Another family in Jharkhand alleges man died of hunger, blames Aadhaar
Rooplal Marandi died in Jharkhand’s Deoghar district after he was allegedly refused subsidised supplies, but officials said he was suffering from old-age ailments and died a natural death.Updated: Oct 24, 2017, 19:08 IST
A 75-year-old man died of hunger on Monday in Jharkhand’s Deoghar district after the biometric reader at the PDS shop couldn’t read his daughter’s thumb impression and he was refused ration, his family alleged, a charge denied by the government.
This is the third time in a month that a family in the tribal state has claimed to have lost a member after being refused subsidised supplies they are entitled to under a nation-wide food programme for the poor.
The government said Rooplal Marandi died of natural causes.
“Marandi was suffering from old-age ailments and he had fractured his leg a few months back. I visited his house with a doctor on Monday evening. The doctor also confirmed it to be natural death,” Mohanpur block development officer Ashok Kumar said.
Marandi lived with his daughter and her family in Bhagwanpur village which is part of the Mohanpur block in Deoghar district. The family said their only earning member, Marandi’s grandson, died three months ago, leaving them dependent on government ration.
“But, we did not get ration for last two months as the Aadhaar-linked biometric system didn’t recognise my thumb impression,” Marandi’s daughter Manodi said.
Manodi and her daughter-in-law worked as farmhands but because of heavy rain last week they couldn’t get work.
Marandi and the two other elders were surviving on murhi, or puffed rice, while they borrowed food for the children from the neighbours, she said.
BDO Kumar denied the family was refused ration for two months. “The family withdrew 15 kg of ration till September but it could not be updated on his ration card. The October ration was pending as family did not come to PDS store,” he said.
The BDO gave the family a sack of 50-kg rice and Rs 10,000.
To check pilferage and weed out ghost beneficiaries, the government has linked Aadhaar, the 12-digit biometric identity number, to the public distribution system (PDS).
But the move has triggered a debate, with right activists claiming that the poor were being denied benefits. Several petitions are pending in the Supreme Court against linking Aadhaar to welfare schemes.
PDS dealers in Jharkhand were not allowed to give supplies till a ration card was linked to Aadhaar and the biometric machine accepted the thumb impression, said Sanjay Kundu, the state general secretary of the Fair Price Dealers Association.
Following a directive from the chief secretary, PDS shops had since April stopped giving foodgrains to those whose ration cards were not linked to Aadhaar, Kundu said.
The order was annulled and dealers told to maintain an exception register to provide grains to the beneficiaries whose thumb impressions were not read by biometric machines or ration cards were not linked to Aadhaar, food and public distribution minister Saryu Rai said.
An 11-year-old girl died on September 28 in Jharkhand’s Simdega district after allegedly going without food for four days. The family alleged their ration card was cancelled as it could not be linked to Aadhaar.
On October 21, 43-year-old Dhanbad rickshaw puller Baidyanath Ravidas died as he didn’t have a ration card.
Jharkhand rolled out the National Food Security Act (NFSA) from October 1, 2015 under which around 5.8 million households receive rice and wheat at Re 1 per kg. More than 460,000 white ration cards have been distributed among families not covered under NFSA.
More than one million fake ration cards were scraped and 931,000 new cards issued under NFSA so far, food and public distribution officials said. Aadhaar linkage of the system helped the state government save Rs 350 crore.