People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 21, 2007
Statewide Rallies Call For Further
Strengthening Of The Ration System
A rally in Siliguri in defence of Public Distribution System
FOR a week now, rallies are organised all over Bengal at the behest of the different units of the CPI(M) and the Left mass organisations on the rousing call for a strengthening as opposed to the attempted decimation of the system of rationing. The rallies called for punishing the few corrupt ration dealers (perhaps less than 5 per cent of the total number of such men and women).
The people have also demonstrated clearly their deep and burgeoning fury at the planned attack on the public distribution system and the foray at causing anarchy to raise its ugly head on a sensitive issue concerning essential commodities.
The towns and villages of the affected districts in particular have witnessed rallies and marches. Nalhati in Birbhum saw marches and rallies by tens of thousands of people throughout the past week as did Rampurhat, Mallarpur, and adjacent rural areas. Addressing the rallies and leading the marchers were the comrades of the district secretariat of the Birbhum unit of the CPI(M), including Dilip Ganguly the secretary. A large protest rally was held at the Sitala village where Trinamul Congress, Pradesh Congress, and Maoists had forced a ration dealer to commit suicide in front of his family who pleaded for mercy.
The Jaipur block in adjacent district of Bankura saw similar rallies and marches. Largest of the rallies were held at Moynapore and Shyamnagar where planned attackers had pounced on ration shops and on hapless ration dealers, looting and pillaging. Strong deputations were made at the offices of the food department, block development secretariat, and the local police stations, lodging protests against the attacks on the public distribution system and on the score of misinforming people about a purported shortage of essential commodities in the ration shops.
In south 24 Parganas the local units of the CPI(M) organised rallies in demand of keeping the ration system going strongly as before. The supply of essential commodities must be made more coordinated and prompt. The distribution of ‘blue dyed’ unadulterated kerosene oil available in the ration shops has always been in great demand, in this district as elsewhere in Bengal. The CPI(M) units have insisted in their deputation to the administration that the earlier regularity in the distribution of kerosene oil (one litre per head) should be reinstituted as quickly as possible.
The south 24 Parganas unit secretary of the CPI(M) Santimoy Bhattacharya reports that such deputations have been presented before administrative offices of the district at places like Kultali, Mathurapur-1, Canning, as well as Gosaba, Basanti, Kakdwip, Sagar, Namkhana, and Patharpratima deep into the Sunderbans area. Mass conventions have been held at Nadia, Jalpaiguri, Murshidabad, and Maldah districts.
ROLE OF THE UPA GOVT
In a signed front page article in the daily organ of the Bengal CPI(M), Ganashakti, state secretary of the Bengal unit Biman Basu has written at some detail explaining the ills that plague the ration system all over the country. He also dealt on the role of the incumbent Congress-led UPA government in the entire sad episode of giving handle indirectly or otherwise, to anti-socials in the pay of the Bengal opposition, in disrupting the public distribution programme itself, and causing panic amongst the people of the state through a persistent lie campaign.
It is a well-known fact that Bengal is one of the very few instances where the public distribution system flourished under the aegis of the Left Front government over the past three decades. That the attack on the ration offices and on ration dealers in general should be organised by the scions of the opposition and the goons in their pay is hardly in need of any explanation.
He said the ongoing mass initiative in defence of public distribution system is greatly needed to keep the mass distribution system of essential commodities going. Biman Basu has sharply attacked the clear unwillingness of the Congress-run UPA government in Delhi to conform to the more popular aspects of the Common Minimum Programme or CMP. He says that included in the union government’s dislike is the call for augmentation and proper running of the PDS all over the country. Bengal under Left Front governance has fought off the attenuating supply of ration shop commodities from the central allocation and has bravely kept the ration system going, despite this severe handicap.
Biman Basu has cited statistics to delineate the picture as it exists in the ration system. For some time now, the union government has cut down and drastically, the allocation of wheat for those above the poverty level (APL) from just over 1,02,000 metric tonnes (MT) to just 49,000 MT. The per head wheat allocation has come down to 250 grams.
Similarly, in rice, another staple cereal, the central allocation has been reduced from just under 2,30,000 MT to a whisker over 7000 MT. The percentages in wheat and rice currently represent 3.36 per cent of the average offtake. The union government has also apportioned a price differential on the kisans. Foreign firms are allowed to enjoy a commissioned price of Rs 1600 per quintal in wheat with the Indian kisan having to languish at Rs 850 per quintal. The union government has also ignored the repeated exhortations made by the Bengal LF government to increase the quota for kerosene oil.
The squeezing out of the supply line has certainly been made use of by the Bengal opposition. Wild rumours about a widespread hoarding and black-marketing by ration shop owners have been assiduously spread, a willing and anti-communist media ready to oblige to help propagation of the vilest of untruths. Alongside the burgeoning mass movement against all attempts at disruption of the public distribution system, a seven-point programme has been devised by CPI(M) to keep the rationing system going strong.
Ration cards are personal possessions and must not be transferred
Ration shops and offices must display the quantum of essential commodities in stock every day and the Panchayat bodies kept informed
Per head apportionment of rationed goods under the various projects like APL, BPL, Annapurna, Antyodaya, and Annayojana etc must be clearly displayed and propagated
A strong campaign movement must be launched all over the state against the union government’s anti-people step in the planned reduction of the supply of rationed commodities to Bengal
The campaign-movement must also highlight the discrimination from which the kisans suffer because of differentiated procurement prices
Every effort shall be made to keep the ration system going and to strengthen it wherever needed
Ration goods dealers must ensure 100 per cent supply of essential commodities
LOOTED GOODS RETURNED
A welcome development recently has been the streaming in of people to return the looted goods and this happened in an increasing number of districts where such looting had taken place. The people have also brought in the criminals who perpetrated the evil deeds including inducing and forcing ration shop owners to commit suicide. As the days go by and the state enters into the festival season, the attackers have made to become isolated and the people are no longer willing to tolerate the attacks made on the ration system by clutches of motivated anti-socials egged on by the worthies of the Bengal opposition and the media.