If an individual or an organisation is hell bent on spreading rumours about hunger deaths, the Government has to contradict their claims after probe reports show a contrary picture, State Food and Civil Supplies Minister Saryu Roy said on Friday.
Addressing media persons at Suchna Bhawan in Ranchi, Roy defended the Government’s stand on the starvation deaths reported in Jharkhand in recent years and claimed that medical reports did not corroborate the allegations about hunger being the cause of the deaths.
“If someone is hell bent on spreading rumours about starvation deaths, it is the Government’s duty to probe the cases and contradict the allegations if the claims are found to be false,” said Roy, answering a question on the State’s outright denial of starvation being the cause of the 19 alleged hunger deaths highlighted by Right to Food activists in Jharkhand.
Activists here have been at loggerheads with the State Government since the first reported starvation death in December 2016. Since then, the State has witnessed at least 19 starvation deaths, say activists. On the other hand, the Government claims that all the cases were inquired upon and it has detailed testimony proving that none of the deaths were caused due to starvation.
“Jharkhand is the only State in India which has a protocol particularly for starvation deaths. There have been rumours that some of the deceased did not get ration for four months. We have a grievance redressal system in place, but none of the beneficiaries have till date complained of not getting ration for four months,” said Roy.
The Minister said that his Department was working on several new initiatives to make the Public Distribution System (PDS) smoother in Jharkhand. “We will soon introduce retina scan for identification of beneficiaries. There have been complains that PDS dealers face difficulties in getting the biometrics of elderly people. Retina scan will help us identify such beneficiaries at PDS shops,” Roy said.
He added that out of the 26,000 PDS shops in the State, at least 2000 are functioning offline, where beneficiaries can get their ration even without internet connection of biometric identification. “Any Government approved identity proof is acceptable at these shops,” he said.
The Department on Friday also released figures stating that the number of beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) in Jharkhand tripled in less than three years. The State had as many as 5,36,912 beneficiaries under the scheme in 2016-17, which increased to 16, 97, 516 in financial year 2018-2019. Besides, in 2015, the there were as many as 35,09,833 beneficiaries under National Food Security Act (NFSA), which has increased to 57,03,670 in 2019, a document from the Department said.
Under its grievance redressal mechanism, the Department now accepts complaints through email, toll free number, WhatsApp and even SMS.
The initiative, Roy said, is targeted at making the process of lodging complaints easy for the beneficiaries in the State. In the remaining four months of the incumbent Government, it plans to cover the remaining 14 lakh beneficiaries under the PMUY.