Skip to main content

List released: 56 starvation deaths since 2015 across India, 42 in 2017-18, a large majority, 25, due to Aadhaar

11-year-old Santoshi Kumari, mother Koyli Devi: File photo
Counterview Desk
To mark the first anniversary of the death of Santoshi Kumari, scholars Reetika Khera and Siraj Dutta, with contributions from Swati Narayan and the Right to Food Campaign in Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Delhi, have prepared a detailed list of hunger deaths in 2015-18 (click HERE). 


A note on starvation deaths since 2015 by Reetika Khera and Siraj Dutta:
News reports of “starvation deaths” have been coming in a steady trickle over the past few years. One particularly tragic episode was that of eleven-year old Santoshi Kumari in Jharkhand. She died one year ago, on September 28, begging her mother for rice as she slipped into unconsciousness. It was later learnt that her family had lost their ration card because it had not been linked with Aadhaar (in mid-2017, the Jharkhand government mass-cancelled Aadhaar-less rations cards).
On the occasion of Santoshi’s death anniversary, we compiled a list of reported hunger deaths from 2015 onwards. By hunger death we mean that the victim died after prolonged hunger becaus e there was no food or money in the house, and that, quite likely, he or she would have survived otherwise. This is a partial list, based on Google searches in the English and Hindi media.
For Jharkhand, detailed reports based on independent investigation are available (see last column of detailed table HERE). The circumstances of starvation deaths, and the role played by Aadhaar, are reasonably clear from these reports.
As many as 56 hunger deaths (at least) were reported in the last four years, of which 42 happened in 2017 and 2018. This is a telling reminder of the precarious living conditions of the Indian poor. Many of them depend critically on social security pensions and the public distribution system (PDS) for their survival. Denial of PDS rations or pensions accounts for most of the hunger deaths. Most of the victims are from disadvantaged groups, e.g. Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims.
Out of 42 hunger deaths in 2017 and 2018, a large majority (25) were related to Aadhaar. At least 18 of these deaths were directly due to Aadhaar (see the rows in yellow highlight and bold). Common reasons include losing one’s ration card or pension for lack of Aadhaar linking, and failure of Aadhaar-based biometric authentication (ABBA), which is compulsory – for practical purposes – in several states. Another 7 deaths were possibly related to Aadhaar (rows with only a yellow highlight). These are mainly cases where a person was denied PDS rations or a ration card for unspecified reasons, which are likely to be related to Aadhaar in some cases at least.
Reports of hunger deaths are particularly frequent in two states: Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh (16 cases each). In Jharkhand, ABBA is effectively compulsory in most ration shops. Uttar Pradesh has implemented the National Food Security Act in a belated and haphazard manner.
In a healthy democracy, hunger deaths would make headlines and become a matter of debate and action. Some of the cases reported here did receive some attention, but even those did not lead to the sort of sustained pressure that would force the government to do what it takes to prevent hunger deaths.
Most of them barely made it to the “news ticker” of fast-paced breaking news. And despite growing evidence of the counter-productive role of ABBA in the PDS, the central government persists in its determination to make it compulsory across the country.

Comments

TRENDING

Girl child education: 20 major states 'score' better than Gujarat, says GoI report

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report, released last month, has suggested that “model” Gujarat has failed to make any progress vis-à-vis other states in ensuring that girls continue to remain enrolled after they leave primary schools. The report finds that, in the age group 14-17, Gujarat’s 71% girls are enrolled at the secondary and higher secondary level, which is worse than 20 out of 22 major states for which data have been made available.

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Gujarat refusal to observe Maulana Azad's birthday as Education Day 'discriminatory'

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government decision not to celebrate the National Education Day on !monday has gone controversial. Civil society organizations have particularly wondered whether the state government is shying away from the occasion, especially against the backdrop of "deteriorating" level of education in Gujarat.

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Post-Balakot, danger that events might spiral out of control is 'greater, not less'

By Tapan Bose*
The fear of war in South Asia is increasing. Tensions are escalating between India and Pakistan after the Indian defence minister's announcement in August this year that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’. According to some experts who are watching the situation the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.

'Favouring' tribals and ignoring Adivasis? Behind coercion of India's aborigines

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Tribal people account for 8.2% of India’s population. They are spread over all of India’s States and Union Territories. Even so they can be broadly classified into three groupings. The first grouping consists of populations who predate the Indo-Aryan migrations. These are termed by many anthropologists as the Austro-Asiatic-speaking Australoid people.