More voices of Aadhaar distress rise from Jharkhand; Govt looks the other way

People across two blocks have not got their ration for months, many have not been paid for MGNREGA work

More voices of Aadhaar distress rise from Jharkhand; Govt looks the other way

Ashlin Mathew

The woes of the citizens in Jharkhand seem to never end. The ambitious plan of the Raghubar Das government to link the PDS ration scheme with the Aadhaar card has gone awry. Many citizens are left with no rations at all. This time, instances have come to light from Hatgamharia and Khuntpani blocks of West Singhbhum district. While there are no absolute numbers, several activists from the Right to Food programme believe that it would run into several thousands in this district alone.

Manisha Hembrom of Hatgamharia block has not got her ration since October, 2018. Her husband’s Aadhaar was linked with the ration card and he used to get the ration after biometric authentication at the ration shop. After his death six months ago, Manisha has not been able to collect her ration as her Aadhaar has not been linked with the card and the dealer refuses to give her the ration because she hasn’t been able to authenticate her identity using the PoS machine.

Even worse is the situation of Pachay Munduiya, a destitute, who is on the Priority Household (PH) list of the government. He hasn’t received ration from the government since March, 2017. After that, his family’s PH ration card was cancelled as it was not linked with Aadhaar.

Physically-challenged Asai Bodra, who has a PH ration card too, was informed that her ration card was cancelled in February, 2019. As a result, she wasn’t given her ration for February. She had applied for an Antyodyay Yojana card in August, 2018 but is yet to get one.

A person or a household without shelter, a destitute living on alms, a person with disabilities and all those falling under the primitive tribal groups are eligible for the PH card. This mostly means the poorest of Indians are given these cards. Antyodyay Yojana families are those who don’t have a stable income at all. Landless labourers, marginal farmers, rural artisans, rag pickers and aged people above the age of 65 can avail facilities under this programme.

An elderly Adivasi, Budhni Sinku, in Hatgamharia block, has stopped getting her social security pension as she has not linked her Aadhaar account with her pension card.

In Chhota Bankua village in Khuntpani block, almost all of the residents have not received ration under Public Distribution System since October, 2018. They have complained to the block administration, but it has yielded no results.

The residents of Ulirajabasa village in Khuntpani block have even complained to the block and District Grievance Redress Officer (DGRO) as they haven’t got their ration for the months of September-December, 2018 and February, 2019. But, no redressal has arrived. They were also not given ration for three months in 2016 and one month in 2017. What is even more disheartening is that even though there is a ration shop in the village, they have to commute 2 km away just to get their Aadhaar-based biometric authentication done. And those, whose biometric authentication fails, are denied grain.

It’s not just the residents of Ulirajabasa village who have to travel far to authenticate their biometrics. People from Argundi village have to travel 2.5 km to Khuntpani block only to authenticate their biometric data. They have a ration shop in their village but there is no internet connectivity in the village. As a result, they have to keep spending money to go to the block multiple times to authenticate their biometric information.

That’s not all. Several workers, who worked under MGNREGA in Kuira village in Hatgamharia block, have not yet been paid for the work they had done in 2018. Some are waiting for six days’ pay, others have not been paid for 50 days of work.

Wages of several workers from Jamdih Gram Panchayat in Hatgamharia block are yet to be paid. Particularly distressing is the case of Mangala Tui as she has not been paid for the work done two years ago. According to the NREGA Management of Information System, the wages were transferred to a branch of District Cooperative Bank at district headquarters, Chaibasa. But, neither Mangala nor anyone in her family has an account there.

While complaining to the block administration, the locals have demanded that Aadhaar-based biometric authentication system (PoS machine) be removed from the Public Distribution System and Aadhaar be made non-mandatory. They have requested that the earlier system of ration distribution (through registers) be implemented. The block officer has assured them of action. When will the Jharkhand government and the Central agencies wake up to these atrocities is the question being asked.

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