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Half rural households didn't receive two months' ration despite govt direction: Survey

By Our Representative
A fresh round of telephonic survey carried out by a group of activists suggests that while 82% of respondents have ration card, and of these 96% said they do receive grain from the fair price shops, nearly half of them (54%) said they have not received two months’ ration in April despite clear government directions.
As many as 130 respondents were surveyed. They are from rural Chhattisgarh (27), Gujarat (25), Jharkhand (17), Madhya Pradesh (12), Odisha (22) and Uttar Pradesh (27) were interviewed.
A note based on the survey said, the distribution of dal in the public distribution system (PDS) remains a major issue in most states, adding, in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh “biometric authentication is still a must at many ration shops.”
The note regretted, “While the PDS seems reasonably functional and inclusive, one pervasive complaint is that names of some household members are missing in the family’s ration card. This reduces people’s effective entitlements, since rations are distributed on a per-capita basis. The common practice of ‘katauti’ (dealers’ cuts) further reduces people’s effective entitlements.”
The main purpose of the survey was to enquire about two major relief measures announced by the government on March 26: Doubling of public distribution system (PDS) entitlements for those who have ration cards and cash transfer of Rs 500 for three months for female Jan Dhan Yojana (JDY) account holders.
Pointing out that just over one third of the respondents (36%) could go to the bank in April, the survey found that, among those who succeeded in withdrawing cash, a few mentioned queues, repeated visits, and aadhaar-related problems.
Among those who failed to withdraw money, “passbook blocked”, “bank shut”, “saw crowd and returned”, and “account showed zero balance” were the main responses. Only five respondents used Business Correspondents (BCs), Common Service Centres (CSCs) or ATMs.
The note further said, only 23% of respondents reported that some household member had received Rs 500 in a JDY account. The rest received nothing, or did not know whether they had received anything. A whopping 41% of the respondents said they “did not know” that they were the beneficiaries.
The survey said that most of the respondents said someone from the household would take up the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) work if available. But when asked how many days of NREGA work they were willing to do, many said “as much as possible”. 
Among those who did not want NREGA work, the main reasons were that they had a young child, were worried about infection, or feared being beaten for breaking lockdown rules.
Right now, there is no work, so they don’t earn and go hungry on most days. The home is bare, even of cooking utensils. Neighbours try to help
The note observed, “Several respondents mentioned that some household member was stranded somewhere as a migrant worker (sometimes the migrant worker himself/ herself answered the phone). Their predicament varied from reasonably secure to very precarious.”
It continued, “Some farmers complained of marketing problems and low prices. As one of them (from Odisha) put it: ‘We are all farmers who are in mess. Who will buy our vegetables? We used to go to Rourkela. Sometimes we are selling vegetables for as low as Rs 5 rupees a kilo for brinjal! It is raining too, along with corona -- we are in complete loss and abject condition’.”
“Some respondents clearly lived in abominable poverty (particularly among those who subsist from casual labour)”, the note said, stating, “One of them is Fuleshwari Patra, a Dalit respondent from Odisha who has no land, no ration card and no schooling.”
It quoted Fuleshwari as saying that she and other family members eat when they can, or they go hungry. Right now, there is no work, so they don’t earn and go hungry on most days. The home is bare, even of cooking utensils. Neighbours try to help, they all received food rations unlike Fuleshwari. She said that she feels like crying all the time, and that they might just die if this lockdown continues.
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*The calls were made by students and other volunteers: Abinash, Aditi, Ananya, Anmol, Cheta, Eklavya, Krushna, Monisha, Natasha, Reetika, Ria, Sanmathi, Shailja, Sweta, Tanisha, Vanita and Xara

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