Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Right to Food & Right to Service: A Case of PDS related entitlements in Madhubani
In Madhubani in July 2011, during my field visit to three Gram Panchayats of the district along with the well-known right to food activist, Shri Parshuram Ray, we found that hundreds of rural families having PDS coupons could not receive food grains and other essential commodities for the past 7-8 months. Obviously, both their right to food and the right to service was clearly being violated for months, despite the tall claims made by the state government about eliminating corruption from PDS system through distributing food coupons to all the beneficiaries.
In the same Gram Panchayats, in a meeting with PDS Shop Owners, they lamented about the problems faced by them in lifting the food and other commodities from the PDS godowns. They complained that they have to take a debt from open markets to deposit the money for commodities in advance to the civil supplies department, whereas the actual lifting and dispatch of commodities to them is much later. In the meanwhile, they have to pay interest on the money taken as debt. Moreover, there is a leakage in the total amount of commodities received by them, while villagers want to have the exact designated amount of commodities.As a result, the dealers are suffering substantial losses and are not ready to continue as PDS dealers at all.
We met the district and sub-divisional officers in Madhubani also to seek a solution to this problem in PDS delivery system and measures like inviting open tenders from more dealers, etc were suggested by the DM. Yet, there is no improvement in the situation till now and the overall service delivery under PDS is very poor in the district.
To highlight this grave violation of people’s basic right to food, Shri Parshuram Ray emphatically put forward these findings on a Bihar TV Channel, Sahara Samay at 8 pm, September 6 during a talk with Mr. Shyam Rajak, Minister, Civil Supplies Deptt, Govt of Bihar and shared the data and case studies about the failure of PDS coupon system in Bihar. He went on to suggest that all beneficiaries should participate in social audit of PDS Fair Price Shops. Though the Minister accepted the facts that the lifting of food grains is very low in Madhubani (only 33 % wheat, 12% rice) and some other districts like Sasaram and Patna, still the people are waiting since months with unlimited patience for their minimum basic food entitlements.