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Jharkhand shocker: 58-year-old woman starves to death in Dumri after family failed to obtain ration card

A woman allegedly starved to death in Jharkhand's Mangargaddi village in Dumri because her family could not obtain a ration card that assures access to the subsidised ration through government's Public Distribution System (PDS), according to several media reports.

 Jharkhand shocker: 58-year-old woman starves to death in Dumri after family failed to obtain ration card

Representational image. Reuters

According to a report in The New Indian Express, 58-year-old Savitri Devi was denied foodgrains at the PDS shops after her ration card was cancelled in 2012.

Savitri was reportedly going without food for three days before she died of starvation on Saturday. The villagers found out about her death only on Sunday. Savitri’s husband had passed away 10 years ago and her two sons have migrated to Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra to earn a living, according to the report.

Speaking to The Indian ExpressHulas Mahato, Savitri's younger son said that his mother did not receive the pension for BPL widows in the last three years. He said that after his father's death in 2010, the family's income had declined and the meagre produce from their farm and the partly stipend he was earning through an apprenticeship programme in Uttar Pradesh was not sufficient to feed the family, he added. Mahato said his elder brother’s wife, her three children, his wife and their daughter lived with his mother.

According to a report in the Hindustan Times, the earthen stove in the house has not been used since since 30 May and the family of seven, including the four children, have been going without food.

Meanwhile, the authorities confirmed Savitri's death but a probe has been ordered into the causes of her death and whether or not an application was filed at the block office to avail a ration card. The Indian Express report said that the Food and Supplies Minister Saryu Roy has directed the deputy commissioner to file a detailed report by a senior official. The district officers have, however, prima facie, ruled out the starvation theory.

"Initial findings say the woman was suffering from paralysis and she could have succumbed due to it. A team of senior officers has been sent to the village to conduct a detailed inquiry," Deputy Development Commissioner (DDC) who is officiating as Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Giridih, Mukund Das told Hindustan Times.

However, NDTV quoted news agency ANI as reporting that another official (who was not named in the report) blamed the negligence on part of the authorities as the reason why the family could not get a ration card. "Due to the negligence of authorities, her ration card could not be made, which is why she was unable to get food," he said.

The report further said that Dumri MLA Jagarnath Mahto termed the incident a "matter of grave concern" and blamed the negligence of officers for the family's failure to avail the card. The JMM legislator blamed the state government and claimed that Savitri died because she was not getting any facility under government schemes.

Meanwhile, Ram Prasad Mahto, the mukhiya of Chainpur Panchayat, under which Magangaddi village falls, confirmed that the family of the deceased neither had a ration card nor an old age pension facility. "Though she had applied a few years ago officials rejected her case that without any reason," Hindustan Times quoted him as saying.

This was reportedly the fifth such incident of starvation since September 2017.

In January, Budhni Soren died of hunger in Giridh. "There have been seven deaths from starvation in our area. There was no food for days on end in the homes of these poor tribals. I myself was witness to how there was no food in Budhni’s house for fifteen days at a stretch. She lived in a phus ka ghar (straw hut) and would go into the forests to pluck the leaves of the mahua tree to make pattals from them. The district administration has tried to pass off their deaths as being the result of an illness, but all of us who were her neighbours know the reality," said Vishwanath from Girdih in Jharkhand told Firstpost.

In December, 67-year-old Etwariya Devi from Sonpurwa village of Garhwa district died of hunger after her family was unable to procure food after the Aadhaar-enabled point of sales (PoS) machine couldn’t authenticate the biometrics of her daughter-in-law, The Wire reported.

Another such incident came to light in October when an 11-year-old died of starvation in Jharkhand’s Simdega district after her family’s ration card was cancelled because it was not linked to their Aadhaar number. Santoshi, who had depended on her school's mid-day meals had barely any food for nearly eight days because of Durga Puja holidays before she died, the report quoted activists as saying.

However, the government had contended that Santoshi had died of malaria, not starvation, even as it acknowledged 'teething troubles' in linking the controversial Aadhaar scheme to crucial welfare schemes such as the PDS system.

These accounts highlight the government's apparent apathy and the system's failure to control deaths due to starvation, as Global Hunger Index of 2017 revealed poor rankings for India, which ranked 100 out of 119 countries on the global hunger index: Behind North Korea, Bangladesh and Iraq but ahead of Pakistan, according to a report in The Hindu.

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Updated Date: Jun 05, 2018 08:16:18 IST