Girl death corners govt

State food and civil supplies minister Saryu Roy admitted on Monday that they were "on the back foot" over the alleged hunger death of the 11-year-old Dalit girl in Simdega this September which the government and chief minister Raghubar Das had maintained was due to malaria.

By A.S.R.P. Mukesh in Ranchi
  • Published 12.12.17
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Ranchi: State food and civil supplies minister Saryu Roy admitted on Monday that they were "on the back foot" over the alleged hunger death of the 11-year-old Dalit girl in Simdega this September which the government and chief minister Raghubar Das had maintained was due to malaria.

Though the food minister did show reluctance to accept Santoshi Kumari starved to death, he also said he was not on the same page with chief minister Das over some aspects of the case and that chief secretary Rajbala Verma, who had earlier this year ordered ration cards without Aadhaar seeding be cancelled, should have apologised.

"It's a fact that the names (of Santoshi's family) got struck off the ration list due to Aadhaar issues, which means they stopped getting ration. The cancellation of the family's ration card was our mistake. We are on the back foot."

He added he had overruled chief secretary Verma's order of no-Aadhaar, no ration.

"The CS should have apologised for the unwanted order," said Roy. "And, the CM too didn't focus on this. Ignoring ground realities, they boasted how fake ration cards were deleted. I am not on the same page with them on these things," he said.

The Simdega death resurfaced to the headlines last week when Santoshi's mother Koili Devi and a team of Right to Food Campaign reiterated before Delhi journalists that the girl died of hunger and not malaria. But, asked if Santoshi died of hunger, the minister said, "I won't say so. It's a strong word. Even if one doesn't get ration, one may try to arrange food from other sources."

But, minister Roy also claimed Right to Food Campaign was running a "smear campaign against Jharkhand in most cases over Aadhaar and PDS", referring to a recent hunger death claim where state probe revealed an Aadhaar card was allegedly misused.