Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Business Standard
Left parties and civil society organisations are demanding the Jharkhand state government to immediately ensure food supply distribution to all families whose ration card applications are still pending during the ongoing lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to government estimates, while 24 lakh below poverty line (BPL) families in the state are covered in the public distribution system (PDS) with eligible ration cards, about 11 lakh ration card applications are still under process.
Activists allege that instances of corruption among dealers who are tasked with facilitating the food distribution through PDS is leading the poorer sections in remote tribal villages of the state to starve.
Chief Minister Hemant Soren had called for an all party meeting on Friday, April 10 asking for recommendations in handling the lockdown and for containment of the virus. In the meeting, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) put forward a set of demands before the state government such as food supply to all households (with or without ration cards), direct money transfer to construction workers from their welfare funds and ensuring the safety of students and workers from the state who are stranded in different parts of the country due to the lockdown.
Speaking to NewsClick, Prakash Biplab, CPI(M) state secretariat member, said, “Lakhs of families in rural Jharkhand are deprived of food supply due to lack of ration cards. While demanding the CM to ensure all poor households in the state are covered in the PDS system, we have highlighted the issue of supplying pulses and oil along with the promised rice during the crisis.”
As part of its relief measures, the state government has begun free distribution of 10 kg food grains per person to eligible households under PDS. However, grassroots activists allege that even the food grains distribution to cardholders is not being done in many villages mainly due to the corruption among dealers.
“It is emerging that dealers entrusted with PDS distribution are indulging in corruption and not providing the announced package to the eligible cardholders in the state. For instance, PDS cardholders in Chakradharpur’s Baipi and Kupui villages have not received food grains since January despite numerous representations submitted to district authorities. The dealer is accused of siphoning off funds in 2019,” said Vivek Kumar of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a state–based civil society organisation. Vivek told NewsClick that the state government should deploy grassroot level volunteers to check the proper implementation of food supply.
Cardholders of neighbouring village Kupui, serviced by the same dealer, also denied PDS grains since January 2020. People have repeatedly complained to MO and others. @DC_Chaibasa @HemantSorenJMM @mihirssharma @_YogendraYadav @chetanecostani @madhuparna_N @DelphicSanjeev pic.twitter.com/nGXFumyUv4
— Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (@JharkhandJanad1) April 10, 2020
So far, Jharkhand has reported 13 COVID-19 positive cases and one death due to the virus in the state.
Data on Migrant workers and construction workers to be compiled
“When asked regarding the government’s plans for relief measures to the migrant workers, the ruling party stated that the officials are in the process of gathering information on migrant workers by sourcing information from call centres and district authorities across the state,” said Biplab. He added that the left party has demanded the government to initiate direct money transfer to all construction workers in the state and migrant workers who will be returning back to the state after lockdown.