Ward councillor of Harmu Arun Kumar Jha (left) hands over a blanket to a labourer in Ranchi in December
Nineteen per ward. Ranchi district has been punctual this winter in distributing blankets to the poor, but the numbers failed to give warmth.
Unlike last winter when it was chided by governor Syed Ahmed for not arranging blankets for street dwellers on time, Ranchi district administration this season hurried to do the job in the start of December.
But each councillor got 19 blankets for distribution.
The number of blankets that the administration handed out to councillors of 55 wards proved laughably short.
The district administration washed its hands off the matter by putting the onus on ward councillors.
Ranchi subdivisional officer Amit Kumar told The Telegraph: “Each of the 55 wards were allotted 19 blankets. The onus lay on the councillors to identify genuinely needy ones.”
When queried why each ward was given only 19 blankets, Kumar came up with an unsatisfactory explanation.
“We had procured 7,600 blankets for the entire district. Of these, 6,355 were sent to officials of different blocks for distribution. Deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey wanted to distribute some of them with his own hands. So 200 were ket aside for him. The remaining 1,045 was for Ranchi Municipal Corporation areas and hence had to be equally divided among the 55 wards,” he said.
But as temperatures plunged below 10°C, was 19 blankets to a ward sufficient?
Kumar parried the question, saying: “Additional allotment will be made soon as more blankets will be procured.”
It is a statement that does not help ward councillors wondering how to protect only 19 “genuinely needy people” from bone-numbing cold.
Ward councillors, therefore, have decided to not depend on the district administration.
“We have made a mockery of ourselves by extending our largesse to only 19 needy people. I am now trying to gather woollens from businessmen and those interested in philanthropic activities,” ward No. 25 councillor Md Aslam said.
He argued wards with higher density of slums and poor people should get at least 250 to 300 blankets.
“There is also no need to give blankets to well-off wards with hardly any pavement dweller,” Aslam added.
Tabbasum Nigar, ward No. 26 councillor, agreed with Aslam.
“The district administration should not give blankets for distribution without drawing up a realistic estimate of beneficiaries. Otherwise, donating such meagre number of winter shields will only invite criticism. We should be consulted on the number of blankets needed,” Nigar said.
Sunita Tirkey, ward No. 1 councillor, also said that they were now looking forward to donations from philanthropists. “We need more blankets to tide over the crisis and ensure that all the homeless protect themselves from the chill,” she said.
On December 28, 2012, Ahmed had summoned deputy commissioner Choubey and Ranchi Municipal Corporation chief executive officer Dipankar Panda, wanting to know how many blankets had been distributed among the underprivileged by that time.
The administration had apparently delayed the exercise and the governor was peeved with it. Winter chill sets in by the first week of December in the state.