The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dealers starve hunger belt
- Amlashol ration distributor flees, stink of deals in food for poor

Amlashol, June 16: Impoverished Amlashol is under the public distribution umbrella but the dealer, instead of the poor villagers, is reaping the benefits.

Sukdeb Murmu of Sanatan village — in the same cluster as Amlashol — in West Midnapore, 260 km from Calcutta, and three members of his family have ration cards. But the person who draws their share is Sunil Monki, the local ration dealer.

It is not just Sukdeb’s family whose ration cards are permanently with Monki. Most of the 5,000 residents of Sanatan, Amlashol, Amjharna, Kankrajhore, Jabala and Telikhana villages have had to leave their cards with Monki.

“We are hardly concerned about our ration cards. Monki keeps the cards,” said Laxmikanta Mura of Amlashol.

Monki draws the ration allotted against their cards. If anybody musters some money, he can go and collect his share. The ration of those who cannot remains with the dealer.

Monki is absconding. Perhaps he got whiff that the administration would sit up after Amlashol hit the headlines. Officials have directed the sub-divisional officer of Jhargram to take stern action against Monki.

Pulin Behari Baskey, the zilla parishad sabhadhipati, admitted that there is no record of foodgrain stocks meant for the Belpahari gram panchayat — under which Amlashol fall — under various schemes.

“We have asked the administration to immediately find out Monki. We need him for his statement. We will take strong action against him,” he said.

Gopal Mahato, the zilla parishad in charge of foodgrain, did not find during an inspection in the Belpahari panchayat samiti any record of allotment, supply and distribution for the past year of rice, wheat, cooking oil and sugar meant for ration, gratuitous relief, those below the poverty line and schemes like Antyodoy Yojna.

The panchayat samiti has been controlled by the Jharkhand Party for the past 15 years. Monki and the three other ration dealers operating in the area are supporters of the party.

Sources in Jhargram sub-division’s controller of food and supply office said under the four dealers are about 3,000 ration card-holders, who are entitled to draw three tonnes of rice or wheat, 600 kg sugar and 600 litres kerosene against their cards.

The dealers draw the goods from the local distributor at subsidised rates and are said to be selling most of it to local wholesalers at higher rates as very few villagers can afford to claim their ration every week.

The dealers denied the accusation.

“Most of the villages are in remote places. The godown is at least 30 to 40 km away. We don’t take the full amount of the goods because we find most of the villagers are not able to collect the ration. We suffer if the entire amount of ration is not taken by the villagers because we have to spend a huge amount to carry the goods to the villages.”

Sources in the administration pointed out that Naxalites, who are active in the area, have also often coerced the dealers to supply foodgrain.

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