Jharkhand: Committee on hunger death misses second deadline

At least four alleged starvation deaths, in Giridih, Chatra and Ramgarh, have taken place since the committee was formed.
Image for representational purpose only.
Image for representational purpose only.

RANCHI: The nine-member committee formed by the state government to define parameters by which starvation deaths can be established officially has once again failed to submit its report even a month after the second deadline fixed by it. The committee, headed by Food Director Sunil Kumar Sinha, was formed on March 5 this year to submit a report by April 30 after looking into the socio-economic aspect of alleged starvation deaths by checking the nutrition level of the family and the individuals.

Sinha said that April 30 was earlier fixed as the deadline for submission of the report, but since they were engaged in local body elections, it was extended to June 30. He, however, gave an assurance that the report would be submitted within a week as it was in its final stage.

"The draft has been completed and a copy has been provided to each of the committee members, seeking their comments on it. We will submit the report after finalizing it as soon as it is returned by them," said Sinha. It would take another week to submit it to the minister, he added.

Food and Civil Supply Minister Saryu Roy said that the report was yet to be submitted to him as the committee was still to reach a consensus on some of the issues.

"It is being delayed as the members had differences over some of the technical issues, including fatal period and minimum nutrition required by a person to live a healthy life," said Rai. He was told that they were sorting it out by referring to some standardized books available in the market, he added.

"I have asked them to expedite the process and submit the report as soon as possible," the minister said.

Meanwhile, at least four alleged starvation deaths, in Giridih, Chatra and Ramgarh, have taken place since the committee was formed. Savitri Devi (58) of Giridih's Dumri block had no ration card and had reportedly not eaten for 72 hours before she died, while ragpicker Meena Mushar (45) of Chatra had no money to buy food for four days.

Similarly, 39-year-old Rajendra Birhor succumbed to poor nutrition and illness on June 14, 2018, while Chintaman Malhar died of hunger on June 24 in Mandu Block of Ramgarh.

Right to Food Activist Siraj Dutta believes that the state government should focus more on taking measures to check such deaths rather than defining the protocol for hunger deaths to remove confusion over them.

"Even though both, the problem and the solution, are clear, the state government has taken no note of the demand for a universal public distribution system with inclusion of nutritious items such as pulses and edible oil, and the delinking of welfare programmes from Aadhaar," said Dutta. Defining hunger deaths could help officials understand hunger at large but it will not have any impact on finding a solution to the problem, he added.

As per records provided by the Right to Food Campaign in Jharkhand, more than a dozen alleged starvation deaths have taken place in the state in nine months since September 2017. Interestingly, seven of those deaths were due to Aadhaar-related failures which contributed to the starvation of the victims.

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The New Indian Express