Vol. XLI No. 48 November 26, 2017

Form Judicial Commission to Probe Hunger Deaths in Jharkhand: AIKS

THE All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) has demanded the formation of a judicial commission to examine the recent hunger deaths in JharkhandOn November 10, an AIKS delegation, led by P Krishnaprasad, visited Karimati Village in Simdega where 11-year-old Santoshi Kumari died due to starvation on September 28.

So far, five starvation deaths have been reported from Jharkhand. The other deaths were of Baidanath Ravi Das of Dhanbad, Rooplal Murmu of Mohanpur in Deoghar, Suresh Oraon of Garwa, and Vinod Ravi Das of Katras of Dhanbad. Of the five, three are Adivasis. However, the Jharkhand government is on denial mode and has been trying to suppress the seriousness of the issue.

At a press conference in New Delhi on November 13, AIKS leaders Ashok Dhawale, N K Shukla, Vijoo Krishnan and P Krishnaprasad said that the hunger deaths were a result of the pro-corporate development policies of the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in the state.

The delegation, comprising Krishnaprasad, Surjeet Sinha, Praful Linda, Birendra Kumar and Suphal Mahto, met Santoshi Kumari’s family members including mother Koyili Devi, grandmother Devaki Devi, sister Gudiya Devi, uncle Nayak, and many villagers. The family does not have a proper house and permanent income. They have only 12-dismile land. The family gets daily labour only 10-12 days in a month at a wage of Rs 100 for female and 150 for male.

The family members have confirmed that the death happened due to chronic hunger. They denied the claim made by Chief Minister Raghubar Das that she died due to malaria. The ration card, bearing the name of Koyili Devi, gives ample evidence that the family had not got ration since April, 2017, and that only after the death of the girl the family got ration of 21-kg rice, 14-kg wheat and 2-litre kerosene oil on October 23 from the dealer.

Jharkhand has about 2.5 crore beneficiaries under the public distribution system (PDS). As per official data, 11.30 lakh names of card holders were removed from the list of beneficiaries citing the reason that no linkage to Aadhaar. The chief secretary, Raja Bala Varma, had in March given an order directing the district administrations to delete the names of PDS beneficiaries whose ration cards were not linked to Aadhaar. Around 385 poor families belonging to tribal, dalit and minority communities were denied rations by either cancelling their cards or not renewing them.

Those Responsible Must Be Booked for Culpable Homicide

Santoshi Kumari’s family has Aadhaar Card and their ration card was with the dealer. But the family had been denied ration since April, on the pretext that the biometric data was not available. How such failure of the administration could be justified for denying the right of food security to the people. It is criminal dereliction of duty and all responsible for the tragic death of the girl must be booked for culpable homicide. The AIKS demands that the state government appoint a judicial commission to examine hunger deaths in Jharkhand so that the dispute on deaths can be settled and fix responsibilities, including that of the chief minister and cabinet members. The AIKS demands that the government construct a house for the victim’s family. The government must provide Rs 10 lakh compensation; ensure permanent employment and family pension.

It was shocking and inhuman that after the incident, RSS-BJP activists in the village continuously harassed and accused the members of the victim’s family of maligning the state government’s image and they had to leave the village out of fear. It is positive that the local administration has pursued the family to come back and four security guards are posted there.

Govts Must Give Up Pro-Corporate Development Policies

The series of hunger deaths expose the danger of anti-poor and anti-national development policy of the BJP-led state and central governments. The issue is not only of linking ration card with Aadhaar card, but also the larger pro-corporate development policy imposed on the people by Prime Minister Narendra Modi which had an adverse impact on the food security of the people. Social security measures are neglected under the BJP rule. The central government controls social development programmes such as MGNREGA and ICDS, but has no commitment to them and is curtailing budgetary allocation. If the mid-day meal scheme was implemented properly, Santoshi’s life could have been saved.

Sixty-six per cent of crop production in Jharkhand is grains, and farmers are not getting the MSP at the rate of Rs 15.50 per kilo. The state government has failed to set up procurement centres. Hence, farmers are forced to sell their produce at Rs 9-11 per kilo. It was the failure of the BJP-led state government. During the initial months after demonetisation, the price went down to even Rs 7 per kilo. In Kerala, the state government has assured Rs 23.50 per kilo and civil supplies corporation has made arrangement for procurement. The MGNREGA is not being implemented in villages for the last six months, thus denying wage income to families of peasants and agriculture workers, most of whom are tribals. The ban on cattle trade has badly affected the income of rural households. Without ensuring remunerative price to crops, animal wealth and decent wage and employment to workers how the poor can fight poverty and advance to development?

The BJP-led state government is more interested to amend the land laws to tribal and to gift tribal land to corporate companies. The central government is doing everything to ensure more profit to corporate companies, instead of protecting the poor sections. Allowing 100 per cent FDI in agriculture and retail trade, e-platform to link agriculture markets, announcement of contract farming are examples of the pro-corporate and anti-national policies of the BJP. On the contrary, there are no steps to ensure remunerative price at 50 per cent above cost of production, bring comprehensive loan waiver, full implementation of MGNREGA linking with agriculture, right to cattle trade and pension to farmers above 60 years of age. The hunger deaths in Jharkhand are a result of these wrong development policies. The AIKS demands the BJP adopt pro-people development policies as in Kerala that will ensure elimination of poverty and hunger deaths and strengthen social welfare.