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Activists demand legal action against Jharkhand chief secretary after Dalit girl’s starvation death

After the chief secretary’s orders in March, several ration cards have been cancelled in the state for not being linked to Aadhaar.

Activists from the non-profit Right to Food Campaign petitioned the Unique Identification Authority of India on Monday morning, demanding legal action against the chief secretary of Jharkhand under the Aadhaar Act for issuing orders to cancel all ration cards not linked to Aadhaar.

This demand has come five weeks after 11-year-old Santoshi Kumari, a Dalit girl from Jharkhand’s Simdega district, died asking for rice after her family had been denied food rations for six months because their ration card was not linked to their Aadhaar number.

In their letter to the UIDAI chief, the 16 Right to Food activists state: “You have repeatedly said and written that if anyone is deprived of food rations for lack of Aaadhaar, that would be a violation of Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act and responsible officers should be punished.” Since the Aadhaar Act allows only the UIDAI to initiate legal action against those who violate Section 7, the activists have appealed to Pandey to take legal action against Jharkhand chief secretary Raj Bala Verma.

On March 27, Verma had issued an order stating that all ration cards not linked to Aadhaar would become “null and void” after April 5, and only Aadhaar-based ration cards would be considered for food grains at fair price ration shops in the state. Following this order, activists claim that the Jharkhand government cancelled a large number of ration cards citing the lack of Aadhaar linkage.

However, in their November 6 petition to UIDAI chief executive officer Ajay Bhushan Pandey, 16 activists from Jharkhand pointed out that several of these cancelled ration cards belonged to people who are entitled to food rations under the National Food Security Act, but who were unable to secure an Aadhaar-ration card linkage for no fault of their own.

In addition to this, several Supreme Court orders since 2013 have clearly stated that possession of an Aadhaar number cannot be made compulsory to avail of benefits under any government welfare schemes, particularly to buy subsidised food grains.

The chief secretary’s office did not respond to questions emailed by

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German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.