26 killed, either of starvation or being lynched, but Jharkhand’s government did little to protect Right to Life

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Ranchi/Delhi:  In last two years at least 26 people have died in Jharkhand, 13 because of starvation and 13 by getting lynched. But Raghubar Das’s government had done little to protect the Right to Life of its citizen, alleged the members of Right to Food’s Jharkhand chapter, as they protested before Jharkhand Bhavan in New Delhi, regarding the same.

The protestors submitted a memorandum to Resident Commissioner, D K Tiwari and expressed deep concern over what is happening in Jharkhand and the government’s inaction regarding the same.

The memorandum stated that the constant denial of social and economic entitlements has worsened the destitution of the families whose members have died of starvation. And also highlighted how the failure of linking of Aadhaar with PDS schemes, the continuation of the ill-conceived DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) scheme had caused deaths due to starvation in the state.

It also mentioned about lyched to death cases in Jharkhand, which shocked entire nation.

Also that, there were about 52 concerned citizen condemning the attacks on Right to Life in Jharkhand.

Read the full letter addressed to the Resident Commissioner at the Jharkhand Bhavan:

We write to you to express our deep concern over the growing attacks on right to life in Jharkhand. Over the past two years, at least 13 persons have succumbed to hunger and 13 have been lynched to death. The state government has done little to take action against those responsible for these deaths or ensure that such incidences do not occur in future.

Denial of social and economic entitlements worsened the destitution of the starvation victims’ families. In at least seven cases, Aadhaar-related failures were directly responsible for the denial of these entitlements.

Four of the victims’ families did not have a ration card. Eleven-year old Santoshi Kumari’s family was denied its Public Distribution System rice as its ration card was cancelled for not being linked with Aadhaar. You will be aware that following the March 2017 order of Jharkhand’s Chief Secretary, about 11 lakh such ration cards were cancelled in the state. Three persons starved to death due to the Aadhaar-based biometric authentication (ABBA) failure for their household members who could go to the ration shop.

Premani’s Kunwar’s pension was redirected to someone else’s bank account linked with her Aadhaar. In the month of Etwariya Devi’s death, the Common Service Point operator did not give her the pension as the internet connection was allegedly disrupted just after she authenticated through ABBA.

Right-to-life-right to food starvation lynching jharkhand
A women carrying a placard of Savitri Devi, who died from hunger in Giridih, Jharkhand

Savitri Devi’s pension was sanctioned in 2014, but she received its first instalment only in April 2018 as her bank account was not linked with Aadhaar. Absence of work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act also exacerbated the poverty of the starvation victims’ families (see the attached table for more details).

Instead of taking action against functionaries whose lapses have led to these deaths and measures to improve food security in the state, Jharkhand government has denied hunger as the cause of these deaths and has absolved itself of any blame. Further, the State Food Minister has made a series of fallacious claims and accusations against activists who are highlighting the gross violations of right to food in Jharkhand. The proposal of establishing grain banks will fail to ensure food security as a matter of right.

The continuation of the ill-conceived “Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) for food security” pilot in Nagri block of Ranchi is also highly condemnable. Despite people’s overwhelming preference for the earlier system of purchasing rice at the rate of Re 1 from the ration shop, this pilot is yet to be stopped.

Amongst the 13 persons lynched in Jharkhand since March 2016, ten were Muslim, two Hindu and one Adivasi. Apart from these deaths, there have been various other incidences of communal violence. Also, countless number of people are raped in the state. Most of the perpetrators of these acts of violence roam free.

Recently, a group of 52 persons also condemned the growing attacks on right to life in Jharkhand in this statement.

The Right to Food Campaign demands:

  • Criminal proceedings against all persons responsible for starvation deaths, lynchings and other incidences of violence.
  • Strict implementation of all social and economic legislations and Supreme Court orders.
  • Activating the grievance redress system provisions of the National Food Security Act.
  • Universalization of the Public Distribution System and social security pensions.
  • Antyodaya ration card for all single women and Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.
  • Inclusion of subsidised pulses and edible oil in the Public Distribution System.
  • Delinking of Aadhaar from all public services.
  • Immediate withdrawal of the “DBT for food security” pilot in Nagri in favour of the earlier system of rice distribution.

We hope you will act upon these demands.

 

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