PATNA: Even as the Jharkhand government struggles to put the public distribution system (PDS) in the state in order, the death of yet another person allegedly due to starvation has brought the focus back on the problems crippling the biometric authentication of Aadhaar.
Lukhi Murmu, a 32-year-old tribal woman in the eastern Pakur district, died from starvation because she did not have enough food in her house for about a week, said her neighbours and activists. Her family had been denied food grains under PDS for the past four months because her sister’s fingerprint did not match on the e-pos (electronic point of sale) device used by the local PDS dealer.
Lukhi, who was the only earning member in the family of three women, died in her house at Dhowadangal village in Ghagharjani panchayat on Tuesday night. She was the only working member of the family, which has no male members. Her death takes the number of people who died due to alleged starvation in Jharkhand in the past four months to six.
“Didi became weaker for want of food and died. She had stopped working after falling sick about a month ago. We had no money to buy food items. The dealer did not give me ration as my fingerprint did not match,” said Lukhi’s younger sister Phoolin Murmu, 13. Lukhi and Phoolan lived with their old grandmother since their parents’ death several years ago.
Louisa Hembrum, the village mukhia (elected head), said Lukhi would not have died if there were food grains in her house. “Her family simply had no food for over a week. She was sick, but she died because of starvation,” she said.
“Her (Lukhi’s) sister had come to buy food grains twice, but I could not give her the ration as her fingerprints did not match on the e-pos machine despite several efforts,” said Chaitan Marandi, the PDS dealer.
Local administration officials visited Lukhi’s house on Wednesday after learning of her death and gave Phoolan 60 kg rice. Pakur deputy commissioner has ordered a probe into the causes of the death.
“The woman’s death did not occur due to starvation. We found that her family had some rice in the house and also a cow. The family also owns three acres of land. Allegations of PDS ration being denied to her by the dealer are being probed,” said district supply officer (DSO) Dilip Kumar Tiwary.
The Opposition JMM, Congress, JVM and CPI(ML) attacked the state’s Raghubar Das-led BJP government of adopting a “very indifferent attitude” towards the poor tribals. “This death has proved beyond doubt that the state government has lost all sensitivity towards the poor who are struggling for food,” said Vijay Hansda, the JMM MP from Rajmahal constituency who visited Lukhi’s house.