Non-linking of aadhaar with ration card is denying people their right to food
During the Bengal famine of 1943-44, over 2 million people died due to starvation, diseases and malnutrition, among other things. According to scholars, the apathy of the British government was largely responsible for such a massive tragedy.
Despite the enacting of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in 2013, the situation of the downtrodden and the poor has not changed much in the country as compared to pre-Independence time. On 28 September, 2017 an 11-year old child named Santoshi died due to starvation in Karimati village of Simdega's Jaldega block (Jharkhand).
The Jharkhand government officials have said that Santoshi died due to malaria. However, as per media reports, it has been alleged by the girl's family that they were being denied foodgrains for months and their ration cards got cancelled because it had not been linked to the aadhaar unique ID numbers.
Since the aadhaar numbers of the family members were not linked to the ration cards, the local ration shop dealer stopped granting the family their due share of ration. According to a press release (dated 27 March, 2017), which was issued from the Information and Public Relations Department of the Jharkhand government, Chief Secretary Mrs. Raj Bala Verma on reviewing the PDS Department, had said that all the ration cards, which were not linked with aadhaar number would become null and void on 5th April, 2017. Only aadhaar-based ration card would be considered for distribution of foodgrains by the PDS outlets. According to that press release, nearly 3 lakh ration cards were declared invalid till March, 2017. Kerosene would be distributed through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) from 7th March onwards, said the Chief Secretary. Please click here to access the press release.
Shri Saryu Rai, who is serving as a Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Food and Supply Department in the BJP led state government of Jharkhand, has recently said that no one should be deprived of food rations due to failed or faulty seeding of ration card with aadhaar. But development economist Jean Drèze has opined that aadhaar-based biometric authentication (ABBA) is now compulsory in about 80 percent of ration shops in the state of Jharkhand, and ABBA is impossible without aadhaar seeding.
According to Drèze, ABBA is an inappropriate technology for rural Jharkhand since it has led to the exclusion of millions of people from the Public Distribution System (PDS). Although civil rights activists raised the issue of exclusion caused by the non-linking of aadhaar number with ration card, the Jharkhand state government has paid no attention to it.
There is another side of the story. A fact finding report, which has been prepared by a team from Video Volunteers (https://www.videovolunteers.org/), provides the following facts related to the recent starvation death in Jharkhand’s Simdega district:
• Santoshi died on 27 September, 2017 and not 28 September, 2017 as most media outlets have reported.
• Santoshi died due to malaria and not starvation, according to the local practitioner Narayan Singh.
• At the grave of Santoshi, medicines were found by the team from Video Volunteers, among other things.
• Santoshi's uncle told the Video Volunteers team that most of the medicines that Santoshi was taking were inside the grave.
• Santoshi's mother Koyli informed the Video Volunteers team that before dying her child was hungry and wanted to eat something. Koyli said that Santoshi was not ill, and no doctor had visited her.
In order to access the full report prepared by the Video Volunteers fact finding team, please click here.
The fourth round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) provides the following facts pertaining to the nutritional status of children in various states, including Jharkhand:
• During 2015-16, the prevalence of stunting (i.e. too short for age) among children below 5 years has been the highest in Bihar (48.3 percent), followed by Uttar Pradesh (46.3 percent), Jharkhand (45.3 percent), Meghalaya (43.8 percent), and Madhya Pradesh (42.0 percent).
• During 2015-16, the prevalence of wasting (i.e. too thin for height) among children below 5 years has been the highest in Jharkhand (29.0 percent), followed by Gujarat (26.4 percent), Karnataka (26.1 percent), Madhya Pradesh (25.8 percent), and Maharashtra (25.6 percent).
• During 2015-16, the proportion of underweight (i.e. too thin for age) children below 5 years has been the highest in Jharkhand (47.8 percent), followed by Bihar (43.9 percent), Madhya Pradesh (42.8 percent), Uttar Pradesh (39.5 percent), and Gujarat (39.3 percent).
Please click here in order to know more about the nutritional status of children across states.
According to the Right to Food Campaign (India), a large number of Supreme Court orders have been violated by the Jharkhand state government in Santoshi’s hunger related death, which is as follows (please check the image below):
Source: Tweet by Right to Food Campaign (India), @rozi_roti
No Aadhaar, no food rations: 11 stories that show the Jharkhand child death was no aberration -Stuti Pachisia, Scroll.in, 20 October, 2017, please click here to access
UIDAI: No one can be denied rations for lack of Aadhaar, The Times of India, 19 October, 2017, please click here to access
Jharkhand girl 'starvation' death: Family stopped getting ration 8 months ago -Prashant Pandey, The Indian Express, 19 October, 2017, please click here to access
Hungry India: Are we angry enough? -Patralekha Chatterjee, The Asian Age, 19 October, 2017, please click here to access
Jharkhand Girl Dies After Family’s Ration Denied for No Aadhaar Link, BJP Blames Malaria, TheWire.in, 17 October, 2017, please click here to access
No Aadhaar, No Food? Girl, 11, Died 'Begging For Rice', Says Jharkhand Family -Manish Kumar, NDTV.com, 17 October, 2017, please click here to access
Denied food because she did not have Aadhaar-linked ration card, Jharkhand girl dies of starvation -Aarefa Johari, Scroll.in, 16 October, 2017, please click here to access
In its current form, Aadhaar is very coercive and invasive: Jean Dreze -Sadiq Naqvi, CatchNews.com, 5 August, 2017, please click here to access
Ground reality: How Jharkhand's poorest are being kicked out of PDS due to Aadhaar -Sadiq Naqvi, CatchNews.com, 12 July, 2017, please click here to access
In Jharkhand, compulsory biometric authentication for rations sends many away empty-handed -Jean Drèze, Scroll.in, 14 February, 2017, please click here to access
Dark clouds over the PDS -Jean Drèze, The Hindu, 10 September, 2016, please click here to access
Image Courtesy: Video Volunteers