The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear in the next two weeks a petition highlighting starvation deaths in Jharkhand. These deaths allegedly occurred after ration cards were reportedly cancelled because they were not linked to Aadhaar numbers, leaving poor families without any food.
A bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra did not issue a notice to the Centre but asked the petitioner’s counsel, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, to provide a copy of the petition to the government’s advocate, the Hindustan Times reported.
Gonsalves is representing the mother and sister of 11-year-old starvation victim Santoshi Kumari. They have moved the top court with the help of a social activist in the hope of drawing attention to the plight of “poor Dalit families” in Jharkhand who have reportedly been denied food grains under the public distribution scheme as their ration cards are not linked to Aadhaar.
The petitioners claimed they had both a ration card and Aadhaar, but officials had not linked the two. The family stopped getting rations from March 2017 and Santoshi Kumari died in September, having gone without food for eight days. She also did not have access to mid-day meals as the school she went to was closed because of Durga Puja holidays.
Gonsalves demanded that families like that of Santoshi Kumari should be compensated as denial of food grains under the public distribution system is a violation of a Supreme Court judgment, The Tribune reported. He, however, clarified that his clients were not challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar project, which is already being heard by a five-judge Constitution bench.
Right to Food activists in Jharkhand have alleged that glitches in the Aadhaar-based Public Distribution System led to at least seven starvation deaths in the state since Santoshi Kumari’s death. The Jharkhand government announced in February that it was setting up a panel to define “hunger deaths”.