Jharkhand Minister for Food, Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs, Saryu Roy, has constituted a seven-member panel to come up with a protocol to be followed in dealing with cases of deaths allegedly caused by starvation. Apart from officials, the committee comprises activists, who have been raising the issue of such deaths.
In the past few months, Jharkhand has witnessed over half-a-dozen deaths, which have been dubbed as “starvation deaths”. The state government has attributed these to illness, old age and other reasons.
Roy told The Indian Express that a meeting point between these divergent views had to be found. “It doesn’t serve anybody’s purpose if the activists claim deaths were caused by starvation, while government officials deny this. Whether due to hunger or illness, such deaths are unfortunate. Therefore, I have given the order to chart out a protocol that would look into certain parameters through which one can ascertain reasons behind the death.”
Roy said this was a first-of-its-kind initiative in the country. This will help the government arrive at a conclusion on whether a death was caused due to starvation or other reasons, he said.
“We will have to see if a person had a ration card, whether he or she had a MNREGA job card and whether they were able to get benefits under it. There are several other social security schemes. It will have to be seen whether the person was covered under them and getting benefits or not,” he said.
The panel comprises Director (Food) Sunil Kumar Sinha, Supreme Court-appointed adviser to Jharkhand government Balram, Member of State Consumer Protection Council Rakesh Kumar Singh, State Convener of Right to Food Campaign Asharfi Nand Prasad, National Rural Health Mission’s Suranjit Yadav. Two senior officials from Education Department and Women and Child Welfare Department will also be part of the committee.