Justice to a mother who lost her child to starvation as she lost her ration card
As promised by Article 47 of the Indian Constitution, the fight on whether or not the right to food is being barred by Aadhaar card linkages has recently reached the Supreme Court and the bench wants answers from the central government
Koili Devi lost her 11-year daughter to starvation after her family’s ration card was cancelled for not being connected to their Aadhaar. However, the local authorities maintained that the death of Santoshi Kumari was due to malaria — not hunger.
In a video with Right to Campaign activist, Dheeraj Kumar, Koili Devi reveals that the local ration dealer refused to give her family rations for almost six months as their ration card was not linked to their Aadhaar card.
Devi’s husband was mentally ill and therefore, unable to work. Both, mother and her other daughter tried to get some income by cutting grass on farms nearby, however, that only brings around ₹80 to ₹90 in their pocket per week. In fact, the jobs under MGNREGA, India’s employment guarantee scheme were not available at the time to provide the family with any kind of disposable income. Devi claims that Santoshi had not eaten for eight days before her death on 28 September 2017. Furthermore, she was unable to avail mid-day meals which she usually gets at school, due to the Durga Puja holidays at the time.
However today the question is not only about Santoshi’s right to food, rather the right of nearly four crore families whose ration cards have purportedly been cancelled, without prior notice as they were not linked to — Aadhaar. Although the central government has been asked to explain themselves, states too have a big part
And this is all because, in states where starvation deaths are happening due to lack of a ration card, the administration on the other hand is completely blaming either malaria or diarrhoea, just like Devi and her daughter Santoshi case
In the report filed by the Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, who represented Koili Devi, to the Supreme Court of India stated that “The Union of India simply explains that these cancellations were false. And the original purpose is that the technological system based on thumbprints, iris identification, non-possession of Aadhaar, non-functioning of the internet in rural and remote areas, etc, had led to large scale cancellation of ration cards.”
The "one nation, one ration card" programme requisite ration cardholders to link their accounts to their Aadhaar. This is also known as ‘Aadhaar seeding’. This system intends to actually remove the ghost name that appears on multiple ration cards, however, the result of this cannot be considered foolproof in many states.
In support of this, the petitioner told the court “Tribals either do not have Aadhaar cards or the identification does not work in tribal and rural areas.”
At a time when the COVID-19 has intensified food insecurity in India, the Supreme Court has looked up to the case, knowing that the pandemic has indeed caused a lot of disruption to the local, regional and national food supply chains.
Moreover, India retains the dubious distinction of being the country with the largest population of food-insecure people, according to the 2020 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI). Overall, India currently ranks 94 out of the 107 country database and is in the ‘serious’ hunger category, on the Global Hunger Index.