Aadhaar, "failure" of NREGA rural jobs guarantee scheme "main reason" for 13 starvation deaths in Jharkhand

By Our Representative
On July 13, a group of activists from Jharkhand held a protest demonstration at Jharkhand Bhavan, New Delhi, to highlight a spate of recent starvation deaths and lynchings in the state. The protest demonstration follows a statement (click HERE to read) issued by a group of 52 activists from across India condemning the growing attacks on right to life in Jharkhand.
Held under the Right to Food Campaign banner, at the end of the protest, a memorandum was submitted to state resident commissioner DK Tiwari:

Text of the memorandum:

We write to you to express our deep concern over the growing attacks on right to life in Jharkhand. Over the past two years, at least 13 persons have succumbed to hunger and 13 have been lynched to death. The state government has done little to take action against those responsible for these deaths or ensure that such incidences do not occur in future.
Denial of social and economic entitlements worsened the destitution of the starvation victims’ families. In at least seven cases, Aadhaar-related failures were directly responsible for the denial of these entitlements.
Four of the victims’ families did not have a ration card. Eleven-year old Santoshi Kumari’s family was denied its Public Distribution System rice as its ration card was cancelled for not being linked with Aadhaar. You will be aware that following the March 2017 order of Jharkhand’s Chief Secretary, about 11 lakh such ration cards were cancelled in the state. Three persons starved to death due to the Aadhaar-based biometric authentication (ABBA) failure for their household members who could go to the ration shop.
Premani Kunwar’s pension was redirected to someone else’s bank account linked with her Aadhaar. 
In the month of Etwariya Devi’s death, the Common Service Point operator did not give her the pension as the internet connection was allegedly disrupted just after she authenticated through ABBA. Savitri Devi’s pension was sanctioned in 2014, but she received its first instalment only in April 2018 as her bank account was not linked with Aadhaar. 
Absence of work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act also exacerbated the poverty of the starvation victims’ families (see the attached table for more details). Instead of taking action against functionaries whose lapses have led to these deaths and measures to improve food security in the state, Jharkhand government has denied hunger as the cause of these deaths and has absolved itself of any blame. 
Further, the State Food Minister has made a series of fallacious claims and accusations against activists who are highlighting the gross violations of right to food in Jharkhand. The proposal of establishing grain banks will fail to ensure food security as a matter of right. 
The continuation of the ill-conceived “Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) for food security” pilot in Nagri block of Ranchi is also highly condemnable. Despite people’s overwhelming preference for the earlier system of purchasing rice at the rate of Re 1 from the ration shop, this pilot is yet to be stopped.
Amongst the 13 persons lynched in Jharkhand since March 2016, ten were Muslim, two Hindu and one Adivasi. Apart from these deaths, there have been various other incidences of communal violence. Also, countless number of people are raped in the state. Most of the perpetrators of these acts of violence roam free. 
The Right to Food Campaign demands:
  • Criminal proceedings against all persons responsible for starvation deaths, lynchings and other incidences of violence. 
  • Strict implementation of all social and economic legislations and Supreme Court orders.
  •  Activating the grievance redress system provisions of the National Food Security Act.
  • Universalization of the Public Distribution System and social security pensions. 
  • Antyodaya ration card for all single women and Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups. 
  • Inclusion of subsidised pulses and edible oil in the Public Distribution System. 
  • Delinking of Aadhaar from all public services.
  • Immediate withdrawal of the “DBT for food security” pilot in Nagri in favour of the earlier system of rice distribution.
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Click HERE for the list of persons who died, submitted along with the memorandum

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