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In poll season, voters in grip of hunger pangs

- Public distribution scheme shops keep shutters down for three months in absence of foodgrain supply

Leaders usually shower the electorate with sops but the situation is completely different in the district’s Sono block. Voters here are forced to remain hungry.

On March 21, Anandi Ravi Das, a daily wage labourer and a block resident, tried to approach House Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary to complain about not getting foodgrain from public distribution scheme (PDS) shops for the past three months.

However, Anandi could not reach Chaudhary, the JD(U) candidate from the Jamui Lok Sabha seat this time, at his Sono roadshow because of security cover. “The leaders are selling dreams from the dais only but the ground reality is totally different. How can we believe their tall claims of development,” said Anandi.

Government’s welfare projects such as Annapurna, Antyodaya, for people below poverty line (BPL) were recently replaced with Khadya Suraksha but all of them are defunct in Jamui for the past three months, causing hardship to a large number of beneficiaries.

The alleged starvation death of a 32-year-old man at Patambar village under the constituency’s Sikendra block reported by The Telegraph on March 15 could not shake the administration out of its slumber and restore the defunct PDS in the district.

According to local voters at Sono, all 106 PDS shops are closed for three months. “Earlier, we had the privilege to buy 14kg wheat and 21kg rice at the rates of Rs 2 per kg and Rs 3 per kg, respectively, under the Antyodaya scheme but from January 2014, we don’t have anything as the PDS shops are shut,” said Kamal Mahato, a resident.

The state government’s Khadya Suraksha replaced the BPL project under which a beneficiary enjoyed 10kg wheat and 15kg rice at the rates of Rs 2 per kg and Rs 3 per kg. But Khadya Suraksha could not be implemented in the district.

PDS Dealers’ Association, Sono, president Shivcharan Pandey said: “Though the dealers have deposited money for foodgrain in December 2013, nothing has been supplied. Whenever we enquired with the officers concerned at Jamui, they avoided us saying that the matter was related to the state headquarters.”

Association secretary Kritanand Singh said: “No dealer would deposit any amount further until the previous supply of foodgrain reaches them.”

Asked about the beneficiaries’ mood, Singh said the resentment was high among voters because most were beneficiaries of welfare schemes. “Since this is a Naxalite-hit backward area and has no job opportunities except agriculture, suspension of welfare schemes has enraged the voters,” he added.

Speaker Chaudhary was not available for comment and his close associates remained tight-lipped on the issue.

LJP-BJP candidate Chirag Paswan lambasted the Nitish government and held it responsible for the situation. “I have been highlighting such issues since long. Let the voters decide now,” he said.

RJD candidate Sudhansu Shekhar Bhasker said: “Not only PDS, all basic public facilities have collapsed not only in Jamui but across the state.”