Hunger deaths have skyrocketed after aadhaar-based authentication came into force, allege Right to Food activists
There is a list available with the Right to Food Campaign (http://www.righttofoodcampaign.in) – a decentralised network of civil society activists and experts who are working together voluntarily for ensuring food and nutrition security – which shows that 56 persons died between May, 2015 and March, 2018 on account of hunger and starvation despite India having passed the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in 2013. The RTF campaign has compiled the list of hunger deaths on the basis of various media reports.
Please click here to access the list of starvation deaths as reported in newspapers and/or verified through independent fact-finding teams during 2015-2018.
From the list, which is received from RTF Campaign, it could be inferred that 25 females and 30 males died due to starvation during the period from May, 2015 to March, 2018. The gender background of one person, however, is unclear.
The special update by RTF Campaign indicates that out of the 42 hunger deaths in 2017 and 2018, a large majority (18) were directly related to aadhaar viz. when ration shops denied giving foodgrains to the needy (especially those belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes) due to lack of aadhaar number, technical glitches associated with aadhaar-based authentication or aadhaar number not being linked to ration card or pension. Please check table-1 for details.
According to the RTF Campaign, hunger death means that "the victim died after prolonged hunger because there was no food or money in the house, and that, quite likely, he or she would have survived otherwise". It also clarifies that the present list is partial and is based on Google searches in the English and Hindi media.
The available list shows that most hunger deaths were reported from Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh (16 cases each) during 2015-2018. According to the press note by RTF Campaign, aadhaar-based biometric authentication (ABBA) is compulsory in most ration shops of Jharkhand, whereas Uttar Pradesh has implemented the NFSA in a belated and haphazard manner.
On 28th September, 2018 the RTF Campaign released yet another list of starvation deaths in Jharkhand that were reported between December, 2016 and September, 2018.
In order to prevent further starvation deaths in Jharkhand, the RTF Campaign made the following demands:
* Aadhaar should not be mandatory for any welfare scheme and aadhaar-based biometric authentication should be discontinued.
* The list of families whose ration cards were cancelled and those whose names were struck of pension lists for not linking their aadhaar, should be made public immediately and also re-start their rations and pensions with immediate effect.
* The Public Distribution System (PDS) should be made universal in rural areas, and particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTG) families and single women should be given antyodaya cards.
* Private ration dealers should be removed immediately and replaced with Gram Panchayat/ women’s organizations.
* In order to improve the situation of nutrition in the state, pulses and edible oil should be made available at affordable rates in the PDS.
* The maternity benefit entitlement should be increased from Rs. 5,000/- (under the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana) to Rs. 6,000/- as mandated in the NFSA. It should also not be restricted only to the first child.
* All pregnant and lactating women should be given 5 eggs per week.
* All children should be given 5 eggs per week in anganwadis and mid-day meals.
* Anganwadi centres should be established in all hamlets of the state. Education system in anganwadis to be strengthened. And children to be served hot-cooked food instead of ready-to-eat food.
* All elderly, widow, and disabled persons in the state should be given social security pension of at least Rs. 2,000/- per month on time.
* Jharkhand's MGNREGA wage rate should be increased to at least the state's minimum wage.
* All households to be given right to 200 days of work per year in MGNREGA.
* All MGNREGA workers to be paid within 15 days under any circumstances.
Right to Food activists demand immediate action by the govt. to contain hunger deaths in Jharkhand, Press release by Right to Food Campaign dated 28th September, 2018, please click here to access
Of 42 'Hunger-Related' Deaths Since 2017, 25 'Linked to Aadhaar Issues', TheWire.in, 21 September, 2018, please click here to access
The poor are left to themselves -Reetika Khera, The Hindu, 29 September, 2018, please click here to access
Image Courtesy: Inclusive Media for Change/ Shambhu Ghatak