Economist Jean Dreze said on Friday that not even 70 per cent of public distribution system (PDS) beneficiaries in Jharkhand have been receiving foodgrains after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Belgian economist, social scientist and activist painted a dismal picture of the public distribution system in the state while addressing a workshop on effective implementation of the National Food Security Act 2013 in Ranchi on Friday.
“After Covid, not only mid-day meals in schools but Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) has also been adversely affected,” said Dreze, a faculty at Delhi School of Economics and a visiting faculty at Ranchi University’s economics department.
Integrated Child Development Services is a government programme in India which provides nutritional meals, preschool education, primary healthcare, immunisation, health check-up and referral services to children under 6 years of age and their mothers.
Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), depriving the beneficiaries of PDS, ICDS, mid-day meals and maternity benefits, is a violation of human rights.
Dreze, a member of the economic advisory council to the chief minister of Tamil Nadu and former member of the national advisory council of India, further claimed that in the case of PDS, the condition of Chhattisgarh and Odisha is better than Jharkhand.
“In Odisha, the PDS system has been given to the panchayats. This has ensured their accountability. The private dealer political alliance in Jharkhand has ruined the PDS system,” said Dreze.
State food commission chairperson Himanshu Shekhar said that the commission is making every possible effort to ensure that the beneficiaries get benefits at their nearest PDS shop.
“For this purpose, the commission has also issued a WhatsApp number. Along with this, we are organising a dialogue with the officers and people’s representatives on the legal provisions of NFSA. The entitled beneficiaries travel a long distance to get ration. This problem has to be solved by the district administration,” said Shekhar.
Former member of the state food commission Haldhar Mahato said that the grievance redressal cell of the department has been outsourced. They record the complaints and forward the complaints to the department related to the district supply officers to the marketing officer (MO) who in turn sends it to the concerned dealer of MO. Then the dealer takes action keeping his safety in mind.