SIMDEGA (JHARKHAND): “My sister lost her life just because our ration card was not linked to Aadhaar. Several other families may have been unable to get the seeding done because of some reason. By making it mandatory, more poor people like us will die,” said Janki Devi of Karimati village, about 175 km from Ranchi.
The village hit national headlines last year after 11-year-old Santoshi Kumari, Janki’s sister, died for want of food after her family was denied ration because their Aadhaar and rations cards were not linked.
Though their cards are now linked, enabling them to get ration from a PDS shop located one km from home, her family had hoped the Supreme Court would strike down the law which makes Aadhaar necessary for the government’s welfare schemes.
Wednesday’s ruling deeply disappointed not only her family but even fellow villagers, most of whom live below the poverty line. “Ration must be made available to everyone, with or without Aadhaar,” said Janki.
Santoshi’s father Tatai Naik is mentally ill and cannot work, so her mother Koyli Devi and Janki do menial jobs to feed the family.
As their income is not regular, Santoshi had depended on the mid-day meal in school to satisfy her hunger. But when the school shut for Durga Puja last year, Santoshi was robbed of her only meal. Her family members said she went empty stomach for nearly eight days before she died on September 28.
“Now we get ration from the PDS shop regularly. The government had also promised a house under the Indira Awaas Yojana, but it has not been offered yet,” said Devki Devi, Santoshi’s grandmother.
Jai Singh Badaik, a neighbour who saw Santoshi dying before his eyes, said welfare schemes that largely benefit the poor must be made Aadhaar-free.
“Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act still remains in place, which specifies that Aadhaar is mandatory for welfare schemes. Though the judgment says that ‘Aadhaar’ is beneficial for poor for getting subsidies, it completely neglects the evidence on exclusion and extreme cases of starvation deaths,” said Siraj Dutta of Right to Food Campaign in Jharkhand.