Forty Dalit families spread out mats and took out mangoes, spinach and other raw vegetables on the outskirts of Chowdadenahalli village in Chikballapur. But instead of a picnic, the families are out to protest against the Food and Supplies Department after being denied ration for the past one-and-a-half years.
The reason? Not linking ration cards to their Aadhaar.
Families including women and children turned up on the outskirts of the village and are defiant that they will not go back to their homes until the Food and Supplies Department gives them their due ration.
“We are here because 22 Dalit families in the village are not getting ration for the last one-and-a-half years. When we asked the Food and Supplies Department about this, they said that we have to link our Aadhaar cards to receive ration,” said Nagesh, one of the protestors.
While the linking of ration card to Aadhaar was made mandatory in February 2017, to avail food grains from the Public Distribution System, the Centre in October instructed states to not deny Public Distribution System benefits to those who do not have Aadhaar or have not linked their ration cards to Aadhaar.
The protesters said that they had raised the issue with Karnataka Food and Supplies Minister UT Khader. But they also added that even though he assured that Aadhaar should not be a reason to deny ration and promised to look into the issue, he is yet to do it.
They spread out mats half-a-kilometre away from Chowdadenahalli village and are eating leafy vegetables and mangoes to satisfy their hunger. “We are eating spinach leaves and other raw vegetables. We want the Food and Supplies Minister to hear our voice and resolve this issue,” said Shashiraj, an activist from Chintamani in Kolar.
The testimonies of the villagers in Chikballapur is the latest among a number of cases of ration being denied to those who have not linked their Aadhaar cards.
In October, over 20 people from various districts of Karnataka shared their stories of struggle and helplessness after they were denied ration for failing to link Aadhaar at a public hearing organised by The Right to Food campaign in Bengaluru.