Skip to main content

Corruption amidst Covid-19: Up to Rs 100 'charged' for grains to antyodaya card holders

By Sandeep Pandey*
The Bhartiya Janata Party-led government in India has a penchant for doing things in a 'surgical strike' manner, a much publicised military operation they carried out against Pakistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi carried out demonetisation in November 2016 at a few hours’ notice leaving the common citizens stranded with Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes which had suddenly become illegal.
Tourists were evacuated in Indian Air Force planes, the last one carrying just one passenger, from Jammu and Kashmir, before autonomy of the state was taken away on 5 August, 2019. Similarly, coronavirus lockdown was implemented without giving adequate time to citizens to be prepared to face it.
Lakhs of daily wage or contract workers, who live in sub-human conditions, were stuck in their places of work with all transportation to their homes abruptly coming to stand still. Narendra Modi even invoked memories of how the country faced war situation in the past to deal with the current crisis.
When this writer met a group of eleven workers walking in Lucknow, capital city of state of Uttar Pradesh, 500 kilometer east of Delhi, on the evening of 28 March, 2020, he was informed by them that they had been walking since 22 March, the day Narendra Modi had given a call for one day 'people's curfew,' implying they were walking almost 70 km per day, and they still had a good 150 km to go before they would reach their homes in Bahraich.
This writer has organised several peace marches and from experience can say that it is difficult to walk more than 20-30 km per day for an ordinary person.
Workers have walked more than a thousand kilometers to reach state of Bihar from Delhi. These walks were eerie as all eating and even tea joints were closed en-route courtesy lockdown. Later the government took a decision to make buses available but a group of 14 'dholak', an Indian percussion instrument, makers, stuck in Agra found it difficult to pay Rs 800 per adult and Rs 500 per child that they were asked to pay to reach their homes in Barabanki and Fatehpur, and hence had no choice but to de-board the bus.
Rush to reach home made a mockery of the directive to maintain social distance as it was virtually impossible for people scrambling to get into buses to observe what appeared to be a luxury that only rich society could afford. In any case, the poor in India, most of whom would also belong to a lower caste, have always been subjected to 'social' distancing or untouchability by the upper caste elite who would never dine with them or even allow them to sit near them at the same level.
Waking up late, in an attempt to prevent mass migration, the government has now stopped people from moving, setting up relief and quarantine camps under strict police vigils. There is strict check at state and district borders.
Police put 15 men who had returned from outside in a quarantine camp established on April 4, 2020 in a public school in Village Chandpur Faridpur in Rampur Mathura Block of Sitapur District, which appears more as an exercise to complete the formality to please the demanding Chief Minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath. 
Four of these 15 had returned to the village during March 23-28 with their families but their wives and children have been saved the inconvenience of quarantine and remaining returned during March 22-28 had been living with their families for at least 8 days before they were quarantined.
Only a mattress has been provided to them by the elected head of village in the name of support from the state. They have not even been given masks as a precautionary measure. Their families are supposed to arrange food for them. The concept of quarantine has gone for a toss here.
The government has declared that free food grains would be provided to people holding a particular category of card called 'antyodaya' under the Public Distribution System (PDS), which offers 35 kg of subsidised food grains every month even under normal conditions or people with job cards issued as part of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
However, because of widespread corruption in government system some of the deserving are left out of these schemes meant for the poor. Not being registered under any of the abovementioned schemes would make one ineligible to receive any free food grains. Twenty villagers from Chandpur Faridpur were found to be in such a situation. 
What started out as people's curfew has now resembles police state with all human rights suspended,people at the mercy of government
As many as 122 villagers from village Hardoiya Deviganj in Gosainganj Block of Lucknow District possessed the other category of card called 'Priority' under the PDS, using which they could procure 5 kg food grains per member of the family at the rate of Rs 2 per kg for wheat and Rs. 3 per kg for rice, but they didn't have enough cash, when all means of income generation have dried up for the past two weeks, to buy grains at subsidised rates mentioned above.
Another 13 such card holders from Chandpur Faridpur found names of some of their family members struck off, reducing the quantity of grains entitled to them. The Fair Price Shop owner in Village Aseni of Barabanki district did not give up the habit of corruption even during coronavirus crisis and charged Rs 20 to Rs 100 to give grains to antyodaya card holders, which they were supposed to get free, and charged double the amount from Priority card holders, also cheating on the weight on food grains.
The lockdown because of coronavirus threat has hit the daily wage earners the hardest who were dependent on their daily incomes to feed their families. With only selling vegetables on carts being allowed, about 50% new people who were earlier engaged in some other occupation like operating battery rickshaws or other forms of daily wage earning have now entered this vocation. If they didn't make this adjustment their families would be doomed.
This man-made tragedy is further compounded by the insensitive administrations and governments. The most glaring example is from Bareilly, a city 300 km east of Delhi, where migrant workers returning home were given Sodium Hypochlorite disinfectant bath by local officials, which created health problems for some. An enquiry has been ordered by the District Magistrate in this incident.
In another untoward and unexpected incident when a Dalit social activist Abhishek gave a list of 41 names, 20 of them from Scheduled Caste and remaining belonging to Other Backward Classes, all poor, from his village Mataria in Unnao district to the Commissioner of Lucknow so that relief could be provided to them in time of lockdown crisis; the elected village head Jai Bind Yadav took it as an insult, for negligence of duty on his part, and verbally abused Abhishek.
When Abhishek escaped to Lucknow, Yadav caught hold of his uncle Santu and beat him up mercilessly. From trying to provide relief to hapless co-villagers now Abhishek's family is living in terror of the village head. With Commissioner's help a police case has been registered against Yadav under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The government is imitating decisions of the developed countries failing to realise that work from home, social (physical) distancing, wearing masks or using sanitisers every now and then is not possible for the vast majority of poor in India. Their lives will be devastated because of lockdown and government is not doing enough to alleviate the hardships faced by them.
From what started out as a 'people's curfew,' it has now started resembling a police state with all human rights suspended and people totally at the mercy of government. The government is unaccountable and people cannot dissent. There couldn't have been better situation for an autocratic Prime Minister of a right wing government. It appears that Narendra Modi is fighting a war against his own people and there will be casualties of various kinds at the end of it.
---
*Magsaysay Award winning social activist, vice president of Socialist Party (India)

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They

Dalit scholar's comment on Lord Shiva 'harming' Muslims, 'damaging' secular cause

Shahid Siddiqui, Bobby Naqvi By Our Representative   Bobby Naqvi, who is with the "Gulf News", and is a well-known name among Muslim intellectuals, strongly objecting to the social media post of Prof Ratan Lal, has said that "a big reason for majoritarian hatred against Muslims is irresponsible remarks by people like Prof Ratan Lal of Delhi University." In a Facebook comment , which has attracted paise, among others, from journaliat-politician Shahid Siddiqui, Naqvi said, "Their commentary on Hinduism and icons of Hinduism (while angering religious and liberal Hindus alike) also triggers a massive backlash against Muslims. When the likes of Prof Lal criticize Hinduism on social media, Hindus bring Islam and Islamic practices and ask 'what about this' or 'what about that'." Naqvi insists, "Muslims (without their fault) and Islam get caught in this crossfire between the so called Hindu liberal class and the religious Hindus. And the ult

Haven't done a good deed, inner soul is cursing me as sinner: Aurangzeb's last 'will'

Counterview Desk The Tomb of Aurangzeb, the last of the strong Mughal emperors, located in Khuldabad, Aurangabad district, Maharashtra, has this epitaph inscribed on it: "Az tila o nuqreh gar saazand gumbad aghniyaa! Bar mazaar e maa ghareebaan gumbad e gardun bas ast" (the rich may well construct domes of gold and silver on their graves. For the poor folks like me, the sky is enough to shelter my grave).