A case of starvation death of woman has come to light in the Sehora block of the Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh. While the NREGA has been consistently celebrated across the country for being the world’s largest social security scheme for the poor, a starvation death in the family of a NREGA worker shows how the scheme has still not been able to fully solve the most dreaded of problems of the rural poor: food security.

Thirty-year-old Sunita had succumbed to starvation last month on December 16 in the Majhgavaan town of the block. The girl’s father Ganesh Prasad, a bidi labourer, has submitted an affidavit to the district administration, saying he has no source of income and urging the administration to help him. According to the affidavit, Ganesh comes under the BPL category but does not have a ration card and has received no employment against his NREGA job card.

The district administration remained in denial mode before the residents signed a Panchnama confirming that Sunita’s death was indeed caused due to prolonged and sustained starvation. The residents also confirmed that the family had no means of getting by and had no food in their house.

“I am yet to study the post-mortem report but starvation death cannot be ruled out as a cause of death,” said district collector Hariranjan Rao. “We have received a letter from the Supreme Court Commissioners’ state advisor too in this matter. I have asked my subordinate officers to investigate the matter and we will try to help the family in all ways possible, including the BPL and NREGA card,” he said.

Due to the absence of a BPL ration card, the family had been pushed to begging for food grains and monthly rations.

“My 26-year old son is epileptic and cannot work. I don’t have money to get him treated,” says Ganesh. “I earned Rs.50 for rolling bidis in November and since then, I have not been able to find any employment,” he says.