The death of a 11-year-old girl Santoshi from starvation in Simdega in Jharkhand after her family was denied rations because their card was not linked to Aadhaar was not an isolated instance or an aberration. Hunger deaths have been systemic all over Jharkhand. In Jharia, a rickshaw puller Baidyanath Ravidas died of hunger – his family’s ration card, issued in his brother’s name, was cancelled four years ago after the brother died. Similar deaths have happened in Deoghar and Kataras. The Government’s response is to blame the deaths on disease and deny hunger deaths, and even to unleash intimidation against those family members and health workers who are making facts public.
A team of CPI(ML) leaders of Dhanbad district visited Baidyanath Ravidas’ home in Bhalgada Tara Maidan in Jharia and found that the government is pressurising his family members and trying to suppress the real cause of the death. A CPI(ML) team led by former MLA Vinod Singh, sitting MLA Rajkumar Yadav, Sitaram Singh, Geeta Mandal of AIPWA, Politburo member Manoj Bhakt and others visited Bhagwanpur village in Deoghar where Rooplal Marandi died of hunger. Rooplal Marandi’s daughter Manoti said that the family had not got rations for two months because the machine at the dealer’s shop could not read Marandi’s fingerprint. As a result, she said, there was no food in the house for the past 4 days.
CPI(ML) held protests all over the state against the hunger deaths. In Bagodar, the party lit candles on the occasion of Diwali in memory of Santoshi and demanded the arrest of the Deputy Commissioner and the Food Supply Officer of Simdega. A torchlight procession was held on 21 October and a block-level march on 22 October. A protest march was held in Ranchi on 24 October against the spate of hunger deaths.
Slogans raised in these protest marches included – ‘Unite – For dawn against the dark; for food against hunger’; ‘Trademark of Modi-Raghubar rule – workers and peasants dying of hunger’; and ‘Modi-Raghubar – Your ‘development’ is devastation for the people’.