Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Outlook India
Patna: Thousands of people, mostly those from the poorer sections of society, are yet to get free ration in Bihar, exactly a month after the state’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced for it after the lockdown was imposed in the state. Those who were lucky enough to receive free food grains are unhappy over its poor quality and angry over the lesser quantity.
Angry over irregularities in the distribution of rations by PDS dealers during the lockdown, those with ration cards have been staging protests, complaining and demanding for action by the authorities. In the last 48 hours, protests happened at over a dozen places in Bihar.
Hundreds of people from Murlipur village in Govindpur panchayat in Begusarai district blocked National Highway 28 on Thursday to protest against irregularities in distribution of food grains to them by local PDS dealer. Ignoring restrictions owing to the lockdown, men and women, mostly the poorest of the poor, who have been hit hard by the lockdown, sat on the road along with the meagre quantities of food grains they managed to get from the PDS.
They shouted slogans and alleged that PDS dealers have been giving out lesser food grains and refusing to give appropriate rations according to the number of families on a ration card. “Our local PDS dealer Punita Devi of Bhuthri village is giving us 40 kilograms of food grains in place of 50 kgs, as per guidelines issued by the state government,” said Suresh Prasad, a villager, who, along with other protesters, sat at new Murli Toll Chowk. As a result, traffic at NH 28 was at standstill for over two hours.
Another villager, Minti Devi, said their PDS dealer was giving them food grains for 8 persons as opposed to the 11 persons mentioned on the ration card. “When we objected, the PDS dealer abused and misbehaved with us,” she alleged.
Local police have tried to persuade the villagers to end the protest.
On Wednesday, hundreds of people staged a protest at Jakkanpur in Patna demanding free food grains from local ward members, as they were yet to receive it from the local PDS.
A similar incident happened at Kaudiya Raipur panchayat under Nanpur block in Sitamarhi district on Tuesday, where hundreds of poor ration card holders protested by blocking a road and demanded action against local PDS dealers for taking Rs 5 more per unit than the fixed rate and giving our lesser food grains than they were entitled to.
There are similar reports from over a dozen districts including Aurangabad, Gaya, Jehanabad, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Bhagalpur, West Champaran, Samastipur and Vaishali. In all these districts, ration card holders have staged protests against irregularities in distribution, with women taking the lead in many places.
At Govindpur village under Phulwari Sharif in Patna, dozens of women protested on Tuesday when they did not receive food grains on the grounds that they do not have a ration card. They have demanded for rations citing the announcement by the state government that food grains would be given to all those without ration cards too.
A similar protest was reported from Akbarpur in Nawada district, where Dalit women staged protests after being denied on similar grounds.
As per reports in Hindi dailies, there were several protests against poor quality rice and wheat distributed by the PDS.
On March 23, a day after he announced a lockdown in Bihar, CM Nitish Kumar announced that the government would provide free food grains to all ration card holders courtesy PDS shops. This was big news for likely beneficiaries of the relief package. However, after ration distribution began on April 11, it was slow, coming as a hit to the poor who were already facing hardships with no source of livelihood due to the lockdown.
Later, the CM said that the government had decided to provide free food grains to all those people without ration cards.
Taking serious note of irregularities in food grain distribution and black marketing by PDS during the ongoing lockdown, the Bihar government has cancelled licences of 36 PDS dealers, lodged FIRs against 144 PDS dealers and suspended dealerships of 127 persons while 45 were served show-cause notices.
The Food and Consumer Protection department has found that 267 PDS dealers were involved in irregularities in food grain distribution during raids conducted over the last few days.
As per the government’s announcement, all ration card holders will be provided free food grains including 5 kg rice and 1 kg pulses for the next three months in view of the lockdown. There are about 1.68 crore ration card holders in Bihar.