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

Ganga world's second most polluted river, Modi's Varanasi tops microplastics pollution

By Rajiv Shah  Will the new report by well-known elite NGO Toxics Link create a ripple in the powerful corridors of Delhi? Titled “Quantitative analysis of microplastics along River Ganga”, forwarded to Counterview, doesn’t just say that Ganga is the second most polluted river in the world, next only to Yangtze (China). It goes ahead to do a comparison of microplastics pollution in three cities shows Varanasi – the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – is more polluted compared to Kanpur and Haridwar.

How real is Mamata challenge to Modi? Preparing for 2024 'khela hobey' moment

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  Third time elected West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee is on a whirlwind tour of Delhi, meeting everyone who matters within and beyond the government, the Prime Minister, the President, some Cabinet ministers, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, several other opposition leaders, et al.

Did Modi promote Dholavira, a UNESCO site now, as Gujarat CM? Facts don't tally

By Rajiv Shah  As would generally happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet – that not only was he “absolutely delighted” with the news of UNESCO tag to Dholavira, but he “ first visited ” the site during his “student days and was mesmerised by the place” – is being doubted by his detractors. None of the two tweets, strangely, even recalls once that it’s a Harappan site in Gujarat.

UP arrest of 'terrorists': Diverting attention from Covid goof-up, Ram temple land scam?

By Advocate Mohammad Shoaib, Sandeep Pandey* That corruption is rampant in police department is a common experience. However, there is another form of corruption which devastates lives of individuals and their families. It has now emerged as a common phenomenon that police more often than not register false cases because of which individuals have to spend number of years in jail.

If not Modi, then who? Why? I (an ordinary citizen) am there! Main hoon naa!

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The number of women ministers is doubled in early July from the first term after cabinet reshuffle by the present government led by Narendra Modi. While there were 06 women ministers in the previous term, this term there are 11. The previous two governments led by Dr Manmohan Singh had 10 women ministers in each tenure. Are these number of women ministers something to rejoice in the near 75 years of independence? Yes maybe, if we think that things are slowly improving in the patriarchal system. This change is less likely to achieve gender balance in the parliament otherwise we require more than 11 as per the 33% reservation . This change is also less likely because the men politicians’ inability to handle the country’s mess is becoming more and more evident and especially during the corona crisis. Seems, the addition of more women ministers may be a result of the recent assembly elections where women played a decisive role in the election results. For example

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.

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

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".

Effluent discharge into deep sea? Modi told to 'reconsider' Rs 2275 crore Gujarat project

Counterview Desk  In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, well-known Gujarat-based environmentalist, Mahesh Pandya of the Paryavaran Mitra, has protested against the manner in with the Gujarat government is continuing with its deep sea effluent disposal project despite environmental concerns.

Khorigaon demolition: People being 'brutally' evicted, cops 'restricting' food, water

By Ishita Chatterjee, Neelesh Kumar, Manju Menon, Vimal Bhai* On July 23, the Faridabad Municipal Corporation told the Supreme Court that they have cleared 74 acres out of 150 acres. Despite the affidavit of the Municipal Corporation, the court, on the complaint of various litigants, that the arrangements for living, food etc. have not been made for the people. 

Gujarat govt gender insensitive? Cyclone package for fisherfolk 'ignores' poor women

By Our Representative A memorandum submitted to the Gujarat government by various fisherfolk associations of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat under the leadership of Ahmedabad NGO Centre for Social Justice's senior activist Arvind Khuman, who is based in Amreli, has suggested that the relief package offered to the fishermen affected by the Tauktae cyclone is not only inadequate, it is also gender insensitive.