Mahatma Gandhi had beautifully spoken about the criteria to be followed while deciding policies and making laws.
‘Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it?’ Even before the flowers offered at the statues of the father of the nation on his birth anniversary who said the above words fades, comes a tragic news- an eleven-year old girl dies of hunger in Jharkhand. The family have a ration card and therefore is entitled to ration. But the ration card was made invalid because the family had not linked it with Aadhar. The child died asking for ‘bhat’ which means rice. Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), an NGO in Karnataka published an investigative report three days later. Three brothers in Belehittala village died between July 2 and July 13. The PUCL report rejects the illegitimate claims that the cause of death was alcoholism. The brothers were alcoholics for sure. The annual income of the family was Rs 11, 000. However, the family that was entitled to monthly ration was denied rations after the state government mooted the food coupon system. As per the rule that came into effect in December last year, the coupon will not be allowed if it is not linked to Aadhar, and the brothers did not have an Aadhar card. According to the PUCL report, they were denied ration only because of not having an Aadhar number. They wouldn’t have died, if they had one. The poor are destined to face starvation if they didn’t have Aadhar be it Jharkhand where BJP is in rule or Karnataka where Congress is in power.
The bureaucrats today, function by disrupting the order of priority that was followed earlier in the case of poor. The rule that ration will be denied if there is no Aadhar card, something which is unfair and against the court directive, is being strictly implemented in Karnataka, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and many other states. Even after the three brothers died of hunger in Karnataka, about 80, 000 ‘fake’ ration cards that were not linked to Aadhar, have been scrapped. No inquiries have been carried out to find out if there were anyone entitled. This happens when the number of poor increases. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has informed that India’s hunger problem is worsening. India ranks alongside the war-torn south Sudan on the global hunger index. There is a lack of nutritious food for children; it results in stunted growth; child mortality rate escalates. The rate of unemployment increased by 5 per cent during 2016. The note-ban and GST that followed made matters worse. According to the estimates, about 15 lakh jobs were lost during the first four months of 2017. Farmer crisis has surged up, the suicides as well. Negligence is witnessed in the field of education as well. The funds allotted for education was only 4.57 per cent of the gross national income (GDP) during 2013-14, while it sank to 3.71 per cent in 2016-17.
The children deaths in Uttar Pradesh doesn’t seem to have brought any changes in the attitude of the government. Even at the national level, the investment in the Health sector is just 1.2 percent of the GDP. How does the government deal with such harsh realities? A colossal statue of Sardar Patel tops the priority list of the government. The cost of construction is Rs 3000 crore. L&T Company has already started the work. Another huge project is soon set to begin in Mumbai, the Shivaji memorial with a cost estimate of Rs 3, 600 crore. There are many statues in Uttar Pradesh built by Mayawati that remain idle. Also, a Modi Bakht is building a Modi temple in Uttar Pradesh. The 100-feet statue of Narendra Modi to be build inside the temple is of an estimated cost of Rs 10 crore. Be it the 100-feet statue of Shivaji that constitutes one-tenth of the total health budget, the statue to be constructed by Yogi Adityanath in UP at a cost of Rs 200 crore, or the statues of Deendayal Upadhyay to be constructed in every district of India at a cost of Rs 100 crore, these are all forms of sabotaging the order of priority. The high-profile bullet train project has been flagged off without undertaking measures to ensure the safety of train journeys. Luxurious conveyances or expensive statues are not what we need but a solution to the crisis where people die of want of food because of no Aadhar. What we want is health and education; a heart and deed that value lives and not a hardened conscience.