Controversy
Though a fact finding report by PUCL has raised some serious questions, many versions have emerged over the reason for their mysterious death.

Did three brothers from a Dalit family die of starvation in Karnataka’s Gokarna, because their local PDS shop refused to give them grain for not linking their ration card to Aadhaar?

On July 16, TNIE reported that three men from the same family died in a span of 15 days in Belehittala near Gokarna in Karnataka. Subbu (52), Venkatarammna (46) and Narayan (55) died in quick succession, on July 2, July 8, and July 13 respectively.  The sons of 85-year-old Nagamma Mukri, a member of Gokarna gram panchayat, Kumta taluk of Uttara Kannada district, died reportedly of starvation.

Now, an investigation has raised questions about whether the three men were denied PDS grain because their ration card was not linked to Aadhaar.

A fact finding report by a member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has raised some serious questions.

Narasimhappa, a member of the PUCL, visited Belehittala in the aftermath of the strange sequence of events and spoke to the ailing mother, the ration shop owner, local NGO workers and taluk level officers including the Tehsildar. During his investigation, Narasimhappa found that the sons did not receive ration they were entitled to in the months leading up to their successive deaths in July.

The report further stated that the family received ration only once in March 2017, and from April to July 2017, they didn’t get any ration from the authorities, the reason they were denied is that they did not have Aadhaar card nor a coupon to receive ration and due to this reason, the three sons died within a span of 15 days in the month of July.

In his report, Narasimhappa concluded that the deaths were caused due to starvation, which was a direct result of the lack of ration.

While the cause of death is unknown, since no post mortem was conducted due to monetary issues, there are different versions over how the three brothers died. Kumar Gowda, a member of the Maha Ganpati Seva Sanga, a local NGO cited both alcohol addiction and health problems as the cause of their deaths.

“All three sons had health problems and also had alcohol addiction. The cause of death is unknown since no post mortem was done after their deaths,”  he said.

While the fact-finding report also mentions alcohol addiction of the three sons, as confirmed by Nagamma Mukri, the report concluded that the reason for the death was starvation.

A food inspector in Kumta Taluk, RC Gattumane denied allegations of lack of ration saying that ration was reaching the Mukhri family. He also denied that starvation was the cause of their deaths citing alcohol addiction and poor health as the reason for their deaths.

Meanwhile, the owner of the ration shop close to where the victims lived, confirmed to TNM that the family had not received any rations for two months because they hadn’t linked their ration card to their Aadhaar before their deaths.

The linking of ration card to Aadhaar was made mandatory in February this year to avail food grains from the public distribution system.  

The family was entitled to 35kg of rice for the BPL ration card held by Nagamma Mukri under which the three sons were covered. “When the incident happened, officials came and looked into the situation. Nagamma’s ration card is now linked to Aadhaar and she now receives the ration entitled to her,” said Vivek, the owner of the ration shop.