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Food security? Gujarat govt puts more than 5 lakh ration cards in the 'silent' category

By Pankti Jog*

A new statistical report uploaded by the Gujarat government on the national food security portal shows that ensuring food security for the marginalized community is still not a priority of the state. The statistical report, uploaded on December 24, highlights many weaknesses in implementing the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in state.
The report, released on December 24, reveals that if a ration card holder does not take ration for three months, the card is put in a category called “silent”, and the family should get a fresh card, the process for which is tedious and costly.
According to the report, in all 1.61 lakh families, including 18,000 poorest of the poor antyodaya families, which are most vulnerable, have been excluded. Those who would be adversely affected include physically challenged (divyang), old aged, severely ill, and widows and single women.
In a Right to Information (RTI) reply from 24 out of 33 Gujarat districts, for which data have been received over the last few weeks, the state government has admitted that over the last five years in all 3.61 lakh ration card holders have already been put in the “silent” category.
If one adds the latest “silent” ration cards category, this would mean, in all, 5.12 lakh families would be deprived of ration. The government does not seem to have checked why so many families cannot take their ration.
It may be noted that each month while the Government of India (GoI) allocates ration for 3.82 crore people, the state government distributes ration to 3.42 crore people, thereby depriving 40 lakh people from ration. These include those whose ration cards have gone “silent”, as also about 20 lakh card holders who do not have an aadhaar, which has been made mandatory for receiving subsidized ration.
RTI helpline has been getting calls from Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat, Kutch and several districts of the Saurashtra region that they can’t access ration from fair price shops
The national food security portal reveals yet another interesting fact: Despite the fact that NFSA, as part of its gender empowerment thrust, requires that every ration card should be in the name of a woman in the household, as many as 3.92 lakh ration cards are still not in the name of women.
As per the provisions of NFSA, 75% of the rural and 50% of the urban population is entitled to get subsidized ration from GoI. Significantly, while the GoI has declared the One Nation One Ration Card scheme, it is not clear how it is going to ensure its implementation to this section.
Meanwhile, the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel’s (MAGP’s) RTI helpline has been continuously getting calls from Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat, Kutch and several districts of the Saurashtra region that they can’t access ration from fair price shops (FPS) once they migrate. Even as the government has failed to link 20 lakh card holders with aadhaar, there is no effective mechanism to ensure aadhaar registration since March, when the lockdown was declared.
It is is also important to note that the facility of eye-scanning for divyang and old age citizens, while their finger prints are not identified, has not been activated. In fact, the government continues to exclude these people on the basis of not having their aadhaar numbers.
Continuous exclusion-based on silent cards, aadhaar and depriving marginalized and needy families for entitled ration is not only inappropriate, it also violates the fundamental right to life. It suggests lack of political will for implementation of NFSA in its true spirit.
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*Executive secretary, Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel

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