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Rice flow pause spurs hunger pangs

In an election year, many poor voters in Ranchi are either going hungry or finding it difficult to manage one square meal a day. Reason: the ambitious dal-bhat scheme introduced by the state government three years ago remains unofficially suspended for over two months now for want of allotment of subsidised rice from the Centre.

Launched in 2011 by former chief minister and veteran BJP leader Arjun Munda, the special scheme provided a one-time meal at Rs 5 for thousand economically challenged people.

In Ranchi, about seven dal-bhat yojana kendras, run by women self-help groups, were launched at Ranchi Sadar Hospital, Town Hall and Seva Sadan Hospital among other places. Statewide, around two dozen centres were planned in phases, which were to be subject to increase depending upon the response.

Ironically, all the seven centres in the state capital were shut down more than two months ago, with the district administration claiming they hadn’t received funds or rice allotment from the government.

“Yes, they (dal-bhat centres) have been closed for want of allotment,” confirmed deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey through a text message on Tuesday.

For those who live below the poverty line, the shutdown translates into starvation.

Bas yehi ek achcha cheez hua tha Jharkhand mein garibon ke liye ki paanch rupaye mein aapko peth bhar khana mil jata tha. Ab yeh bhi band ho gaya. (This was the only good thing Jharkhand did for its poor; one could have a square meal for Rs 5. Now, that has stopped too),” said Shambu, a septuagenarian watchman at sadar hospital. He added that now, one meal costs him above Rs 20-25.

Sarkar garibon ko dhoti-sari dene ki baat kar rahi hai chunav se pehle. Khana dede wohi kafi hai. Vote bhi usiko jo note nahi, khana dega. (Ahead of the Assembly elections, the government is talking about donating clothes to the poor. But, all that we want is one square mean. We will vote for someone who can feed us and not woo us with money),” said Shakil, a rickshaw-puller near Town Hall, adding that there have been times in the past two months when he has had to skip dinner for days.

Ravi Ranjan, special secretary (food and civil supplies), claimed they hadn’t received subsidised rice from the Union government so far.

“We have already sent a proposal, demanding around 7,000 metric tonnes of rice, but the Centre is yet to take any decision as it is reviewing many aspects owing to implementation of a new food security act. There was a meeting in New Delhi with all states on July 4 in this regard.

“So, if the Centre diverts the set allocation under a new scheme, the state will have to take a decision on continuing the dal-bhat scheme from its own funds or scrap it. That decision too is pending now,” he explained.