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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 Scroll.in.

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