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Puducherry: ‘No Cash Transfer, No Subsidised Rice’ -Govt.

Sruti MD |
BJP’s election promise included mobile ration shops and converting ration shops into supermarkets. More than a year into the tenure, even existing schemes are withdrawn.
CPI(M) protested to open PDS shops. Image courtesy: CPI(M), Puducherry

CPI(M) protested to open PDS shops. Image courtesy: CPI(M), Puducherry

Puducherry: The Public Distribution System (PDS) shops have been shut in the Union Territory (UT) of Puducherry since 2019. This was following the then Lieutenant Governor of the UT, Kiran Bedi implementing the cash-in-lieu-of-ration scheme despite opposition from the Narayanasamy-led Congress government.

Red Card-holding families (Below Poverty Line) were assured Rs 600 per month in lieu of 20 kg of rice and Yellow Card holders were promised Rs 300 in lieu of 10 kg of rice.

However, the Communist parties and Congress have accused the state of not even transferring cash in the past 15 months. They allege that the unpaid cash has added up to Rs 9,000 for every Red Card holding family and Rs 4,500 for Yellow Card holders.

Shutting down ration shops and the withdrawal of cash transfers has severely affected the poor, unorganised sector workers and families without a stable income. They were dependent on the subsidised rice distributed through the PDS ration shops.

CPI(M) PROTEST

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) held a protest on August 2 demanding the Puducherry state open all ration shops and provide essential commodities including free good-quality rice and subsidised pulses.

A rally followed by a sit-in protest was held in front of the Puducherry headquarters. More than 300 people participated in the gathering along with the former Chief Minister of Puducherry, Narayanasamy. The protest call was given after a delegation of the CPI(M) met Chief Minister Rangasamy of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-NR Congress coalition where he allegedly denied continuing with the cash transfers.

Notably, the All India NR Congress of the National Democratic Alliance promised to re-open the shut ration shops if voted to power in the 2021 assembly election.

Speaking at the protest, CPI(M) Politburo member G Ramakrishnan pointed out “Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who visited Puducherry during the assembly election campaign, announced that they will open mobile ration shops if voted to power”. 

He also said, “on Republic Day this year Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan said that they will convert ration shops into supermarkets. But their promises have vanished into thin air”.

NO CASH, NO RICE

In 2015 when the BJP was in power at the centre and N R Congress was in power in Puducherry, the then state CM Rangasamy implemented a direct cash disbursement scheme to replace the existing free rice scheme. After protests from people and the Communist parties, it was withdrawn.

However, three years ago, Kiran Bedi- the governor during the Narayanasamy-led Congress regime, implemented the cash-in-lieu-of-ration scheme despite opposition from the state government.

Since the last election of 2021, when the BJP-NR Congress alliance came to power, the money transfer has also been stalled.

Rally demanding reopening of PDS shops. Image courtesy: CPI(M) Puducherry

Rally demanding reopening of PDS shops. Image courtesy: CPI(M) Puducherry

Perumal, a senior leader of CPI(M), Puducherry told NewsClick, “since the cash for rice scheme was proposed in 2015, the CPI(M) has outrightly opposed it. There are lots of livelihood issues in Puducherry, but this one is very important. In the recent, all-party meeting, all the political parties present - including the DMK, Congress, CPI and others - stressed the importance of this issue”.

“In the COVID-19 pandemic period, informal workers and poor families have lost their livelihoods and the marginalised are without income. Even in such a dire situation, the ruling government is refusing to provide free rice, subsidies and cash,” observed Perumal.

“Tens of thousands of families in Puducherry have fallen into poverty in the last 15 years. Due to the increase in the prices of essential commodities, the poor in the state could not meet their food needs. Their children suffer from malnutrition,” Ramakrishnan told NewsClick.

Moreover, the CPI(M) has accused the state of doling out Red Cards for small businessmen in times of crisis, but not to those in need. Even tribal families are not being issued Red cards.

The population of Puducherry state is 15 lakh. Total ration cards issued there are 3.52 lakh. Of these, 1.6 lakh are Red Cards and 1.66 are Yellow Cards. There are a total of 515 ration shops in Puducherry state that remain shut.

The UT of Puducherry includes Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam.

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