While summoning a top government official to appear before it on September 16, Jharkhand High Court on Thursday pulled up the Jharkhand Government during the hearing of a Suo Motu case relating to alleged starvation deaths, saying people in remote areas of the state are still living in a "primitive age".

The Court observed that, "Healthcare facilities are not available to people living in remote areas, government schemes exist only on paper, while it is a matter of shame for the civilized society that a woman is forced to spend days on a tree. They have to travel eight kilometres to get ration and pure drinking water is not available."

Describing this as a "matter of shame", the bench said, "We are treating them like wild and not human beings whereas it is their forest from where the minerals are being extracted. We are not giving them anything after extracting the mineral."

The Court also said, "Nothing will happen if the government just turns a blind eye. You keep saying that we are a welfare state, whereas the reality is that government schemes are running only on paper. No work is visible on the ground. The government will have to think about it."

The observations were made after a Bench comprising Chief Justice Ravi Ranjan and justice Sujit Narayan Prasad went through a report of the Jharkhand State Legal Services Authority (JHALSA). The Bench directed the state government to file a detailed reply on the JHALSA report and asked the Social Welfare Department Secretary to appear before it on September 16, the next date of hearing.

Bhukhal Ghasi, a resident of Shankardih village of Kasmar block of Bokaro district, allegedly died of starvation in 2020. Six months later, his daughter and son also reportedly died the same way. The High Court had taken suo motu cognizance of the matter after the media reported the deaths of three members of the family in a span of six months, due to starvation. The Court had asked the government to respond and the Jharkhand State Legal Services Authority (JHALSA) to submit a report on the ground reality of government schemes.

The state government had submitted that none died in the state due to hunger and the cause of the death was illness.

Inputs from Press Trust of India