Investigating the recent spate of hunger deaths in Jharkhand, a Right to Food Campaign report has blamed faulty Public Distribution System and “alarming level of food insecurity” in the state for keeping poor people in starvation and “forcing them to die”.
In the last 10 months, at least 12 persons have died of starvation in the state, the campaign has noted in its report, with three of these deaths occurring in June alone.
“The recent deaths of Savitri Devi in Giridh, Meena Musahar in Chhatra and Chintaman Malhar in Ramgarh expose the government’s lack of seriousness to address the issue of starvation in the state.
“Even after a spate of deaths before these three victims, the government took negligible cognizance of the alarming situation,” the cross-country collective of various bodies said in a statement issued on Thursday.
The cause of these deaths was a denial of food for either lack of ration card or not having the card linked with Aadhaar by the victims, the report noted.
“Contrary to the government’s claims, the immediate causes of the 12 recent starvation deaths include denial of subsidized rice due to the absence of a ration card, cancellation of ration card due to the 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,” it said.
So that the poor don’t die starving, the campaign demanded for the “universalisation of the PDS in rural areas”.
It also criticised the coverage of the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) — a government scheme to provide food to the poorest of the poor, of which there are millions in the country.
The campaign revealed that despite falling in such category, the victims’ families were found not to possess any AAY ration cards.
“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 either due to administrative lapses or Aadhaar-related issues.”