Skip to main content

Starvation deaths, as 33% poor devoid of food security: Demand to universalize PDS

Counterview Desk
Top civil rights network, Right to Food Campaign, has appealed to the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ram Vilas Paswan, to urgently make the availability of rations under the Public Distribution System (PDS) universal in such a manner that any person/household that approaches a fair price shop (FPS) can get a package of grains, pulses and cooking oil to avoid widespread hunger and starvation.
Insisting on the universalize PDS “to avoid further hunger and starvation”, the letter says that the relief measures announced by the Government of India under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) are “hugely inadequate” and it is a matter of “utmost concern” that the free rations that have been announced are only for those who already have ration cards under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), thereby excluding a large number of people.

Text:

On behalf of the Right to Food Campaign we appeal to you to urgently make the availability of rations under the Public Distribution System (PDS) universal in such a manner that any person/household that approaches a fair price shop (FPS) can get a package of grains, pulses and cooking oil to avoid widespread hunger and starvation. The national lockdown that was imposed has resulted in loss of livelihoods to millions of poor and working people across the country.
The Campaign received reports of widespread hunger from urban and rural areas across the country, and also starvation deaths in Bihar, Hyderabad, Jharkhand, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh. Supply chains were broken and access to markets has also become more difficult. Despite administrative measures, food inflation and spiralling prices of even essential items are with us to stay.
The relief measures announced by the Government of India under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) are hugely inadequate in responding to the need. Of utmost concern is the fact that the free rations that have been announced are only for those who already have ration cards under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), thereby excluding a large number of people.
The NFSA covers only 67% of the population (on average 75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas). Even this is based on the population figures from the 2011 Census (1.24 billion) resulting in a coverage of 83 crore people. With population increase it is estimated that as of 2020, population in India would be around 1.38 billion.
Therefore, even by the NFSA mandated coverage at least 92 crore people, i.e. an additional 9 crore persons would need to be included. It has to be further kept in mind that based on Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) data it is estimated that 81.7% of people in the country earn less than 18,000 per month (68% earn less than Rs. 12,000 per month), which is even less than the minimum wage recommended by 7th Pay Commission. In the current context of increased unemployment post the lockdown the situation would be worse.
We wish to further reiterate that a very large section of those who do not have ration cards include some of the most vulnerable sections of society, such as migrants, homeless people, old persons, DNT tribes, young children and so on. As we have been pointing out time and again, it is only a universal system along with additional measures which will be able to reach the most vulnerable.
In the last few years, in every state, thousands of people who have been trying to get a ration card have been told that the ‘quotas’ for the state are exhausted. We therefore urge you to make the PDS entitlements for six months at least universal in coverage in the sense that no person who approaches a ration shop for free grains should be denied the same for lack of ration cards. 
We have reports of widespread hunger from across India, starvation deaths from Bihar, Hyderabad, Jharkhand, Karnataka, UP
Universal schemes tend to have lower leakages and minimal exclusions. Universal PDS in states such as Tamil Nadu has resulted in the rich self-selecting themselves out of the system because the opportunity cost of standing in the line and the relatively inferior quality of grain are not worth their taking the benefits. If everyone has access to the free rations, the possibility of selling the same grain in black is also reduced.
The following are some of the points we would like to bring to your notice in this regard:
  1. The relief that has been announced of additional 5 kgs of free grains and inclusion of pulses has not yet reached most states due to the lockdown having caused the breakdown in the transportation system and the delay is not acceptable, given the acute distress people are facing. 
  2. Some states have announced their own measures, such as additional 2.5kgs of grain in Delhi for ration card holders, free grain for Antyodaya ration cardholders in Uttar Pradesh, 5 kg of free wheat, 1 kg of rice, 1 kg dal, 0.5 kg oil and salt in Rajasthan for non-NFSA households and West Bengal is giving 5 kg of free foodgrains to all NFSA ration cardholders and 19% of population with these ration cards. These need to be seen as an add on, and the central allocation of additional 5kg per head must still reach people. 
  3. In some states, such as Delhi, it has been announced that those who do not have NFSA ration cards will also be given rations. However, the online application system put in place for this is cumbersome and not workable. In Rajasthan the non-NFSA beneficiaries are being subjected to a survey, which is so slow and the different district administrations have come up with ridiculously small numbers. Based on this experience, we reiterate that what we need now is a mechanism where no person is rejected and is given ration without needing to apply for fresh cards. Ration shopkeepers can put marks with indelible ink on people’s hands to prevent people from taking ration more than once. 
  4. State governments that are expanding their PDS coverage and quantity must be encouraged and given additional allocations from the central pool for free or at NFSA prices so that they can immediately ensure that these entitlements reach people. 
We demand that the Ministry of Food and Public Distribution, act upon our demands, which are as follows:
  • Expand the PDS to cover every individual, irrespective of whether they have a ration card, with 10kg of grain, 1.5kg pulses and 800gms cooking oil per month per person for at least six months. There are 77 million tonnes of foodgrain stocks in the FCI godowns (including the unmilled paddy) – thrice the buffer stock norms. Once the procurement of the Rabi crop is completed, it is expected that another 35-40 million tonnes will be added. As per the PIB release, about 2.5 million tonnes have been released after the lockdown, to meet the requirements of the relief measures. It is therefore imminently possible and also urgently required to universalise the PDS.
  • Ensure cooked food and running of community kitchens/feeding centres in urban areas to address the needs of migrant, unorganised sector workers, and the homeless and destitute populations. 
  • Provisioning of dry rations to all intrastate and interstate migrant workers who are very food insecure.
---
Click HERE for the list of organizations, individuals who have endorsed the statement

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

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.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

Gujarat literati flutter: State Akademi autonomy curb a Sahitya Parishad poll issue?

By Dankesh Oza*
The 115-year-old Gujarati Sahitya Parishad is in election mode. More than 3,000 life members of the Parishad are set to elect its 52nd president and 40 plus central working committee (CWC) members, which in turn will elect its executive and two vice presidents, six secretaries and a treasurer for the coming three years (from 2021 to 2023).

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agricultural reform? Small farmers will be more vulnerable, corporates to 'fix' price

By Dibyendu Chaudhuri*
Agriculture employs 42% of the total work force whereas it contributes only 16% to the country’s GDP. The average annual growth rate in agriculture has remained static to 2.9% since the last six years. This means that the post-green revolution conventional agriculture has reached its peak. Responsiveness of soil fertility to fertiliser application, an indicator of stagnancy in agriculture, shows declining trend since 1970. The worst sufferer has been the small and marginal farmers who constitute 86% of total farmers.