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if 3 crore ration cards were cancelled, matter “very serious” SC Observes

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it was a “very serious” matter if the Centre has really canceled around three crore ration cards, including those of tribals and the poor, solely because they could not be biometrically linked with Aadhaar.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde asked the Centre to respond to an allegation made in a petition by Koili Devi, represented by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, that such cancellations had led to starvation deaths across the country.

“The insistence on Aadhar and biometric authentication had led to the cancellation of nearly four crore ration cards in the country according to the Union of India. The Union of India casually gives an explanation that these canceled cards were bogus. The real reason is that the technological system based on iris identification, thumbprints, non-possession of Aadhaar, non-functioning of the internet in rural and remote areas, etc, led to largescale cancellation of ration cards without notice to the family concerned,” a report submitted by the petitioner side said.

The Lawyer Mr. Gonsalves said the “petition is based on reports that an estimate of roughly two to four crore ration cards have been canceled in the country without prior notice to the beneficiaries”.

Right to food, which the ration card symbolized, cannot be curbed or canceled because of lack of Aadhaar.

Koili Devi’s 11-year-old daughter, Santhoshi Kumari, is allegedly a victim of hunger death in Jharkhand in 2017. She said the family’s ration card was cancelled due to non-linkage with Aadhaar. She has sought an independent investigation into the starvation deaths, restoration of the cancelled ration cards and compensation for the death of her daughter.

Mr. Gonsalves said the government’s continued emphasis on Aadhaar was unfortunate as the Supreme Court had laid down in clear terms that “no insistence on Aadhaar can be done for statutory entitlements”.

“Tribals either do not have Aadhaar cards or the identification does not work in tribal and rural areas. Because of this reliance on Aadhaar cards, can you imagine three crore cards are gone…” Mr. Gonsalves submitted

“Three crore cards have gone?” Chief Justice asked incredulously.

“Yes, starvation deaths are taking place. Three crores ration cards have gone… I can show the Union of India’s declaration. It is an announcement of the Prime Minister,” Mr. Gonsalves responded.

He argued that the States were in a denial mode, blaming the deaths on diarrhea and malaria. “In fact, anything but lack of food. This cruel exercise deprived millions of Indians living below the poverty line of food and led to starvation deaths in Jharkhand, U.P., Odisha, Karnataka, M.P., Maharashtra, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and other States,” the petitioner’s side said in a report prepared after going through the responses obtained from the States.

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