#India- Unable to feed poor, Maharashtra makes them vanish #Wtfnews


Published: Monday, Dec 24, 2012, 7:00 IST
By Yogesh Pawar | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

The Maharashtra government continues to use a 2002 list denying over 50 lakh of below poverty line (BPL) people who barely earn enough for one meal a day, access to food, despite the fact that local bodies have sent fresh lists for 2012 to the state.

That this is being done by a government, which used targeted public distribution system for all poor, as a major plank in its 2009 campaign to come into power is baffling, say activists working for food security.

Many like Kishor Tiwari president Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti(VJAS) point out how this violates Supreme Court (SC) guidelines in its 2001 order (while hearing a PIL by People’s Union for Civil Liberties) asking state governments to update BPL lists in keeping with local civic bodies’ lists. “We found this out when the government submitted an affidavit to the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court which is hearing a PIL filed by VJAS following large scale starvation deaths among Kolam tribals in Yavatmal five years ago. The local collector on one hand told the court that the state strictly follows the SC 2001 order and updates BPL lists annually. On the other, he admitted that on the ground a 2002 BPL survey is considered for selecting families for food security under the PDS.

What’s worse despite deaths, in a clear case of a mockery of the ‘right to food,’ Maharashtra has denied food security to more than a lakh tribal and Dalit BPL families facing malnutrition and starvation in Yavatmal. To highlight this, a huge protest rally is being organised, on December 26th in Pandharkawda, Yavatmal.

“These are desperate people battling hunger and death. The government should realise what it means when people with nothing to lose take to the street,” warned Tiwari.

This is not a problem of rural Maharashtra alone, in fact it is worse in urban areas. Particularly in Mumbai, the country’s financial capital where a Mumbai University study has already established that how both malnutrition and hunger are much worse than in remote tribal areas.

“Mumbai has one of the highest number of hungry in the country. Almost half of our children are malnourished and as per global hunger index (GHI) 2011. Given that India is home to one fourth of world’s hungry, its position is already the worst not only in South Asia, but also among sub-Saharan countries, you know how scary that makes Mumbai look like. It is strange to understand that this should be a problem of the financial capital of India which positions itself as an emerging economic super-power,” pointed right-to-food activist Ananda Pawar who works in Dharavi.

The minister for food and civil supplies Anil Deshmukh has often taken the stand that there is limited availability of food under government sponsored schemes. “Despite the shortfall, Maharashtra has one of the best records in food distribution and supply,” he insists but seems at a loss to explain why the BPL lists have not been updated for over a decade. When asked about the regular rotting food grains for lack of adequate storage in government run godowns he passed the buck to the Centre. “We are cracking down on pilferage and losses,” he offered and raised the issue of bogus cards.

According to him a state government drive to detect bogus cards which began in 2005 has led to the cancellation of 5.3 million such cards till 2011. Over 3 years, from 2005 to 2008, the state cancelled about 2.9 million cards. Then, over 2009-2010, the government cancelled about 1.2 million cards. Finally, in 2011, during the detection drive, about another 1.1 million were cancelled. Incidentally the government’s own figures show that as on 1st April, 2012, the state had a mere 22 million ration cards in a total population of 112.37 million!

Activists however allege that the government raises the bogey of bogus cards only to abdicate from PDS. “This is a ploy to get private players in and throw the poor to their mercy,” says Tiwari. “Even if one goes by 2002 survey figures there are more than 6.6.million BPL families covered under PDS. By claiming three million of these cards are bogus the state’s trying to keep away 50% of such families out of reach of new subsidised food schemes. A garibi-ko-nahin-hata-sakte-toh-garibonko-hatao policy seems to be put into place,” laments Tiwari.

FIGURES THAT BITE::

- Over 60% of India’s wheat and 27% of its rice is pilfered from the system before reaching the ration card holder.
– Maharashtra has cancelled 5.3 million cards saying they are bogus.
– SC guidelines need updating of BPL lists annually.
– Maharashtra still goes by the 2002 BPL survey figures
– Less than 25% of the total population in the state has a ration card.

 

Notes from an illuminating journey #sundayreading


ANKITA AGGARWAL, The Hindu

People at Gola block office in Ramgarh district listening to the yatris demand for universal old age pension
People at Gola block office in Ramgarh district listening to the yatris demand for universal old age pension

 to Food campaign launched a series of yatras in north India last month. Ankita Aggarwal joined the Jharkhand yatris and got a taste of the woes of the villagers.

The National Food Security Bill, tabled in Parliament in December 2011, is a travesty of the right to food. There have been regular agitations ever since for a comprehensive food security act, which guarantees adequate nutrition to everyone. Last month, the right to food campaign launched a series of yatras (convoys) in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and West Bengal to take this issue to the people.

I joined the Jharkhand yatra on October 11 in Bokaro. Baleshwar Bauri, who seemed to be leading the yatra at that time, is a Dalit from Dhanbad. He joined the Total Literacy Campaign in 1992 and was later a part of Asangathit Mazdoor Vahini, which agitated for minimum wages in the unorganised sector. He has also worked with Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS), the right to information movement, and the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Encouraged by the achievements of earlier struggles, he is hopeful that the campaign for a comprehensive food security act will also succeed.

The next day we moved to Ramgarh and gathered people at the Gola block office compound. After talking about our demand for universal old age pension, we asked the few elderly people intently listening to us whether they were getting pensions. One of them, a woman, said that her pension was yet to be sanctioned in spite of her giving money and murga (chicken meat) to the middlemen. Another woman, a widow, had also paid money to get her pension sanctioned but was still waiting for it. People said that in their villages (Chadi, Chokada, Hupu, Navadih, among others) there were many other cases of old people or widows who were not getting a pension. Even those who do get a pension often receive it after delays of up to six months.

In the same meeting we asked people how they would feel if food rations under the Public Distribution System (PDS) were replaced with cash transfers. Without pausing for a second to think, some people said that they preferred rice to cash. When I asked if anyone would rather get cash, nobody in the group of about 50 people said “yes”. I then asked one of the old men who wasn’t getting a pension why he preferred rice. He said that money would get spent within a few days on other things. A younger man shouted from the back that if the old man was given money, he would squander it on alcohol.

A yatri’s story

Farkeshwar Mahto, one of the yatris (travellers), told me how he got involved in “social work”. He said that in 1999, when he was about 18 years old, a Dalit widow in his village was branded a daayan (witch) by her relatives who actually wanted to scare her away and seize her land. This woman was stripped, paraded in the village and sexually assaulted. Shaken by this incident, Farkeshwar decided to join struggles for justice. He was confident that the campaign’s demands would be accepted, because the government – he felt – is afraid of the people and needs their votes. He also said that some people, after listening to the yatris, asked whether they belonged to a political party and said that they wanted to vote for them.

Sometimes we would do a street play on a negotiation between the government and the public on PDS entitlements. The play was written by Bhagirath Das, another Dalit from Dhanbad, who also writes and sings songs on various social issues. When I asked him about the role of this creative work in the struggles he had been part of, he said that the public was bored of bhashans (speeches) and was more attracted to songs, plays and slogans. He felt that these were great means of communicating to others what social movements are trying to achieve.

On October 14 we reached Geddu Amba toli in the Angara block of Ranchi. In this village, people had mobilised last year to protest against the non-distribution of PDS rations in April and May. After a dharna at the Block office and other agitations, they had succeeded in forcing the administration to distribute the missing rations. This was an encouraging story, in a State where people generally feel so powerless to prevent corruption.

Jharkhand has expanded its Below Poverty Line (BPL) list to include more rural households in the PDS. All families among the (so-called) Primitive Tribal Groups have Antyodaya cards which entitle them to 35 kg of rice every month, free of cost. BPL cardholders also get monthly rations of 35 kg of rice, at one rupee per kg. A survey of the PDS conducted last year in Dumka and Ranchi districts found that actual purchases of PDS rice by BPL cardholders were around 70 per cent of the official entitlements. This was lower than in any other State covered by the same survey (except Bihar), but still represents an important step forward in a State where most of the PDS grain was diverted to the black market just a few years ago.

The yatris came from very diverse social backgrounds. Arif Ansari, 20, was assisting the driver in the bus we were travelling in. Soon after the yatra began, he took a liking for our songs, slogans and plays, and decided to join in. There was of course no looking back. Arif said that he didn’t have a ration card, but that after listening to so many people speaking about the need for everyone to have a ration card, he was hopeful that his family would be able to get one too.

Onward to Delhi

On October 16, a large convention on the right to food took place in Jamshedpur, where yatras from different States (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal) converged. The Bihar yatra had begun from Jalhe Bogia village in Gaya district, where, sometime in 2005, hunger forced people to exhume a dead goat and eat its meat. Yatris from Chhattisgarh recounted many complaints of hardship due to the diversion of land and water for industries. In West Bengal, the yatra played a crucial role in the State government’s decision to start distributing additional allocations of 5 kg of foodgrains a month to 5000 households in every district. Various speakers stressed that ensuring food security requires addressing related issues of food production, procurement, storage and distribution.

In all the States where yatras took place, people earnestly supported the campaign’s demand for abolishing the division between BPL and APL (Above Poverty Line) households, and for a universal PDS. They wanted not only cereals from the PDS, but also pulses and oil, which are crucial for good nutrition. The campaign’s demand for excess food stocks to be immediately distributed through the PDS also received overwhelming support.

It was most energising to be part of a gathering where people from different States (some of whom had travelled for more than two days to reach Jamshedpur) had come to share their struggles for the right to food. The participants also danced, sang songs and exchanged slogans in several languages. The convention ended with a resolve to intensify the movement for a comprehensive food security act and agitate in the capital during the winter session of Parliament. I look forward to meeting all these people again, this time in Delhi.

 

After 65 years of #Independence- ‘ YEH KAISI AZADI HAI”


At the stroke of midnight when the world sleeps, India awakes,

Yes! India has woken up to freedom, but for whom?

After 65 years of Independence, The poor have no kapda, roti, makaan so let them have cell phones. The UPA government is close to finalising a Rs 7,000 crore scheme to provide one mobile phone for every Below Poverty Line (BPL) household in the country. The scheme will be called ‘Har haath mein phone” (phone in every hand) and would give 200 minutes of free local talktime to the beneficiaries.

The Planning Commission SAYS  that anyone spending more than Rs 965 per month in urban India and Rs 781 in rural India will be deemed not to be poor. The  poverty line cut-off figures, are those spending in excess of Rs 32 a day in urban areas or Rs 26 a day in villages will no longer be eligible to draw benefits of central and state government welfare schemes meant for those living below the poverty line. For them  spending Rs 5.5 on cereals per day is good enough to keep people healthy. Similarly, a daily spend of Rs 1.02 on pulses, Rs 2.33 on milk and Rs 1.55 on edible oil should be enough to provide adequate nutrition and keep people above the poverty line without the need of subsidized rations from the government. Just  Rs 1.95 on vegetables a day would be adequate. A bit more, and one might end up outside the social security net.

People should be spending less than 44 paise on fruits, 70 paise on sugar, 78 paise on salt and spices and another Rs 1.51 on other foods per day to qualify for the BPL list and for subsidy under various government schemes. A person using more than Rs 3.75 per day on fuel to run the kitchen is doing well as per these figures. Forget about the fuel price hike and sky-rocketing rents, if anyone living in the city is spending over Rs 49.10 a month on rent and conveyance, he or she could miss out on the BPL tag.

As for healthcare,  Rs 39.70 per month is sufficient to stay healthy. On education, the plan panel feels those spending 99 paise a day or Rs 29.60 a month in cities are doing well enough not to need any help. Similarly, one could be considered not poor if he or she spends more than Rs 61.30 a month on clothing, Rs 9.6 on footwear and another Rs 28.80 on other personal items.

But THE FACT IS , around 400 million unorganised workers struggle to survive without any tangible right, though they substantially contribute to the national income. No employment regulation, no pension, no maternity benefits, no accident compensation, no provision to get even the minimum wages or health care. Instead, crumbs of social assistance schemes are thrown at them by the state as charity.

“Independence begins at the bottom . . . A society must be built where every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its own affairs . . . It will be trained and prepared to perish in the attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without . . . This does not exclude dependence on and willing help from neighbours or from the world. It will be a free and voluntary play of mutual forces. In this structure composed of innumerable villages, there will be ever-widening, never-ascending circles. Growth will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom, but it will be an oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual. Therefore the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle, but will give strength to all within and derive its own strength from it.”

Mahatma Gandhi believed that the overall impact of the state on the people is harmful. He called the state a “soulless machine” which, ultimately, does the greatest harm to mankind. It was for this that he developed the two-pronged strategy of resistance (to the state) and reconstruction (through voluntary and participatory social action). The dream of Swaraj remains unattained even 65 years after independence.

Ye Kaisi Aazadi Hai? asks Jagjit Singh, the acclaimed singer, joining the campaigners of Social Security Now, a network of trade unions, civil society organisations, peoples movements and concerned individuals fighting for securing Social Security Rights for the countless, voiceless unorganised workers. Written by renowned poet Nida Fazli, and filmed by Pravin Mishra, the song invites you to join in on the demand for Social Security as a Right for unorganised workers! The video  vividly articulates the frustrations of millions of marginalized Indians who find their dream of Swaraj slipping away. India’s tryst with destiny has now turned into India’s tryst with Nehru dynasty. India’s hope for Swaraj is sailing through rough waters.

This is your song. Please send the link to all the concerned Indians.

Freedom of Expression

The lyrics
यह कैसी आजादी है

चंद घराने छोड़ के भूखी नंगी आबादी है

जितना देस तुम्हारा है
उतना देस हमारा है
दलित, महिला, आदिवासी , सबने इसे सवांरा है

ऐसा क्यों है कहीं ख़ुशी है
और कहीं बर्बादी है

यह कैसी आजादी है….

अंधियारों से बहार निकलो
अपनी शक्ति जानो तुम
दया धरम की भीख न मांगो
हक्क अपना पहचानो तुम
अन्याय के आगे जो रुक जाये वह अपराधी है

यह कैसी आजादी है….

जिन हाथों में काम नहीं है
उन हाथों को काम भी दो
मजदूरी करने वालों को , मजदूरी का दाम भी दो
बूढ़े होते हाथों पों कप, जीने का आराम भी दो

दौलत का हर बंटवारे में, मेहनतकश का नाम भी दो
झूठों के दरबार में, अब तक सचाई फरयादी है

यह कैसी आजादी है
चंद घराने छोड़ के भूखी नंगी आबादी है

Translation in English

What sort of freedom is this ?
Besides handful of people, the whole nation is poor and starving

The nation belongs to me as much as it belongs to you
Dalits, women, tribal, all together have built the nation
Why is that, somewhere there is happiness
and elsewhere there is darkness

What sort of freedom is this ?

Get out of the darkness and realize your power
Do not ask for mercy, Recognize you own rights
Whoever stops in front of injustice is a criminal
What sort of freedom is this ?

The hands which do not work, need employment
Pay the laborers fair wages
Give social security to the elderly
Give full due contribution to laborers in distribution of wealth,
Truth is still begging for justice , in the court of liars

What sort of freedom is this ?
Besides handful of people, the whole nation is poor and starving

LETS MAKE THIS VIRAL, LETS MAKE THIS  OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM

Bihar: Private hospitals removing uterus and making money of the insurance scheme


 

RSBY logo

RSBY logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

30 JULY 2012

 

 

Bihar: It is reported that some of the private hospitals at Bihar is using Government’s insurance scheme provided for the people below the poverty line (BPL) and against the moral principles they earn money with or without the knowledge of the people.

The centre has launched the insurance scheme for the BPL during 2008 in the name of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yorjna (RSBY) with the aid of the state government to serve the BPL in healing the diseases. Under the scheme, the beneficiary has to pay a registration fee of Rs.30/-, and the state government will pay the premium. Under the scheme, the beneficiary will be covered for Rs.30,000/- and could take medical treatment in the approved hospitals under the scheme.

But, now a fraudulent medical business scheme has come to light where some of the private hospitals are performing unnecessary organ removal, mostly removing uterus for profit of the hospital and to pocket the insurance money.

It is reported that private hospitals in Bihar state has performed more than 15,000 hysterectomy (removal of uterus by surgery) in the last one year to earn the insurance amount of Rs.30,000/- allotted by the scheme.

The preliminary enquiries has shown that Samastipur district alone in the state, has performed around 15,000 hysterectomy surgeries on women in the last one year including uterus removal on unmarried girls below the age of 22.

Following the allegations, the Samatipur district magistrate Kundan Kumar has ordered a probe about the unnecessary hysterectomy including around 5,500 urgent surgeries carried out.

Six teams are being organized including doctors and the team will submit their report within 31 July.

“The probe will bring out the glaring anomalies in the execution of the scheme by private hospitals,” said, the District Magistrate.

”It is learnt that the private hospitals have claimed upto 12 crores under the scheme by the last one year and the in-depth probe will do the needful take necessary stern action against them on the basis of the inquiry.” he added.

It is also reported that many of the private hospitals has claimed insurance money without performing any operations at all.

“Door-to-Door” search and ultrasound tests will definitely reveal whether really the beneficiary had under gone the surgery – said Kumar.

The district administration of Samastipur has organized for camps during first week of August to enable the BPL families under the scheme to lodge complaints against erring hospitals.

A district official who visited the nursing homes under the scheme said that many of the nursing homes approved under the scheme do not have necessary facilities to perform surgeries.

“Nurising homes found guilty would be deleted from the approved list soon,” said Amrit Lal Meena, principle secretary of the state labour resources.

The RSBY scheme is suspected to have such wrong doings not only in Samastipur district, but also in the other states.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered the district magistrates and civil surgeons to inspect all eligible private nursing homes to investigate the scam and ensure whether they are equipped to provide proper healthcare to the poor.

 

 

 

Walking the Corporate Plunder Line- How to Beat Poverty in India


by P. SAINATH in Counterpunch

One Tendulkar makes the big scores. The other wrecks the averages. The Planning Commission clearly prefers Suresh to Sachin. Using Professor Tendulkar’s methodology, it declares that there’s been another massive fall in poverty. Yes, another (‘more dramatic in the rural areas’). “Record Fall in Poverty” reads one headline. The record is in how many times you’ve seen the same headline over the years. And how many times poverty has collapsed, only to bounce back when the math is done differently.

And so, a mere 29.9 per cent of India’s population is now below the official poverty line (BPL). The figure was 37.2 per cent in 2004-05. The ‘line’ is another story in itself, of course. But on surface, rural poverty has declined by eight percentage points to log in at 33.8 per cent. That’s down from 41.8 per cent in 2004-05. And urban poverty fell by 4.8 percentage points from 25.7  to 20.9 per cent in the same period.  Millions have been dragged above the poverty line, without knowing it.

Media amnesia fogs the  “lowest-ever” figures, though. These are not the ‘lowest-ever.’

“Kill me, I say,” said Prof. Madhu Dandavate  in 1996, chuckling. “I just doubled poverty in your country today.”  What that fine old gentleman had really done, as deputy chairperson of the Planning Commission,  was to jettison the bogus methodology peddled by that body before he came to head it the same year.  Even minor changes in methodology or poverty line can produce dramatically differing estimates.

The fraud he undid was “an exercise” bringing poverty down to 19 per cent in 1993-94. And that, from 25.5 per cent in 1987-88. These were the “preliminary results of a Planning Commission exercise based on National Sample Survey data.” (Economic & Political Weekly, Jan. 27, 1996).  Now if these figures were true, then poverty has risen ever since.  And remember, highlighting that historic fall was an honest Finance Minister. The never-tell-a-lie Dr. Manmohan Singh.

One business daily ran a hilarious ‘exclusive’ on this at the time. Poverty falls to record low of 19 per cent, ‘government officials say.’  This was the best news since independence. But the modest officials remained anonymous, knowing how stupid they’d look. In the present era, they hold press conferences to flaunt their fraud.

The “lowest ever at 19 per cent” fraud was buried  in the ruins of the April ’96 polls. So was the government of the day. The ‘estimate’ was not heard of again. Now we have the 29.9 per cent avatar. Surely that’s a rise of 10.9 percentage points in 16 years? Or just another methodological fiddle.

However, the new Planning Commission numbers have achieved one thing. They’ve  united most of Parliament on the issue. Members from all parties have blasted the ‘estimates’  and called for explanations.

There’s also the Tendulkar report’s own fiddles. As Dr. Madhura Swaminathan points out, the Committee dumped the calorie norms of “2100 kcal per day for urban areas and 2400 kcal for rural areas.” It switched to “a single norm of 1800 kcal per day.” And did so citing an “FAO norm.”  As Dr. Swaminathan observed: “the standards set by the Food and Agriculture Organisation for energy requirements are for “minimum dietary energy requirements” or MDER. That is,  “the amount of energy needed for light or sedentary activity.” And she cites an FAO example of such  activity. “…a male office worker in urban areas who only occasionally engages in physically demanding activities during or outside working hours.”

As Dr. Swaminathan asks: “Can we assume that a head load worker who carries heavy sacks through the day is engaged in light activity?” (The Hindu Feb. 5, 2010).

The media rarely mention that there are other methodologies for measuring  poverty on offer. Also set in motion by this same government. The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) saw BPL Indians as making up 77 per cent of the population. The N.C. Saxena-headed BPL Expert group placed it at around 50  per cent.  Like the Tendulkar Committee, these two were also set up by government.  While differing wildly, all three pegged rural poverty at a higher level than government did. Meanwhile, we will have many more committees on the same issue until one of them gives this government the report it wants. The one it can get away with. (The many inquiries on farm suicides exemplify this).

That the Planning Commission thought they could slip the present bunkum by sets a new benchmark for –  and marriage of  –  arrogance and incompetence.  First, they sparked outrage with their affidavit in the Supreme Court. There they defended a BPL cut-off line of Rs. 26 a day (rural) and Rs. 32 (urban).  Now they hope to get by with numbers of Rs. 22.42 a day (rural) and Rs. 28.35 a day (urban).

The same year the government and planning commission shot themselves in both feet in 1996, a leading Delhi think tank joined in. It came up with the ‘biggest ever study’ done on poverty in the country. This covered over 30,000 households and queried respondents across more than 300 parameters. So said its famous chief at a meeting in Bhopal.

This stunned the journalists in the audience. Till then, they had been doing what most journalists do at most seminars. Sleeping in a peaceful, non-confrontational manner. The veteran beside me came alive, startled. “Did he mean they asked those households over 300 questions? My God! Thirty years in this line and the biggest interview I ever did had nine. That was with my boss’s best friend. And my last question was ‘may I go now’?”  We did suggest to the famous economist that battered with 300 questions, his respondents were more likely to die of fatigue than of poverty. A senior aide of the think tank chief took the mike to explain why we were wrong. We sent two investigators to each household, he said. Which made sense, of course: one to hold the respondent down physically, twisting his arm, while the other asked him 300 questions.

Now to the queue of BPL, APL, IPL, et al, may I add my own modest contribution? This is the CPL,  or Corporate Plunder Line. This embraces the corporate world and other very well-off or  ‘high net worth individuals.’  We have no money for a universal PDS. Or  even for a shrunken food security bill. We’ve cut millions  from net spending on rural employment.  We lag horribly in human development indicators, hunger indexes and nutritional surveys. Food prices keep rising and decent jobs get fewer.

Yet, BPL numbers keep shrinking. The CPL numbers, however, keep expanding. The CPL concept is anchored in the “Statement of Revenue Foregone”  section of successive union budgets. Since 2005-06, for instance, the union government has written off vast sums  in corporate income tax, including in the present budget. The very one in which it slashes millions  from the MNREGS. Throw in concessions on customs and excise duties and the corporate waivers in this year’s budget soar up.

True, there are things covered in excise and customs that also affect larger sections, like fuel, for instance. But mostly, they benefit the corporate world and the very rich. In just this budget and the last one, we’ve written off millions for diamonds, gold and jewellery in customs duties. That sort of money buys a lot of food security. But CPL trumps BPL every time. The same is true of write-offs on things like machinery. In theory, there’s a lot that should benefit everybody: like the equipment hospitals import. In practice, most Indians will never enter the 5-star hospitals that cash in on these benefits.

The total write-off on these three heads in eight years since 2005-06: Half a trillion US dollars.

P. SAINATH is the rural affairs editor of The Hindu, where this piece appears, and is the author of Everybody Loves a Good Drought. He can be reached at: psainath@vsnl.com. 

Original Article here

Maharashtra Govt issues important GR related to mis-use of Ration card


The Govt of Mah. has issued a GR on 16th Jan 2012 stating ration cards can no longer be used during this election as identity card nor ration card will be used as resident proof any longer(in ration card this has already being mentioned).Ration card to be used only to get ration from ration shop(FPS).

Justice Wadhwa which has already recommended in its report to Mah.State on functions of Public distribution system(PDS) that ‘ration card’ should not be used for any other purpose except for drawing ration commodities. It should be de-linked from all other schemes connected with BPL identification done for this purpose. It should not be used be used as proof of residence or as an identity proof for any other purpose. This should be strictly implemented.

The Wadhwa Committee was informed about the large number of Bogus cards. In Jalna some drive for weeding out bogus card was done. In Aurangabad 70% of BPL cards were stated to be bogus and in Parbhani Activists informed that they found1638 bogus cards. Bogus/ ghost card is a big menace in the PDS which needs to be tackled effectively to ensure food security for the needy and to stop large scale diversion in PDS. The Committee during the visit to the State observed that number of bogus / ghost cards in the State are in abundance. The Committee is of the view that an Amnesty Scheme may be adopted for giving sufficient time to the public for surrendering the unauthorized ration cards on their own clarifying that any disclosure / surrender during the Amnesty Scheme period will not entail any punishment / penalty. However, if any bogus / unauthorized ration card is found in the possession of anybody after the Amnesty period, strict action as per Essential Commodities Act will be taken not only against the unauthorized ration card holders but also against the concerned officers of the Department found involved. Steps should also be taken to scrutinize ration cards issued to all the government officials and ensure that none possess Saffron APL. Strict penalty must be imposed on such officials who do not surrender their Saffron APL.

The Jus.Wadhwa Committee has found that one of the reasons affecting the viability of FPS is the unequal distribution of the ration cards. The exercise of rationalization of ration cards attached to each FPS should be undertaken at the earliest to bring about uniformity in the distribution of ration cards to respective Fair price shops (FPSs).

Distribution of foodgrain to the beneficiaries was found to be in a dismal condition, particularly in the Marathwada region. Most beneficiaries did not possess rations cards. At one village about 150 ration cards were found at the FPS. There were several villages where none of the beneficiaries possessed rations cards. In the Vidarbh region, though the situation was better in terms of distribution to beneficiaries, but there were glaring discrepancies in the manner in which foodgrain was being allocated and lifted from the godowns.

In many districts the ration cards had been issued more than 10 years ago and are in extremely poor and unusable conditions. This gives the FPS dealer an excuse to avoid making entries in the card. At many places the Committee found that the ration cards of the beneficiaries had been deposited at the Tehsil office for renewal but had not been issued to the beneficiaries for months. The beneficiaries are left without cards for months together and cannot claim their PDS entitlement. The drive to issue fresh ration cards should be accelerated. Issuance of ration cards should be strictly within the prescribed period. In case of delay the applicant be informed delay along with the reason for the delay.

The Ration Card GR