Patna: Millions of those from the poorer sections of society in Bihar are likely to be provided with pulses, nearly nearly one and half months after both the Central Government and the State Government announced the same after the lockdown began in March.
On Friday, an official of the Food and Consumer Protection department said that about 1.68 crore ration card holders in Bihar will get free pulses after the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED) sent supplies for distribution.
“NAFED has supplied the much-awaited pulses to the Bihar State Food Corporation for free distribution among ration card holders. The department has instructed all the concerned district officials to start distribution of free pulses to ration card holders by PDS dealers,” the official said.
According to officials, the Bihar State Food Corporation has received a supply of 17,000 tonnes of pulses from NAFED. As of now, the economically disadvantaged sections have only got free rice. PDS dealers had told ration card holders to wait for distribution of free pulses since they had not received supplies.
On March 23, a day after he announced a lockdown in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced that the government would provide free food grains to all ration card holders through PDS shops. It was big news for likely beneficiaries of the relief package.
Following the CM’s announcement, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on March 26, announced that there would be free distribution of 5 kgs of food grains per person and one kg of pulses per household under the Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana for the next three months (April to June). It would be distributed to beneficiaries covered under National Food Security Act (NFSA) in view of the lockdown.
However, after free ration distribution began in Bihar on April 11, it was criticised for being slow, and much to the surprise of the poor, who were already facing hardships with no source of livelihood due to the lockdown, the pulses that were promised were missing.
“My local PDS dealer informed me that only rice will be given to us, in line with the supply from the government and that pulses would be distributed later,” said Nizam Ansari, a ration-card holder from Phulwari Sharif in Patna.
However, thousands of those who received free food grains are unhappy due to its poor quality and lesser quantity. Angry over irregularities in the distribution of ration by PDS dealers during the lockdown, ration card holders have staged protests, complaining and demanding for action by the authorities. Over the last four days, protests took place in over two dozen districts in Bihar.
At most of these places, ration card holders protested against irregularities in distribution of rations.They alleged that PDS dealers have been giving out lesser food grains and refusing to give them appropriate ration according to the number of families on ration cards.
In April, similar protests were reported from over a dozen districts including Aurangabad, Gaya, Jehanabad, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Bhagalpur, West Champaran, Samastipur and Vaishali. Women took the lead in many of the protests against irregularities in distribution.
Taking serious note of the irregularities in food grain distribution and black marketing by PDS dealers during the ongoing lockdown, the Bihar government has cancelled the licences of 54 PDS dealers, lodged FIRs against 167, ordered inquiries into 417 dealers and more than 70 PDS dealers were served show-cause notices.
The Food and Consumer Protection department found that nearly 700 PDS dealers were involved in irregularities in food grain distribution during raids conducted over the last few days.