Starvation Death in Jharia

A CPI (ML) team from Ranchi visited Bhalgora in Jharia (Dhanbad, Jharkhand) to enquire into the starvation death which took place here. The team comprised of Supreme Court Commission advisor Shri Balram, senior journalist Dr Vishnu Rajgarhiya, Right to Food campaigners Asharfi Nand Prasad, Dhiraj Kumar, Taramani, Akash Ranjan, Kashinath Chatterjee, and Afzal Anees.
The team met the family members of victim Baijnath Ravidas and local residents and enquired into the facts of the situation. The local people told them that about 40% families in the basti have not yet got ration cards. Therefore, these families do not get rations. Several families had applied one year ago, despite which they have not yet got ration cards. In the case of one woman’s family with 6 members, only 4 members’ names have been included in the ration card; the other two have been left out because they do not have Adhaar cards. The team found that the majority of families in the basti are dalit and very poor. Rations through the Public Distribution System are their lifeline. Many of the families have been excluded from the social-caste economic survey list whereas they should have certainly automatically been included in it. These families, in spite of repeated applications, have not yet been given ration cards. The family of victim Baijnath Ravidas is one such who are deprived of the Right to Food because they do not have a ration card.
The team found that many people in the basti are deprived of the Right to Food in the name of lack of Adhaar card and ration card. The team visited the Rajbadi Primary Health Centre and met Parvati Devi, the wife of the victim Baijnath Ravidas.
The team has demanded that a system should be put in place which guarantees ration card and rations to all the families in the basti. They have also demanded that the government should bring out a white paper on this issue and specify how many people have been deprived of ration card and ration in the name of Adhaar card; the white paper should also give specific information on the constitutionality and process of such an order. If any unconstitutional order has been issued in this process and the Food Security Act 2013 flouted, accountability should be fixed and action taken against the responsible officials.
The team expressed hope that, in the light of the reports of starvation deaths coming in from various districts in the State, the government would take concrete steps in the direction of complying with all the Supreme Court directives related to the Right to Food.