Reiterating that the death of a woman in Mangargaddi village, in Giridih district on June 2 was not due to starvation, Jharkhand’s Food and Supply Minister Saryu Roy on Tuesday said that a general instruction has been issued by his department to all Deputy Commissioners to make postmortem mandatory in all cases of deaths attributed to starvation.
Roy also said the Food and Supply Department has started the process of setting up grain banks at block and panchayat levels to provide immediate relief in emergency situations. After Savitri Devi’s death on June 2, Roy had asked why officials had not insisted on a postmortem.
While half-a-dozen deaths since October 2017 have been attributed to starvation, Roy said that barring the case of Santoshi Kumari of Simdega district in October last year, no genuine case of an eligible candidate being deprived of ration has come to notice.
In Simdega, the victim’s family stopped getting PDS ration since they did not have Aadhaar seeded with their ration card.
In Savitri Devi’s case, Roy said, the family had never applied for a ration card. The minister, who released a detailed investigation report by a two-member team from his department, asserted that Savitri Devi’s death was not due to hunger but due to illness. Her family, Roy said, had insisted on waiving off the postmortem, even though officials and the local MLA, from the opposition JMM, had insisted on a postmortem.
“We have issued instructions to all Deputy Commissioners after the case came to light. (We have made) postmortem in such cases mandatory,” Roy said at a press conference. “As our investigation has proved, the woman died due to illness, not hunger. Besides, the family insisted on not having a postmortem — they assumed it would cost them money.”
“People levelling allegations of starvation deaths should come up with some concrete information or logic for making such allegations. Simply levelling allegations goes against the state’s image.”
Department Secretary Amitabh Kaushal said, “As per the quota given by the (Central) government under the National Food Security Act, the list of beneficiaries is almost full. We have instructed the District Supply Officers to weed out cases of duplication, or ones where no one has availed of ration (under PDS) for months, and add eligible beneficiaries.”