The National Human Rights Commission has directed Garhwa deputy commissioner to submit an action-taken report on the allegations of Primitive Tribal Groups (PTG) families being denied ration for 15 months.
NHRC issued the directive on a complaint lodged by human rights defender Sentinaro Imchen of New Delhi-based Indigenous Rights Advocacy Centre — an organisation advocating rights of indigenous people in India — who had attached The Telegraph report of February 8 about 33 PTG families being denied ration for 15 months and later in violation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and Supreme Court order, they were given ration cards under Priority Households (PHH) scheme.
“The commission has received a complaint … alleging that a total of 33 families belonging to Scheduled Tribe ….are not being provided food ration for the last 15 months due to which they are almost at the verge of starvation….. Transmit a copy of the complaint to the deputy commissioner Garhwa, Jharkhand, calling for a report in the matter within four weeks,” the commission directs in its letter on Monday.
“The commission shall be constrained to invoke coercive process under section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, calling for a personal appearance of the authority concerned for submission of the report, in case the report is not received within the stipulated time,” the commission writes in the letter.
Jharkhand food and civil supplies director Dileep Tirkey said that they have issued a show-cause to the Garhwa district supply officer Vijendra Kumar. “We have issued a show-cause soon after the news was published and got a reply which was highly unsatisfactory. We have again show-caused the same official on the issue,” said Tirkey.
“In May 2003, following reports of starvation deaths in Rajasthan’s Baran district, the Supreme Court in the ‘right to food case’ had ordered that all PTG households (along with other vulnerable groups such as widows and single women) be covered fully by the Antyodaya Scheme. However, in a strange case of administrative lapse, these 33 families belonging to the Korwa community in Garhwa, who had Antyodaya cards since 2015, were denied ration from November-December 2020 on the pretext that their name had been deleted. From February this year, they started getting ration under the PHH scheme,” Manikchand Korwa, a right to food activist from Garhwa, had alleged to The Telegraph last month.
The 33 PTG families are from Hesatu village under Tehri panchayat of Bargarh block in Garhwa district, around 295km from Ranchi. They depend on forest products and seasonal agriculture and had been pushed to the brink of starvation because of the administration lapse.
Korwa said it was an attempt by the district administration to hide their lapses by converting the AAY cards to PHH and escape from paying compensation as mandated in NFSA.