Mumbai: There have been 52 recorded deaths due to starvation across the country in the past four years, according to a report compiled by development economists and a fact-finding committee of a non-governmental organisation — the Right To Food Campaign. Jharkhand recorded the highest number of such deaths at 15, Odisha 10 and Maharashtra 2. Most of the people who died of hunger were from the Dalit community.
A report has been prepared by development economist Reetika Khera and Siraj Dutta, with contributions from social activist Swati Narayan and the NGO working in Odisha, Jharkhand and Delhi. The report is based on a study of hunger deaths recorded from 2015 to 2018, after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the Centre, as well as in various states. The common reason for the deaths was non-linking of ration cards to Aadhaar cards, as a result of which families were denied foodgrains by ration shops, causing death by starvation.
An upper-caste widow in West Bengal, who survived by begging, found herself unable to go out and beg for food due to incessant rain and died on August 9 this year. Of the remaining deaths, 12 occurred in Uttar Pradesh, three each in Chhattisgarh and Bihar, two each in Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal and one each in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Ulka Mahajan, a social activist from Mumbai, said, “The mandate to have Aadhaar number was a big conspiracy. It was an open secret that as landless farm workers or labourers do not have proof of residence, they will obviously be denied an Aadhaar card and hence will be excluded from the benefits of social schemes.”
“The claim that Aadhaar was brought to enable depressed sections of society to avail of benefits, has been falsified, as people are dying of hunger. It has also proved the failure of transparent governance and henceforth, government must take care that no one is denied rations, even if they do not have ration cards linked to their Aadhaar,” said Mahajan.