Garhwa— In a heart-wrenching incident that has raised questions about the state's welfare system, a member of a Dalit family in Garhwa district, Jharkhand, has reportedly died due to a lack of ration supplies for five months. The family claims that this tragic situation was a result of starvation, shedding light on the ongoing issues surrounding food distribution to vulnerable communities.
The incident came to public attention during a public hearing held on July 26, 2023, where Anjali Devi, a resident of Block Dandai, submitted a written complaint regarding the ration cuts and untimely distribution of essential supplies. This case was further investigated on September 15, 2023. Notably, a similar case had emerged in October 2022, when 40 tribal families in Masra village of Chiniya block faced a four-month ration shortage. However, local authorities have denied any connection between the death and starvation, despite villagers asserting that ration supplies were only distributed after the tragic incident.
The Mooknayak possesses correspondence records, including the complaint filed on July 26, which raised serious questions about the efficiency of the food distribution system. When queried about these documents, the Food Supply Officer struggled to provide satisfactory answers and announced the suspension of licenses for four ration distributors.
Urmila Musahar, a resident of Dandai village in Garhwa district, shared the heartbreaking details of her family's ordeal. She revealed, "My family had not received ration for the last five months. My husband, Suresh Musahar (58), died due to a lack of sufficient food."
Suresh's son, Mukesh, recounted the tragic events leading to his father's death, stating, "It had been three days. My father had not eaten anything properly. At 12 o'clock in the night, he felt severe pain in his stomach. We took him and ran to the hospital. He died as soon as he reached some distance from home."
Anil, Urmila's younger son, added, "We get ration through a green card, but ration was not received for five months. There was not a single grain of rice to eat in the house. We somehow used to buy ration by taking a loan. My father was hungry and thirsty as he had not got food for three days. Due to this, he died."
Head of the family Dhanwanti Devi disclosed that they had contacted authorities a day before Suresh's death to report their lack of ration and request immediate assistance. The concerned shopkeeper, Parasnath Prasad, assured them they could collect ration at any time. However, Suresh Musahar tragically passed away the following day.
The Block Food Supply Officer, Chonaram Hembram, maintained that there was no information about anyone dying due to a ration shortage. He stated that while several Dalit families received rice through green ration cards, the allocation of ration for Green Card holders had not been distributed by shopkeepers since February.
Family members lamented that while other families received a five-kilogram ration packet after Suresh's death, the deceased's wife did not receive any such assistance. Jitendra Singh, assistant manager of the warehouse, confirmed that the dealer had only been allotted ration for green card holders on September 24.
Families living below the poverty line in Jharkhand are given a green ration card by the state government and are given food grains at the price of one rupee per kg. Five kg of grains per unit (person) is given through the green card. The scheme was implemented by the state government from 15th November 2020. Under the Jharkhand State Food Security Scheme, only poor families deprived of ration card are to benefit of this scheme.
The investigation into the death of 58-year-old Suresh Musahar has begun at the administrative level. DDC Rajesh Kumar Rai and Sadar sub-division SDO Raj Maheshwaram visited the victim's family to gather information about the incident. While the family insists that the death resulted from hunger, the administration remains skeptical and continues its probe.
This tragic incident has highlighted the pressing issue of ration shortages and untimely distribution, as complaints have already been made about these issues. During a public hearing on July 26, 2023, Sunita of Gram Panchayat Rari and Anjali Devi of Dandai had previously raised concerns about these problems, prompting an investigation by the State Food Commission. The District Food Supply Officer later issued an order on September 5, instructing the Block Supply Officer to conduct a thorough inquiry.
In the face of mounting evidence and public concern, Block Supply Officer Chonaram Hembram has consistently denied that the death was caused by starvation. However, questions persist about the adequacy of the food distribution system, leaving the community demanding answers and accountability for this tragic loss of life.
Story Translated by Geetha Sunil Pillai