Ration meant for poor families under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand has been stolen.
The issue came to light during a public hearing organised by Khadya Suraksha Jan Adhikar Manch, an outfit espousing the cause of right to food, at Kainuwa village in Tonto block on Monday.
During the six-hours hearing, it was found that almost half of the regular ration distributed from the public distribution system (PDS) shops has been stolen by the dealers who have been denying villagers of their enshrined right to food for the last several months.
“We have been conducting such public hearings in other parts of Jharkhand too, but it is the largest loot of food grains meant for the poor by the dealers, obviously in nexus with the officials. We will be sharing findings of the public hearings with food and civil supplies minister Rameshwar Oraon, principal secretary Himani Pande and West Singhbhum deputy commissioner Ananya Mittal,” said Siraj Dutta a key member of the Manch.
Under the NFSA, beneficiaries are entitled to 5kg of foodgrains per person and 5kg of food grains under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY).
Dutta said that the two main issues raised by the villagers during the hearing were ration dealers not giving food grains even after taking their biometrics in the E-POS machines and even if they are giving, it is much less than specified amount.
“Beneficiaries of Kainuwa village informed that in September 2021 and December 2021, they have not been given ration neither under the NFSA or the PMGKAY by the ration dealer Dumbi Banra despite taking their thumb punching on the E-POS machine. While the online report in the dashboard shows that the beneficiaries have been given a full quota of ration. No action has been taken despite several complaints to the officials,” said Dutta.
Ration beneficiaries of Sankuchia village alleged that ration dealer Kistowam Mahila Mandal had reduced the quantity of food grains both under the NFSA and the PMGKAY in February-April 2022. But on the online dashboard it was showing that the beneficiaries had been given full ration.
In comparison to the quantity entered in the online report, only 35 per cent ration has been received in February 2022 and only 33 percent in March 2022.
The PDS dealers present at the hearing alleged that they were not receiving adequate allocations of food grains while the district supply officer Amit Prakash claimed that the government is making allotments based on the online closing balance of the last one-year.
Neither the dealers nor the administrative officials could give a clear answer about the missing ration.
“It is clear that foodgrains are being embezzled. The administration should take legal action against the dealer and the concerned officer,” said Taramani Sahu, convenor of NREGA Watch.
There were also complaints from villagers that their ration cards had been deleted without prior information, in the process depriving them of food grains for a year.
Former adviser to the Supreme Court appointed commissioner, Balram said that immediately the administration should give pending ration to all the card holders while food right activist Ashrafi Nand Prasad informed about the NFSA provisions and compensation to the beneficiaries denied of their rights.
“Administration should conduct random inspection of PDS dealers and initiate strict action against offenders. Action should be taken against officials responsible for deleting the ration cards without informing the ration cardholders and without doing ground verification. Aadhar-based biometric verification system should be removed from the ration system and instead offline, smart card based system should be implemented,” suggested Asharfi Nand Prasad.