The Centre has instructed states to not deny benefits of the Public Distribution System to people without an Aadhaar number or those who have not linked their ration card to it, PTI reported on Thursday. The government warned states of strict action if the directive was violated.

The notification was issued after an 11-year-old girl in Jharkhand’s Simdega district died of starvation, months after her family’s ration card was cancelled because it was not linked to their Aadhaar number.

The Food Ministry has asked state governments to not delete eligible households from the list of beneficiaries for not possessing an Aadhaar card.

“The intention is to ensure that no one is denied any food benefits for lack of Aadhaar, lack of linking, or technical difficulty in biometric authentication,” Ajay Bhushan Pandey, the chief executive officer of the Unique Identification Authority of India, told PTI. “As long as a person is genuine, he has to be given the benefit, in this case, ration.”

The Centre explained that names could be deleted from the ration card database only if a verification establishes the cardholder’s entry as fake. The directive also asks states to provide Aadhaar enrolment facilities to those without the unique number and link ration cards to Aadhaar numbers.

People have till December 31 to link their ration cards with their Aadhaar number.