RTE Forum Statement on the tragic death of a girl due to starvation in Jharkhand

Govt’s drive on making Aadhaar compulsory is excluding millions and killing many. Why is the Government silent?

 

RTE Forum highly condemns the tragic death of 11 year old girl in Jharkhand. She was denied of her right to food and eventually died of starvation because her family’s ration card was not seeded with Aadhaar number. The process got further delayed because it got caught in a tech glitch over Aadhaar. Serious questions are being raised on the government’s drive in making Aaadhar compulsory. Why is this unnecessary hurry which is excluding millions of poor and threatening life of many including women and children who are living on the margins? Several activists and researchers working in the field have warned the govt on several occasion and the govt have carelessly paid no heed and on the contrary acted against the Supreme Court guidelines. In its haste to enroll all citizens - of which children form a large untapped population - under Aadhar, the central government has issued notifications making Aadhar mandatory for most government schemes. This includes pensions, PDS, maternity benefits and more recently the midday meal scheme. This has led to death of many children due to starvation and hunger deaths across the country. India is one of the countries with the “lowest reduction in hunger” in the last nine years. The girl in case Santoshi Kumari, who lived with her parents at Karimati village of Jaldega block here in Simdega, complained of severe stomach ache and cramps and nobody cared to wait and listen to her. She died the very next day. She died of starvation or because of stark denial of her basic right to food and life.  

 Despite the Supreme Court Guidelines which have made it clear that beneficiaries cannot be denied access to welfare schemes, Jharkhand like many other states continues to impose Aadhaar on citizens even more stringently. There are severe threats of deleting names from the public distribution system (PDS) list if their ration cards are not linked with their Aadhaar number.  This is a grave concern as the drive making Aaadhaar compulsory is turning out to be extremely inhuman and also indicate serious lack of readiness for the same. Despite reporting of such incidents the government is completely apathetic to the entire situation. Several ration shops in Jharkhand, Rajasthan and other states have been denying rations to eligible citizens by insisting on biometric authentication linked to Aadhaar instead of accepting people’s ration cards. Such severe gaps couldn’t be allowed for implementing a scheme. It is a criminal act on part of the Government.

From various surveys carried out, it is abundantly clear that the Aadhaar system, with the technology as it stands now, has failed miserably and has resulted in the poor and marginalized people being deprived of their basic entitlements. There are far more effective means of tackling corruption, such as social audits, regular monitoring, a robust grievance redress mechanism, which the government has failed to implement despite being provided for in the various Acts. There is also growing consensus that using fingerprint data for biometric analysis is unreliable in the case of children. Why is this fact being ignored?

Severe discriminatory and inhuman actions like these go against the ethos of democracy where people’s rights are supreme than the policies and schemes. The larger question is who is being served by these policies. It is certainly not the people.

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