projected to the public, Parliament and the Supreme Court by dressing these cases of aadhaar-driven exclusion as deletions of ‘fake persons’ and ‘savings’ of public funds”, the NGO believes, “The Jharkhand government and UIDAI should surely be charged for criminal negligence leading to death, and for the criminal offence of dishonesty and an intention to deceive.”

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