The family in Sevatand village of Jharkhand’s Giridih district is on the brink of starvation. But, god forbid, if any of them does succumb to acute hunger, the death would be marked down to malnutrition, tuberculosis or stomach disorder.
Because, as far as the state government is concerned, no one dies of starvation in Jharkhand.
Budhni, a tribal woman, had spent her last days scouring for edible leaves in the nearby forest. She wasn’t allowed to share her seven-year-old son’s mid-day meal at his school. When she couldn’t kill her hunger, the hunger killed her.
But authorities are in denial. According to Giridih Deputy Commissioner Manoj, it cannot be called ‘starvation death’ unless the whole family dies.
“None of these deaths have been established as starvation deaths. Around a month ago, the death of Savitri Devi was also said to be a so-called starvation death. But she had a whole family. If it was starvation, it should have struck all the members,” he says.
After Savitri Devi’s death, the family was issued temporary ration cards, but they still await the delivery of first quota.
Counting Budhni, at least 12 people have died allegedly of hunger in the last 10 months. But the Raghubar Das government has not accepted or confirmed a single one of them as ‘starvation death’ despite locals complaining of non-issuance of ration cards and authentication of PDS cards.
It’s a similar story in Ramgarh district, barely a kilometre from the Ranchi-Hazaribagh expressway. There’s a dense forest in Mandu block of the district but dwellers of the Kundaria settlement still go to bed hungry.
Mansa, another resident, is in her early 20s but has already lost two children to malnutrition. “After Malhar’s death, they are enrolling us for ration cards and have given us 10 kg rice,” she says, hoping that it’s enough to keep her last surviving child alive.