Death by digital exclusion? : on faulty public distribution system in Jharkhand -Shiv Sahay Singh
Many in Jharkhand have been denied food under the public distribution system as their ration cards have been cancelled in the mad rush for putting in place a digital system. While activists claim that some have died from starvation, the government denies this. Shiv Sahay Singh reports on the faulty PDS
A few weeks before Kaleshwar Soren, 45, died, he sold the last of his belongings, a Palash tree, for one and a half kg of rice. His ration card was cancelled in 2016 for reasons that are still not clear. As a result, the tribal had not received any foodgrain under the public distribution system (PDS) since then. Human rights activists claim that Soren, from Mahuadanr village in Dumka district of Jharkhand, died of starvation on November 11, 2018. The government denies this.
Jian Kisku and his wife Rasodi Hembram live in similar conditions next door. The couple has no ration card and has not received any foodgrain under the PDS. A few days ago, they sold a chicken that was bred in their backyard to buy 5 kg of rice, which they ate with the paste of a wild fruit. There is no telling where the next meal will come from.
Soren, Kisku and Hembram had ‘priority household’ cards that were later cancelled. Under the National Food Security Act, 2013, the PDS ensures 5 kg of foodgrain per person per month to those who hold these cards. Antyodaya families, or the poorest of the poor, are entitled to 35 kg of foodgrain per family per month under the Act.
These people are not exceptions. There are dozens in the village who claim that they are not receiving foodgrain under the PDS. Others who do receive foodgrain don’t have a ration card; they have a ration card number scribbled on a piece of paper. It is on the basis of this that they get their foodgrain.
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