Despite the West Bengal Government announced last week the provision of subsidized wheat and rice for the poor (maximum five kilos per month) till September, people are raising complaints about non-availability of grains from their local ration shops.
By Ritam Chatterjee
When Swapan Mukherjee, a ration-card holder from Nadia district, went to the local ration shop on Saturday morning, he had to return home empty-handed as there was no stock left.
“We have been sending complaints to the local Panchayat office against our area’s ration dealer for years now. The way he (the dealer) behaves with us while giving the food grains sometimes becomes intolerable,” Mukherjee told Newsnet.
Two weeks ago, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the state government is going to provide free rice and wheat through ration shops and the relief package will directly benefit about 7.85 crore people from the state.
Swarajit Modak, a Below Poverty Line(BPL) ration cardholder hailing from the same locality confirmed that he also is a victim of the same ration shop.
“In times of crisis like these,, if we don’t get food grains, and if there is a lack of cooperation between the poor and the ration dealer, how do we survive?” asked Modak.
Meanwhile, there are five divisions among the beneficiaries under the Rajya Khadya Suraksha Yojana scheme (RKSY) which coordinates with the National Food Security Act, 2013 in West Bengal. These are: Antadaya Anya Yojana (AAY), State Priority House Holds (SPHH), Priority House Holds (PHH), Rajya Khadya Suraksha Yojana – 1 (RKSY – 1) and RKSY – 2. Below Poverty Line cardholders are supposed to get free ration under the AAY scheme.
Out of my limited resources, I am contributing Rs. 5 lakhs to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund & another Rs. 5 lakhs to the West Bengal State Emergency Relief Fund in an attempt to support our country’s efforts in fighting the COVID-19. (2/2)— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) March 31, 2020
Nirmal Karmakar, the Panchayat head of the Raghunathpur Hijuli – 1 Gram Panchayat confirmed receiving several complaints from the villagers since last week. “Just because he is a 30-year veteran ration dealer, I personally went to his house to discuss the problem raised. He promised me it will never happen again,” said Karmakar.
However, when Newsnet tried to contact Mr. Prasanta Biswas, the local ration dealer, he refused to speak about this matter.
Last week, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Sourav Ganguly vowed to distribute rice worth Rs. 50 lakh in government and corporation schools, sheltering and feeding poor people.
Ratan Kumar Chatterjee, a former Panchayat head from Nadia district was distressed about the situation at this point of time. “While, the state government has promised to provide free ration for around eight crore people in West Bengal, the only contribution the ration dealers have to make is to act as a medium between the government and the needy.”
Shouro Dasgupta, a researcher at Fondazione CMCC and EIEE, was appalled to learn about the case of self serving ration dealers in the wake of a pandemic like this. Mr Dasgupta had also heard a case of ration dealers supplying people with old and expired products. “I think the state government should look into this matter carefully and take legal action against them before everything goes out of our hands,” he said.