People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 41

October 11, 2009

ORISSA

AIDWA Protests Devastating Food Security

 

Tapasi Praharaj 

 

SABITA Tarai of village Ramakrushnapur, aged about 65 years, a widow, has no land either homestead, or cultivable.  She used to perform household jobs of some families of the village and lives hand to mouth. This fact is known to every body of the village but she does not have a BPL card in her name. 

 

This is a revelation that came out from the survey made by Orissa state committee of the All India Democratic Women’s Association.

 

The state committee of AIDWA made a survey on the status of public distribution system in the state.  They prepared a questionnaire that contains name, name of the head of the family, address, panchayat, type of PDS card, card holding status and queries about item, quantity, price of the item the card holder avails.  The questionnaire also contained queries like whether the price list is displayed, how many days the distribution counter opens in a month, whether the card holder is allowed to avail stipulated quantity in instalments etc.  The questionnaire also provided a space for opinion of the beneficiary. 

 

Keeping the organisational strength in mind, the state committee decided to do the survey in 71 panchayats and 14 municipality wards in various areas. The survey was conducted in the second half of August 2009. About 9000 survey forms reached the state office by 5 September and the state committee prepared a concise report and decided to go for a law-breaking movement at the state capital on 22 September. 

 

SPONTANIOUS

RESPONSE

When this survey was being done by the educated AIDWA cadres, the news spread to nearby villages. In some places ruling party agents tried to obstruct, but our cadres foiled their conspiracy. In some villages where AIDWA had no cadre, some educated girls came forward, made the photo copy of the format, held the survey and deposited the forms with the AIDWA leaders.  Village women were rushing spontaneously to fill up the form.  No doubt some people were under the impression that this will help them to get a card. The cadres gave a  clarification to them and impressed upon them the need of a mass movement for food security. 

 

SURVEY RESULT

AND ANALYSIS

The survey results reflect that since 1997, when the BPL concept came into being, no new card has been issued. The existing cards were divided into APL and BPL. Those who are really eligible are not given BPL cards. Some well to do families having political influence posses BPL cards.  The government made a survey in the year 2002, but no new cards were issued to eligible families. On the other hand, the APL cards are vanishing. In fact, even if a APL card holder approaches the PDS counter, the distributor replies “Your name does not reflect in the list provided by the government”.  

The card holders get only rice and kerosene from the ration shop. They do not get any other item. In some urban pockets, the APL card holder gets wheat but in rural areas it is denied. The scheme says the distributor should provide all the days in the month and the beneficiary can avail as per his suitability and availability of funds. The state government has made a policy that in order to facilitate a fair distribution of Rs 2 per Kg rice, the distribution is to be made in eight days every month.  Making that as a plea, the distributors are opening their counter only three to four days in a month. In many areas, the chart of quantity and price in different schemes is not displayed. The beneficiary is not allowed to avail in installment. Because of this, in case a cardholder does not have necessary funds at a time, he is forced to avail less quantity than he is eligible for. 

 

So far kerosene is concerned, the quantum is fixed as per 1991 census.  With an increase in the strength of the family over a period, the  needs also increase, but the  distributor provides less than the eligible amount with a plea of unavailability of kerosene. It is also observed that  where there is mass movement, the distributor provides appropriate quantum.

 

THE ROLE

OF MIDDLE MAN

Under these circumstances, many beneficiaries do not avail full quantity of any item. It is grabbed by the free- market businessmen.  Besides that, it is observed that the poor people although having BPL card do not have the purchasing capacity of full quantity of all items. The unscrupulous businessmen having political support behind them by the ruling party engage middleman to collect those cards paying 100 to 150 rupees per month to them. With this they grab the lion’s share of the PDS material. There is no vigilance on the part of the state government to check this. 

 

LAW BREAKING

MOVEMENT

As per the decision of the state committee, on 22 September, AIDWA organised  a huge gathering in  Bhubaneswar.  Thousands of women from nook and corner of the state came out in a colorful procession from Bhubaneswar railway station, marching towards state secretariat. State police obstructed at PMG square. A delegation comprising Tapasi Praharaj, state president,  Puspa Das, state secretary, Surajita Nayak, Charulata Mohapatra, Sandhya Mazumdar, Renuka Mohanty, Kabita Nayak and Nayana Nayak was allowed to meet the food secretary.

 

The delegation handed over a memorandum to the secretary and proposed to add some more essential commodities citing the examples of bordering states like West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh where when market price is rising in a sky rocketing manner, the government supplies potato, onion, dal (pulses) and edible oil at subsidised rate. Orissa government must come forward in the same manner to halt the starvation due to high market price and must take necessary measures to curb the price rise. 

 

The food secretary expressed the inability of the government to do this but assured to see that the present scheme is run in a proper manner. 

 

The rally culminated in a mass meeting presided by Tapasi Praharaj. Along with other office bearers of the state and central leadership of AIDWA, Sudha Sundaraman general secretary, Shyamali Gupta, working president and Chandra Kala Pandey were on the dias. Sudha Sudaraman in her rousing speech said that the government is dividing the poor backward people again by classifying them under BPL, Antyodaya and Annapurna schemes. The food security bill proposed to reduce the quantity of rice from 35 kilograms to 25 kilograms and abolish supply of wheat and sugar from PDS. This year due to lack of rain in appropriate time, drought devastated the paddy cultivation in many areas. This will create a food crisis in rural areas. Neither the state government nor the central government is making preparations to meet the situation. Only an organised women’s movement can awake them. 

 

Working President Shyamali Gupta emphasised that UPA -II government’s 100 days in office failed to protect the common people. The central government is highly responsible for this price rise and its utter failure to control the situation will be rightly protested by the organised women’s movement. She called upon the state BJD government to shoulder some responsibility to save the poor people from hunger.  

 

State Secretary Puspa Das called upon the rank and file to organise district and block level movement to achieve food security for common masses.