Dilemma for paddy farm­ers too

Down to Earth - - FOOD SECURITY -

Cor­rup­tion amidst con­fu­sion

At Tirkela vil­lage, fair price shop owner Nar­mada Yadav refers to a list from Au­gust while hand­ing out food­grains. He does not have an up­dated list. Ac­cord­ing to Praikra of the non-profit Chau­pal, ra­tion cards of 16 fam­i­lies in the vil­lage were can­celled dur­ing ver­i­fi­ca­tion. While the survey in ur­ban ar­eas was con­ducted by food in­spec­tors, in ru­ral ar­eas it was the pan­chayat sec­re­tary and a gov­ern­ment school teacher. Praikra says any decision to can­cel ra­tion card has to be taken up in the gram sabha (vil­lage coun­cil). “Un­der Ch­hat­tis­garh’s Food Se­cu­rity Act, ev­ery vil­lage is sup­posed to have a mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee for pds. But th­ese pro­ce­dures were hardly fol­lowed dur­ing the ver­i­fi­ca­tion drive,” he adds.

When this cor­re­spon­dent asked the pan­chayat sec­re­tary, Lakhan Singh, on why so many ra­tion cards were can­celled, he did not ex­plain the logic. “We have con­ducted ver­i­fi­ca­tion ac­cord­ing to the rules laid down by the gov­ern­ment.No out­sider has any business to ques­tion our decision,” he replied. On the other hand, Gopal Tirkey, the school teacher in­volved in the drive, ad­mits that the ra­tion cards were can­celled in an un­fair man­ner.

Vil­lage res­i­dents are protest­ing. They have ac­cused Lakhan Singh of hid­ing de­tails about his own fam­ily. “His mother has a sep­a­rate bpl card while he holds the po­si­tion of the pan­chayat sec­re­tary. Even his mother’s card should be can­celled,” says sarpanch Hardeo Tirkey.

The gov­ern­ment, mean­while, is un­clear on the sta­tus of the ra­tion cards that have been re­called and is un­der the im­pres­sion that ben­e­fi­cia­ries are still avail­ing sub­sidised food­grains. “Since ev­ery fair price shop dealer gets a list of the ben­e­fi­ciary al­lot­ted to him, he looks at the list, keeps a record and gives food­grains,” says a gov­ern­ment food in­spec­tor.

Con­trary to what the gov­ern­ment be­lieves, some pds deal­ers have used the op­por­tu­nity to hoard food­grains. While the ra­tion cards of 16 fam­i­lies in Tirkela were re­called, their names ap­peared in the list avail­able with Yadav, the sole fair price shop owner in the area. Th­ese fam­i­lies have ac­cused Yadav of pil­fer­ing their share

"The state gov­ern­ment re­ceived many com­plaints about bo­gus ra­tion cards. There was a sud­den surge in the num­ber of BPL house­holds, bring­ing down all in­di­ca­tors of growth. There­fore, we felt the need to ver­ify it" PDS "The decision to can­cel a ra­tion card must be taken up in the vil­lage coun­cil. Un­der the State Food Se­cu­rity Act, ev­ery vil­lage must have a mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee for PDS. But this pro­ce­dure was not fol­lowed dur­ing the ver­i­fi­ca­tion drive"

of ra­tion and have also writ­ten to the food in­spec­tor to can­cel his li­cence. They al­lege that Yadav re­fuses to show the list on the ba­sis of which he has been sell­ing sub­sidised food­grains. Rice be­ing a sta­ple in Ch­hat­tis­garh, the mess in pds has also af­fected paddy farm­ers. At the same time when the gov­ern­ment was con­duct­ing ver­i­fi­ca­tion of ra­tion cards, the Cen­tre put a cap of 1.6 mil­lion tonnes on paddy pro­cure­ment from the state, caus­ing un­rest among 1.1 mil­lion farm­ers who de­pend on paddy cul­ti­va­tion.In or­der to have a good sup­ply of rice, the state gov­ern­ment fixed the min­i­mum support price (msp) at 300 per quintal, much higher than the

` msp of any of the neigh­bour­ing states. This worked well for pds but the Cen­tre’s with­drawal of the bonus in Au­gust put an ad­di­tional bur­den of 7,000 crore on the state’s

` bud­get.The Cen­tre also de­clared that it will only buy paddy for the na­tional pds pool, in­di­cat­ing that the state has to pro­cure paddy on its own. Re­cently, the state gov­ern­ment post­poned the date of pro­cure­ment of paddy from Novem­ber 1 to De­cem­ber 1. This fur­ther ag­i­tated the farm­ers as they now have to look for al­ter­na­tives to store the har­vested paddy.

Ac­cord­ing to Samir Garg, mem­ber of the Supreme Court Com­mit­tee on Food, with mu­nic­i­pal and pan­chayat polls in the state slated for De­cem­ber-Jan­uary 2015,the Ra­man Singh ad­min­is­tra­tion is in a dilemma on how to right the wrongs in the state’s pds. “We do not be­lieve 1.3 mil­lion ra­tion cards were bo­gus. Also, for paddy pro­cure­ment, only 1.1 mil­lion farm­ers con­trib­ute to pds, while there are 4.2 mil­lion farm­ers in the state. Giv­ing a sub­sidy of 300

` per quintal to one-third of the farm­ers in the state while de­priv­ing 1.3 mil­lion ben­e­fi­cia­ries from se­cur­ing es­sen­tial food­grains is not a ju­di­cious decision,” says Garg.

With lo­cal elec­tions round the cor­ner and de­mands from the Op­po­si­tion to not bow down be­fore the Cen­tre and to keep procur­ing paddy, the real test for Ch­hat­tis­garh’s pds be­gins now. The state gov­ern­ment seems to be buck­ling un­der pres­sure. It has not wel­comed a new pro­posal to in­clude edi­ble oil among the es­sen­tial com­modi­ties given un­der pds, Garg says. Can the gov­ern­ment re­store the lost sheen to a food se­cu­rity mech­a­nism that was once cited as a model for oth­ers?

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