64 year-old Premani Kunwar, a widow, died of hunger in Danda block, Garhwa district, Jharkhand, after she was denied food rations because of alleged Aadhaar irregularities. The SBI had diverted Premani Kumar’s pension to another account in the name of her late husband’s first wife Shanti Devi, also deceased long ago. The Right To Food Campaign said that as per the UIDAI report, the name in Premani Kunwar’s Aadhaar (UID no XXXXXXXX7606) was changed to ‘Shanti Devi’ on 23 September 2015. The UIDAI report “fails to explain how, despite this change, Premani Kunwar continued to receive her pension in her Aadhaar linked bank account till September 2017. There is also no explanation of how a bank account could be opened in the name of Shanti Devi in 2007, given that she died over two decades ago.” In spite of the ration dealer having authenticated Premani Kunwar’s biometric details, she was not given rations, and had to beg and borrow grain from her neighbours. Her teenage son has testified that his mother died of starvation. Now, the Jharkhand Government, in order to cover up the Aadhaar-linked starvation death, is blaming Premani Kunwar and her surviving family members of fraud, and it has also booked an FIR against those CPI(ML) activists who blew the whistle on the starvation death! An FIR accuses CPI(ML) activists Birendra Chowdhary, Pramukh, Kalicharan Mahto and Sushma Mahto of “causing disruption of government inquiry and for instilling fear in the government inquiry team.”

Recall how the Jharkhand CM Raghubar Das accused the Dalit mother Koili Devi of bringing a “bad name” to her village by alleging that her daughter Santoshi Devi died starving and crying for “rice, rice”, after  her ration card was cancelled due to failure to link it to Aadhaar. Later, the Jharkhand food and civil supplies minister admitted that Santoshi’s ration card was wrongly cancelled.

Since Premani Kunwar’s death, another widow, 67 year-old Etvariya Devi, died of starvation and exhuastion in Majhianv block, Sonpurva village after she and her family was deprived of ration and pension due to failure of Aadhaar biometric authentication.