Skip to main content

Dozen starvation deaths in Jharkhand "suggests" govt indifference towards people's food insecurity

Chintaman Malhar's family
By Asharfi Nand Prasad*
Over the past ten months at least 12 persons may have succumbed to hunger in Jharkhand. Yet, instead of taking action against functionaries leading to these deaths and taking measures to improve the situation of food security, the state government has denied hunger as the cause of any of these deaths.
Absolving the government of any blame, state food minister Saryu Roy has accused activists who are highlighting the gross violations of right to food in Jharkhand.
However, the recent deaths of Savitri Devi in Giridh, Meena Musahar in Chatra and Chintaman Malhar in Ramgarh seek to expose the government’s lack of seriousness to address the issue of starvation in the state.
Savitri Devi, a 60-year old widow, died on June 2, 2018 after prolonged hunger and inadequate nutrition. Her family members do not remember the last time they cooked dal. The household did not have a ration card, despite applying for one at the Gram Panchayat a few months ago. This contradicts the government’s claim that Savitri Devi’s family did not apply for a ration card.
Also, contrary to the claims made by the government, Savitri Devi was never admitted in RIMS Ranchi for treatment. Even though her widow pension was sanctioned in 2014, the first pension instalment was credited only in April 2018 after her aadhaar was linked with the scheme. Savitri Devi was not informed that her pension was credited.
Savitri Devi's house
Fifty-year old Chitaman of Mandu, Ramgarh lived a life of extreme deprivation and died a hungry man. He too did not have a ration card. Rather than admitting the alarming situation of the family and its neighbours, government officials tricked Chintaman’s son into signing a statements that told a different tale.
Yet, the food minister claimed that the son himself admitted that his father died a natural death, even as suggesting that the victim’s body be exhumed for post-mortem. He interpreted the son’s refusal for this as a proof that the victim did not die of starvation.
Meena Musahar, a ragpicker, also died in destitution and acute poverty. According to her neighbours, she was so malnourished that she could not feed her infant child who died a week before her. She did not have a ration card. Jharkhand government has conveniently absolved itself of any responsibility as she may have come from Gaya, Bihar in search of livelihoods. The Food Minister even said that his department was not responsible for the starvation death of persons who did not have ration cards.
Contrary to government’s claims, the immediate causes of the 12 recent starvation deaths include denial of subsidised rice due to absence of a ration card, cancellation of ration card due to absence of Aadhaar linkage or failure of Aadhaar-based biometric authentication. It is true that many of the starvation victims were also ill, but they would probably not have succumbed to hunger if they received adequate nutrition and medical care.
Denial of social security pensions and absence of work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act further contributed to the destitution of the starvation victims and their families. At least four victims were eligible to social security pension, but were either not issued a pension or did not receive their pension due to administrative lapses or Aadhaar-related issues.
The starvation deaths have exposed the exclusion of poor households from the Public Distribution System (PDS) and the alarming levels of food insecurity in the state. A highly effective measure of addressing these problems is the universalisation of the PDS in rural areas and inclusion of nutritious items in the PDS.
Discharge note by doctor confirms,
Meena Musahar was brought dead
The deaths have also raised questions on the coverage of the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) as most of these families, despite living a life of acute poverty, did not have AAY ration cards. Instead of any discussion on such moves, the Food Minister has instead proposed setting up of grain banks. Even if such banks are established, they will fail to ensure universal access to food security as a matter of right.
The government’s indifference towards people’s food insecurity is also revealed by its foot-dragging in the withdrawal of the “Direct Benefit Transfer for food security” pilot in Nagri block of Ranchi. By all accounts, the results of the pilot are disastrous. However, the Food Department is yet to roll back this pilot or compensate ration cardholders who are denied their legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrain in this ill-conceived initiative. In fact, it has even failed to make public the findings of the government’s own social audit of this pilot.
The Right to Food Campaign demands immediate withdrawal of the “Direct Benefit Transfer for food security” pilot. It also demands the universalisation of the PDS in rural areas and inclusion of pulses and edible oil in the PDS – a promise made by the Food Minister himself. The government should also immediately remove the mandatory requirement of Aadhaar from PDS – and all other public services – and strengthen the grievance redress system to be established under the National Food Security Act.
---
*Right to Food Campaign, Jharkhand

Comments

TRENDING

You promised 50 lakh houses, give us one: Ahmedabad migrant women's plea to Modi

Women display letters containing rakhi for PM    By Hirabhai Solanki, Bhartiben Dantani, Ramesh Shrivastav*  Poor labouring families, including seasonal or long-term migrants of nearly 15 squatter settlements -- working as construction and casual workers and petty vendors, providing cheap but critically important labour for Ahmedabad city, living under plastic sheetings -- have reminded the Gujarat and Central Governments about the promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of building 50 lakh dwellings, wherein every pavement dweller and homeless would be given a decent home by the end of 2022. Holding a meeting in Ahmedabad under the aegis of the Majur Adhikaar Manch, they also referred to the appeal of the Prime Minister to poor and labouring women, seeking his support as brother by sending rakhis to protect their humble basti dwellings and provide them with decent housing, which is secure for them and their families. So far, about 300 women have posted rakhis to the Prime Ministe

A tale of horror and fraud: Profits in trillions of dollars for vaccine manufacturers?

By Aruna Rodrigues*  John Leake is a best-selling and “experienced non-fiction, true crime author”. Having just read what must be described as an extraordinary ‘telling’ of the Covid-19 saga, his book “The Courage to Face Covid-19: Preventing Hospitalization and Death While Battling the Bio-Pharmaceutical Complex”, co-authored with Peter A McCullough, MD, MPH, is the narration of true crime on a scale that could top the list in the history of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’. The book chronicles the unique role of national governments across the world and their health agencies, led by the USA and WHO, which followed an agenda that led to completely avoidable fatalities numbering several million. The question is why? The usual culprits are money and power. But to ascribe cause to these two is woefully insufficient. The sheer magnitude of the ‘dark agenda’ – coordinated and played out by governments, health agencies, the medical establishment (hospitals, doctors and chemists) and the massive a

A countdown to disaster: Breach in fly-ash bunds of Nagpur's thermal power plants

Fly-ash dyke, Koradi thermal power plant  By Dhwani Shah, Deepmala Patel*  Last month the residents of several villages of Nagpur district woke up to the nightmare of being inundated with fly-ash. Located in the north of Nagpur city are Koradi and Khaparkheda thermal power stations which have their ash dykes in the vicinity. On July 10, 2022 at 3 am, the ash dyke of the Khaparkheda thermal power station broke, leading to ash contaminating the Kanhan river. Though the authorities claimed to have acted quickly and the fly ash dumping in the river was stopped, the claim stood to be misleading and false. Even today, the Kanhan river continues to be polluted with fly-ash, and the water supply to the city is affected. Not only did ash dyke of the Khaparkheda power station break, on July 16, 2022, the ash bund of the Koradi thermal power plant also broke. Fly-ash and water stored in the dyke gushed downstream to six villages -- drowning houses, water bodies and farmlands. With such large-

Kailash Satyarthi NGO floats new centre in Delhi to 'empower' underprivileged children

By Our Representative  A voluntary organisation linked with Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi-supported NGO has floated a unique children’s resource centre at Sanjay Camp, Chankyapuri, New Delhi, in order to facilitate in imparting remedial education, recreational training and holistic development of children of around 2,500 under-privileged slum-dwelling families. Virender Singh Kadian, MLA of Delhi Cantonment, inaugurated the centre, which is called Shaheed Kalu Bal Vikas Kendra. The resource centre is in memory of Kalu Kumar, who died at an young age serving and working towards the development of under-privileged children, said an NGO source. A firebrand activist, Kalu Kumar was trafficked from Bihar to the carpet manufacturing belt of Allahabad when he was six. He was rescued by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan at the age of 10. A bright student, Kalu he covered up the lost ground very quickly and grew up to become a leader fighting for the rights of other child slaves at Bal Ashram. In

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Multi-crore NRC updation scam? Awaited: Assam media's self-cleaning mechanism

By Nava Thakuria  If some editor-journalists are allegedly involved in a financial scam, shouldn't the people get an opportunity to identify them? As the mainstream newspapers and news channels of Assam are avoiding the issue in their coverage, how come the actual picture will come to the public domain? If the mainstream media outlets intentionally kill the news, reasons best known to the editors, should the social media users take a lead? By now a number of senior journalists (with experience in print journalism for many decades) have highlighted the issue in social media. Their message is loud and clear- identify the corrupt television journalists who grabbed a huge amount of money which is actually meant for thousands of Assamese professionals. It all began when a second first information report (FIR) was filed by the outgoing State coordinator of National Register of Citizens (NRC) against his predecessor alleging corruption and money laundering while updating the 1951 NRC in A

RSS, Sangh Parivar consider tricolour as "state flag" and not "national flag"

By Teesta Setalvad* Today, when the nation has been independent for 67 years, the Sangh Parivar is set to launch ‘Tiranga yatras’ and Satyagrahas to defend the honour of the flag and the nation. Yet when the Indian people were involved in the decades-long struggle for freedom against British imperialism, the RSS was conspicuous by its absence in the struggle. When thousands of people faced lathis, bullets and jail sentences for hoisting the tiranga and participated all over the country in satyagraha during the Civil Disobedience and Quit India movements against the British Raj, the Sangh publicly took the stand that it would not take part in the movement and seldom missed the opportunity of assuring the British rulers that they would keep to the right side of colonial law and avoid any clash with the authorities. Of course the reason given for this was that the Sangh was secretly strengthening itself and would take on British imperialism only when it was strong enough to do so! A simil

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'Grossly inadequate': NREGA allocation 0.29% of GDP, World Bank recommended 1.6%

By Rajiv Shah  A civil society tracker, seeking to periodically analyse the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), has said that NREGA budgetary allocation is only 0.29% of GDP and 1.85% of the total government expenditure of the financial year 2022-23, which is grossly inadequate. Thus, “As per estimates of researchers of the World Bank, for NREGA to run robustly, its allocation must at least be 1.6% of the GDP.” Prepared by the People’s Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), a group of activists, academics and members of people’s organizations, who came together to advocate for NREGA in 2004 in order to catalyse discussion and strengthen the top Government of India rural jobs guarantee scheme, the tracker states, the NREGA budget as percentage of the total government expenditure has also decreased -- it stands at 1.85% for FY 2022-23, just about half the level in FY 2020-21 (3.65%). The tracker, titled “Meagre Funds and Unlawfully Low Wages: How

Since 2015 Govt of India didn't allocate single rupee to Gujarat for RTI training, awareness

By Pankti Jog*  The Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India (GoI) has allocated Rs 8.7 crore to Maharashtra for conducting Right to Information (RTI) training and awareness between 2015 to 2022. Of this, Rs 5.9 crore has gone to the Maharashtra State Training Institute, YASHADA, and Rs 3.01 crore have gone to the State Information Commission, Maharashtra. Gujarat, on the other hand, has not received even a single rupee over the last seven years for RTI programmes. Even Gujarat’s State Information Commission too has not not received any funds since 2005. RTI is one of the effective tools to bring transparency and accountability in the administration, thus improve governance. If citizens are aware, they would participate in a more meaningful manner in governance. They would effectively monitor planning and expenses of public programmes. Indeed, it is necessary that RTI is taken to every citizen, for which the government needs to conduct awareness drives and training