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Hunger, starvation 'stare' Jharkhand poor in absence of effective food distribution

By Our Representative
The civil rights organization, Right to Food Campaign, Jharkhand, in a letter to chief minister Hemant Soren has warned the state would see the danger of hunger and starvation in the absence of “any effective provision for the delivery of food rations to households without ration card.”
A letter signed by well-known development economist Jean Drèze, and social activists Asharfi Nand Prasad, Balram, Siraj Dutta, Sunil Minz and Varsha Poddar said, “The Jharkhand government claims to be “universalizing” the public distribution system, but nothing of the sort is happening.”
Pointing towards what it called “weak provision” for delivering 10 kg of foodgrain per month for two months to the National Food Security Act (NFSA)-eligible households that do not have a ration card, the letter said, “The application process is complicated and most people are not aware of it.”
Citing numerous field reports, the letter said, the current provision “covers just a small fraction of households without ration card”, noting, “About 8 lakh households in Jharkhand have applied for a ration card and most of them are likely to be poor households.”
“In this crisis situation, there is no time to verify each applicant’s eligibility under NFSA (and the fact that it has not been done earlier is the government’s responsibility)”, the letter said, adding, “Therefore, we urge you to provide emergency ration cards to all these 8 lakh households without delay, for an initial period of at least one year.”
Hemant Soren
“Even if rice has to be bought from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) at Rs 22 per kg for this purpose, it would cost just Rs 44 crore per month to provide 25 kg of free foodgrain per household (on average) to these 8 lakh households”, the letter pointed out.
Seeking extension of the provision of 10 kg foodgrain per month for two months “to other households that do not have a ration card, based on self-declaration of eligibility under Jharkhand’s NFSA eligibility criteria”, the letter asked the chief minister to “prevail on the Central government to provide a special foodgrain allocation to Jharkhand free of cost.”
This, it said, is essential, so that the public distribution system (PDS) can be universalised in rural areas and urban slums, as per NFSA entitlements, for a period of at least one year.

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