• Need for Sudhaar Not Aadhaar

    "Was it just hunger and lack of nutrition due to the lack of rations that led to the 11 year old Santhoshi's death in Jharkhand?"

    Kamal Mitra Chenoy

    October 21, 2017

     

    For quite some time activists have been increasingly worried about the growing linkage of the Aadhaar card with several other documents from bank cheques, ration cards, MGNREGA cards, bank accounts, generally the most important document for documentation, and so on. It has become the Indian document par excellence for identification.

    Activists including Jean Dreze, Reetika Khera, Aruna Roy have questioned the staggering validity and reach of the Aadhaar, and the possible misuse for a large variety of purposes. In the privacy judgement of the Supreme Court this aspect was not raised.

    In Jharkhand, the state’s PDS Minister Saryu Roy has questioned his own government’s directive that ration cards not linked to Aadhaar be rendered ineligible. The Minister reacting to the directive issued by the Chief Secretary in March, told the “Indian Express” that when this directive came to light, “I asked my officials in a written order on April 5 to ensure that no ration card gets deleted due to non-linking with Aadhaar. It is possible that some names got deleted due to the confusion.”

    The death of a young girl Santoshi on September 28 was ruled by a nervous administration as due to malaria. No reason has been cited to explain why Santoshi’s family had its ration card deleted. The Chief Secretary Verma did not respond to requests from the Indian Express seeking comment. An activist Tara Mani Sah got to know in August about the denial of rations to Santoshi’s parents, Tatya Naik and Koyli Devi. Sah took up the issue twice but “nothing had been done.” Sah also disputed the official version that Santoshi had died of malaria, pointing out that, “We have been following the case closely. The mother did not complain of malaria or any other disease.”

    Not surprisingly a cover up seems to have resorted to. A three-member district-level committee claimed that Santoshi died because of malaria. There is no indication of what medical treatment if any, was given and when. Since it was claimed that Santoshi had malaria substantially earlier, why wasn’t she treated earlier? When there is high fever then anti-malarial treatment should be started immediately. But the report of the three-member, probably in-house, committee is silent. It is not clear if, and when, Santoshi was treated for malaria.

    Not surprisingly, Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das ordered Rs. 50,000 to the family as interim relief. This indicates how much the state government values a tribal girls life and well being of her family. The district administration also seems to be in line with the dominant narrative. However, there is no detailed evidence of when Santoshi got sick if she did, when and how she was treated for whatever sickness diagnosed. Was it just hunger and lack of nutrition due to the lack of rations?

    This case is frightening because of the forced linkage between the Aadhaar-ration card which the Minister criticises. Sah claims that Santoshi’s family stated that, “The family said they were not getting rations because they did not have their Aadhaar cards linked to the database…Koyli Devi told me her daughter was crying for rice and maad (rice brew), but she had no money and rice in the house.”

    So the villagers narrative is clear. If you are deprived of your Aadhaar card and its link with the ration card, your life is at risk from starvation and belated treatment for malaria or any other fell disease.


     

    First published in The Citizen.

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