Jamshedpur: The Jharkhand government today said people in the state don't need the unique identity number Aadhaar to get ration from the public distribution system, days after an 11-year-old girl allegedly died of starvation sparking widespread outrage. Local activists had alleged that the girl, Santoshi Kumari, died of starvation on September 28 after her family was denied ration for the want of an Aadhaar-linked ration card.
Chief Minister Raghubar Das had ordered an investigation to find out whether Santoshi's family was denied food for months and their ration card cancelled because it had not been linked to their Aadhaar number.
Now, the Jharkhand government has launched a toll-free number -- 1800 212 55 12 -- where people can leave complaints about problems in the food distribution system, apart from clarifying that the unique identity number is not needed to receive food from the government.
"Aadhaar card is not mandatory. Any card, including a driver's licence and voter ID card or any specified card, is permissible for procuring food grains," Jharkhand Food Minister Saryu Roy said. "Grain banks" will be set up in every block, the minister said.
A report by district officials says Santoshi died of malaria, but her family claims she died crying, "bhaat, bhaat (rice)."
Santoshi's family held a ration card which entitles India's poorest to cheaper rice, wheat and sugar under government schemes. A non-profit, the Right to Food Campaign and NREGA Watch, alleges that a local dealer cancelled the family's food ration after a state government letter in March gave a three-week deadline for linking every ration card with Aadhaar.
Mr Rai appeared to blame his own government as he said his orders were ignored even though he is the minister in charge. He accused the state's top official of issuing an order in complete disregard to his instructions not to cancel any ration card. "Ration cards of people with no Aadhaar card cannot be cancelled. If someone has done this, then it is wrong," he had said.