A day after the Jharkhand government ordered a probe into alleged starvation deaths due to denial of ration, the Centre has also asked its officials to inquire into the allegation.
Taking strong exception to the incident, food minister Ramvilas Paswan has asked the Union food secretary to probe into the alleged starvation death in Simdega district of Jharkhand.
He also asked the secretary to send a team of officials to the state immediately. Sources said the food ministry would constitute a committee, which may travel to the state after Diwali and submit a report in about a week.
Paswan has also sought a report from the state government. Santoshi Kumari, an 11-year-old girl of Simdega’s Karimati village, died of starvation on September 28, after her family’s ration card was cancelled because it was not linked to Aadhaar, say Right to Food Campaign activists.
As there was no mid-day meal available in school, which was closed on Durga Puja holidays, Santoshi had gone without food for nearly eight days before she died, they alleged.
Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das on October 17 ordered a probe into the alleged starvation death.
Paswan also said people in Jharkhand are getting ration even without an Aadhar card. “We want the Aadhar to be mandatory as it will reduce cases of fraud. However, it is still not compulsory. People with ration cards are still getting ration,” he said.
The minister, however, said it is a matter of concern if some one is not getting ration for three months even after the implementation of the National Food Security Act. He demanded a probe into the allegation of refusal of ration to the girl’s family and action against officials found guilty.
Paswan also said the state government should have given food security allowance to the family if it was not providing grains. He wondered how it could happen when the state has been lifting the allocation made from time to time.
Jharkhand’s food and supply minister Saryu Rai had said, “I have clearly instructed, along with the copy of Supreme Court's order, that those who do not have the Aadhaar card, they will also get rations. Those who do not have the Aadhaar card, they will be given food supplies after identification.”
Right to food activists alleged that Santoshi’s mother Koyli Devi was told she would not get rice from the ration shop since Aadhaar was not linked with the PDS card. “My daughter died saying bhat, bhat (rice),” Koyli was quoted saying in a video released to media.
The chief minister visited Simdega district on October 17 and announced Rs 50,000 to the family of the girl as relief. However, the deputy commissioner of the district informed him that the girl died due to malaria and not starvation.
According to the fact-finding team of the ‘right to food’ campaign, the ration shop dealer, which denied the foodgrain to Santoshi’s family, dealt with at least 700 households in and around Karimati village. Of them 10 families had been deleted from the public distribution system list because they were not linked with Aadhaar, it was found.