As 96.9% Jharkhand's Nagri residents oppose Direct Bank Transfer, state govt asks Centre to stop DBT

By Our Representative
Has the hype around Direct Bank Transfer (DBT), created by the Government of India, in order to provide cash subsidy in banks to the beneficiaries of Central and state schemes, beginning to fade into the oblivion? It would seem so, if a recent report, “Social Audit of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) for Food Subsidy Pilot in Nagri, Ranchi, Jharkhand”, is any indication.
Carried out with the support of the Jharkhand government’s Department of Food, Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs, the “social audit” in Nagri block was done to assess the performance of DBT from October 2017 to March 2018 in all 46 villages of 13 panchayats, covering 8,370 ration card holders out of 16,768 households.
Conducted on April 11-15, the social audit’s survey on “ease between pre-existing subsidised food grain distribution system and DBT” suggested “overwhelming favour to the pre-existing food grain distribution from PDS at Rs 1 per kg, pointing out, “96.9% of respondent favoured the previous system whereas only 2.4% feel that DBT is a better option.”
The survey report says, “The findings of the survey were validated in the Gram Sabha meetings. Total 38 gram sabhas were held in 46 villages of 13 panchayats. Eight villages were not covered as it has been notified as urban area. Total 36 gram sabhas unanimously said ‘No to DBT’, preferring the pre-existing subsidise food grain distribution system. Only 2 gram sabhas said DBT is acceptable only when the operational system is completely reformed.”
Based on the survey, top academic and social activist Jean Dreze, in an email alert to Counterview, said, “Jharkhand’s misguided ‘DBT for food subsidy’ pilot in Nagri Block (Ranchi district) is yet to be discontinued, despite virtually unanimous opposition to it from gram sabhas.”
Pointing towards a “sequence of events” regarding opposition to DBT, Dreze says, “The Nagri pilot was initiated in early October 2017. Public protests erupted almost immediately and have continued ever since. Under the DBT system, people have 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.”
Before the Jharkhand government carried out the survey, says Dreze, in February 2018, a separate survey was conducted “by student volunteers in 13 randomly-selected villages of Nagri Block revealed that the pilot was causing enormous hardship to the people of Nagri.”
Then, on February 26, 2018, “thousands of aggrieved people from Nagri walked from there to the Governor’s house in Ranchi to demand to the discontinuation of DBT in favour of the earlier system. Not convinced with the survey findings, the Government of Jharkhand promised to complete its own ‘social audit’ of the pilot by the end of March and take a decision soon after that.”
Pointing out that “the social audit broadly confirms the results of the earlier survey”, Dreze says, “Large numbers of people in Nagri are deprived of food rations due to DBT, and even larger numbers face enormous hardship as they make expensive and time-consuming trips to the bank, Pragya Kendra and ration shop.”
According to Dreze, “Like the February survey, the social audit also found near-unanimous opposition to DBT in Nagri. In fact, the proportion of respondents who opposed DBT was the same in both cases: 97%! During the April social audit, Gram Sabhas were also held in 38 villages (out of 46) to discuss the DBT pilot. According to the attached Executive Summary of the social audit report, 36 out of 38 Gram Sabhas unanimously said ‘No to DBT’ and demanded a return to the old PDS system.”
Following the official survey, says Dreze, “On May 28, 2018, the Government of Jharkhand wrote to the Central Government requesting permission to discontinue the DBT pilot in Nagri. The letter argues that this pilot violates the National Food Security Act (NFSA)”.
Wondering “Why was it started in the first place?”, Dreze comments, “Four months after the February 26 demonstration, the government is yet to take a decision on the DBT pilot. Meanwhile, the people of Nagri continue to suffer and wait for an end to this ordeal.”

Comments

Prasad Chacko said…
It is being proved over and over again that in our country ruled by the dominant castes, it is impossible to ensure equitable development. Caste determines your access to economic resources. Ironically the state resources, which are supposed to be allocated based on principles of equity are completely sucked dry by the dominant caste groups that control the politics and bureaucracy. When the Planning Commission was there at least there was a compulsion to allocate resources in the budget according to the special component plan that enjoined the governments to do so in the same proportion as the percentage of population of the SCs and STs. But with the Niti Ayog coming in, there is no more concern regarding equitable allocation. Hence there is an urgent need to advocate for and pass a nation-wide legislation for the Special Component Plan. We cannot permit this loot of our public resources by a small powerful elite.