Union Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Wednesday asked Food and Public Distribution Secretary Ravikant to investigate the death of an 11-year-old girl in Jharkhand’s Simdega district, ANI reported. The Central government has decided to send a team to Jharkhand to conduct the inquiry, and also asked the state government to submit a report.
The girl had on September 28 after being denied food because she did not have an Aadhaar-linked ration card. Chief Minister Raghubar Das on Tuesday sought a report on the matter, 20 days after her death.
On Tuesday, Jharkhand Minister of Food and Public Distribution Saryu Rai had questioned his government’s order to cancel ration cards that have not been linked to Aadhaar, The Indian Express reported.
Rai said that even though there may be doubts about the cause of death in this case, the government must ensure that no ration card is deleted because of non-availability of Aadhaar. “I have asked officials to check how many cards got cancelled due to non-linking of Aadhaar,” he said, adding that some names may have been deleted because of confusion.
Authorities in Jharkhand have claimed that the girl died because of malaria and not starvation. Santoshi Kumari, who came from an impoverished family in Simdega’s Karimati village, died on September 28. With no school midday meals available during her Durga Puja holidays, the 11-year-old had gone with barely any food for nearly eight days before she died, they said.
With no land, jobs or steady income, the family is eligible for subsidised rations under the National Food Security Act. However, according to local reports, the local ration dealer had refused to give Santoshi’s family their rations for the past six months on the grounds that their ration card had not been linked – or “seeded”, as it is known in official language – to their Aadhaar number.
In February, the central government had made Aadhaar compulsory for access to subsidised food grain through the Public Distribution System.
Rai said the directive issued by Jharkhand Chief Secretary Rajbala Verma may have “created confusion” and led to some cards being cancelled. “When this came to light [in March], I asked my officials in a written order on April 5 to ensure that no ration card gets deleted due to non-linking with Aadhaar,” he said.