Ranchi: As a death allegedly from hunger has been reported from Garhwa district, Right To Food Campaign’s Jharkhand chapter has expressed grave concern on the steps Jharkhand government has taken so far to make ration available to the needy and poor of the state during the lockdown.
Jharkhand is the state, which had witnessed 26 starvation deaths between 2017 to December 2019. Activists who are working for the welfare of the poor believe that the ongoing 21-day lockdown can again create situation leading to starvation for a large number of poor in Jharkhand.
The press communiqué issued by RTF mentioned, “The government of Jharkhand has announced, as part of its relief measures, that eligible households left out of the public distribution system (PDS) would receive 10 kg of foodgrain if they have applied for a ration card. An impression has been created that this would be 10 kg per month. In fact, none of this is happening.”
It further writes, “Instead, mukhiyas (gram panchayat heads) have been instructed to give 10 kg of food grain to needy households from their contingency fund of Rs 10,000. This contingency fund existed earlier – it cannot be counted as a relief measure. Further, this fund is far too small to provide even a one-off ration of 10 kg to the 7 lakh excluded households who have applied for a ration card. No provision has been made for integrating excluded households into the PDS during this crisis.”
The camping wanted to implement the work the way National Food Security Act described.
“The right to food campaign (Jharkhand) calls on the Jharkhand government to cover all the households under PDS, and provide regular monthly rations at NFSA levels. The government should also take extensive measures to strengthen the public distribution system in this time of crisis.”
And it also alarmed the government that their preparation and support to the needy should be for six months, “The crisis is likely to last for months, even if the lockdown ends soon. During this period, millions of households will depend on government support (especially the PDS and cash transfers) for their survival. In this situation, it is extremely important to ensure that the PDS functions well and covers all vulnerable households. Unfortunately, the government of Jharkhand has done little so far beyond routine measures.”
The RTF made immediate demands from Hemant Soren government, “Aside from covering excluded households, many other PDS-related measures are urgently required, such as:
• Active steps should be taken to implement the central government’s commitment to double PDS rations for the next three months. So far, no orders have been issued to that effect. This month (April), dealers have been instructed to distribute double rations, but as of now this consists of advance rations for April and May, not double rations. Even advance rations are not being distributed this month in many places.
• Urgent measures are required to ensure that the PDS functions well. For instance, public employees (and even police personnel, if necessary, in some areas) should be instructed to supervise distribution at ration shops so that there is no cheating.
• Special grievance-redressal facilities should be put in place so that complaints are addressed swiftly and strict action is taken against corrupt dealers and government officials. Grievance redressal agencies should include agencies independent of the food department.”
“Looking beyond the PDS, the government of Jharkhand should explicitly commit itself to a comprehensive relief package, not just for the lockdown period but the next six months at the very least. At the moment, it is acting as if the crisis were going to end with the lockdown,” it said and added, “The token measures spelt out by the Chief Minister yesterday, in his letter (attached) addressed to elected representatives and Deputy Commissioners, do not serve the purpose at all.”