Monday, February 26, 2018

Protesters oppose Direct Bank Transfer, testimonies suggest how Jharkhand villagers are being harassed

Biometric machine doesn't recognize this old working
woman's hands, and she can't get her ration
By Our Representative
Thousands of residents of Nagri Block (Ranchi District, Jharkhand) have marched to the Chief Minister’s house on Monday to protest against the Direct Bank Transfer (DBT) for food subsidy, currently under experiment the villages near Ranchi. The experiment is claimed caused havoc in Nagri in the last four months. A recent survey found that 97% of PDS cardholders are opposed to it.
Taken out under the banner of Ration Bachao Manch, it is a broad coalition of a few opposition parties, including Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Left and the Congress, and 10 people’s organisations, such as Right to Food Campaign, All-India People’s Forum, United Mili Forum, and Jharkhand Nagrik Prayas.
The Jharkhand government began its experiment with DBT in October 2017, under which people were forced to collect their food subsidy in cash from the bank before using it to buy rice from the ration shop at Rs 32 per kg.
Earlier, they were able to buy rice from the ration shop at Re 1 per kg. At the end of January 2018, student volunteers conducted a survey in 13 randomly-selected villages of Nagri. The findings show that the DBT system is causing huge inconvenience and even depriving many people of their food rations.
On average, respondents had received just 2 out of 4 DBT installments in the preceding four months. Among the survey respondents, 97% are opposed to the DBT system. Regular agitations against DBT have taken place at the Block and District headquarters.
Some of the testimonies taken by the campaigners show how people have been suffering due to Direct Bank Transfer over the last four months:

Gaura Orain lives with her elderly husband. Last month, the DBT money was credited to his account. He had to make four visits to the bank before he was able to withdraw the money. Gaura’s husband had an accident two years ago and now has trouble walking. Each visit to the bank, with his limping leg and the support of a stick, is quite painful.
Aychi Nagduwar is an 85-year-old widow. She lives with her 40-year-old son, who is mentally challenged. For unknown reasons, no DBT money is being credited to her account.
Daniel Tirkey has not been able to collect his food rations, due to various problems with the DBT system. He has received a notice saying that his ration card will be cancelled if he does not collect his food rations.
Fulo Mundain has two bank accounts. She received her DBT money once in one of them. After that, she didn’t receive any money. She has been checking both accounts regularly. Last month, she was forced to buy her food ration with her own money.
Somari Mundain’s son and daughter-in-law live in the city and do not keep in touch with her. She takes care of her grandson. Earlier, her grandson would get the food rations for her. But now, he is unable to work his way around the bank, and she is too old to travel all the way to the bank multiple times and wait in the queue. So far, no DBT money has been credited into her account. Somari uses her widow pension to buy the food rations.
Binod Kerketta is yet to receive his ration card. Meanwhile, the PDS dealer has given him a notebook. The dealer says that his ration card has been sanctioned, but is yet to be issued. Quite a few in Kelende have a similar notebook. Mostly, they do not get DBT money and their names do not figure on the list.
Basi Orain’s DBT money gets credited to her husband’s account. Her husband, however, works in Punjab and she has not been able to withdraw the money from his account. Despite her repeated pleas, the bank has not been able to ensure that the DBT money goes to her own account. She takes care of her mentally challenged son. They have not been able to buy food rations for the last 2 months.
Fulit Kachhap is about 85-years-old and physically challenged. To make things easier, her daughter submitted her own bank account for DBT transfers. However, the money is credited to Fulit’s account. The daughter has to book an auto to take Fulit to the bank to withdraw the money. This costs her 300 rupees each time. The daughter first takes Fulit to the bank for identity verification. Then she brings Fulit back home, after which she goes back to the bank, waits in the queue for hours and is finally able to withdraw the money. The banks have no separate queues for the old or disabled.
Dukraj Prajapati is about 80 years old and physically challenged, making it difficult for him to walk. Despite his disability, he has to visit the bank for 3- 4 days every month to withdraw the DBT money. Despite the effort, he could purchase ration only twice in four months as the DBT money was not credited for the remaining two months.
Janale Mirda is a daily-wage labourer who earns Rs 300 a day in Ranchi. It took him 6 days to get the DBT money, involving an opportunity cost of 1800 rupees. His plea to the government is to remove the DBT system, which has become a new source of agony for poor people like him who were already struggling, day after day, to make ends meet.
Lalita Devi is around 75 years old and lives alone. Unable to afford a rickshaw or auto, she has to walk to the bank - 7 km away from her home. She has been able to collect her food rations only once since October, and it took her 13 days.
Damiya Oraon’s DBT money gets credited to her husband’s account. Her husband, however, is dead and she is unable to withdraw the money from his account. She has been using her own money to buy up her food rations, which cost her Rs 32 per kg.
Santi Devi has four members in her family and most of them have their own bank accounts. For the past 6-7 days, everyone in her house has been going to different banks, sacrificing their daily wages, waiting in long queues, checking their balance for the DBT money and returning home empty handed.
Satri Devi lives with her husband in the village, while her son works in Ranchi. The DBT money is credited to her husband’s account. Satri says that her husband spends all the DBT money on alcohol, leaving them with no money to buy food rations.
Prakash Kachhap was told by the Pragya Kendra that his DBT money had been credited to his Airtel wallet. When he went to the mobile store to get it redeemed, they told him that the government had stopped this scheme and that the money could not be retrieved. He does not know whether the money is still in that digital wallet. He has been using his own money to buy food rations.

1 comment:

Uma Sheth said...

All elderly people, whether they live in villages or cities, have the same problem. Since it is enforced, the govt MUST find a solution