Thirty-three families in Garhwa belonging to the Primitive Tribal Groups (PTG) were denied ration for around 15 months since November 2020 under the Antyodaya Scheme in a violation of the provision of the National Food Security Act and Supreme Court orders.
When the affected families started getting ration from February this year, they found out that they had been shifted to the Priority Households (PHH) Scheme under which they were entitled to 5kg of food grain per member of a family per month against 35kg of food grain per family per month under the Antyodaya Scheme. The PHH scheme also doesn’t have the provision of paying compensation to beneficiaries who have been denied ration.
“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,” said Manikchand Korwa, a right to food activist from Garhwa.
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.
PTG women at Hesatu show their AAY ration cards. Bhola Prasad
“We used to get 35kg of food grains per month for each of our families since 2015 but it was stopped in November-December 2020. When we raised our voices and approached activists, we were told by the administration that our names have been deleted from the list on the ground that we were dead. All of a sudden we were given PHH ration cards this month and given 5kg of food grains for each member of the family,” said Santosh Korwa, 39, one of the PTG members who had submitted a written complaint to the district complaint redress officer in Garhwa.
Samundri Devi, 40, a homemaker from Hesatu village, said there were 52 PTG families in their village of which names of 33 families were deleted. “They said we were dead and our names had been deleted from the list of ration beneficiaries. But we are all alive,” Samundri Devi said.
Food activist Manikchand Korwa said the district administration was trying to cover up their lapses by converting the Antyodaya cards to PHH cards.
“Why were the names of beneficiaries deleted from the Antyodaya list in the first place? After the news was flashed in local media in February, the administrative officials in a hurry gave the affected families PHH ration cards to avoid paying a compensation for the 15 months they missed their ration,” Manikchand added.
Repeated attempts to get in touch with district supply officer Vijendra Kumar and deputy commissioner Rajesh Pathak failed to yield any response.
State food and civil supplies minister Rameshwar Oraon fumed at the lapse.
“It is unacceptable. I am in Delhi but would be asking the director of food and civil supplies department to probe the issue. We are committed to safeguarding the rights of PTG,” said Oraon said.
Food and public distribution secretary Himani Pande also assured of conducting an investigation.
“We were informed by some district officials that the names were deleted because of some technical error but that the beneficiaries had been getting ration since June 2021. We have already asked the officials to explain the technical error, which deprived the people of ration benefits. We will also investigate why the beneficiaries where shifted from Antyodaya to PHH scheme,” Pande added.