Monday, 30th October 2017

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Relief measures ‘symbolic’

State government urged to draw up a comprehensive relief package for vulnerable people for the next 6 months

By Achintya Ganguly in Ranchi
  • Published 7.04.20, 1:04 AM
  • Updated 7.04.20, 1:04 AM
  • 2 mins read
Staff at a PDS shop at Sidrol village in Namkum in Ranchi on Monday. Picture by Manob Chowdhary

A humanitarian disaster is looming on the state’s most vulnerable people, who are jobless and scared and likely to face a food crisis for months to come even if the lockdown to fight Covid-19 ends in eight more days, the Right to Food Campaign (Jharkhand) said on Monday.

The activists urged the state government to draw up a comprehensive relief package for vulnerable people for the next six months.

On Sunday, chief minister Hemant Soren had listed relief measures such as Rs 25 crore to the health department, Rs 50 lakh to each deputy commissioner and Rs 10,000 to each mukhiya and ward councillor, opening 498 dal-bhaat kendras and providing ration for April and May at one go for 48 lakh card holders and 9 lakh Antyodaya families.

Economist Jean Drèze, who is associated with the Right to Food Campaign, told The Telegraph on Monday that the relief package was “little more than symbolic”.

“Leaving out the provision of 10kg food grains for households excluded from the PDS (the public distribution system) for which no exclusive provision had been made so far, the cost of relief measures listed in the CM’s letter would barely add up to Rs 50 crore, less than 0.1 per cent of the Jharkhand government’s annual budget,” Drèze said.

The state’s announcement that each eligible household outside PDS will get 10kg food grains if they have already applied for ration cards has also raised false hopes among many that they’d get such relief every month, the Campaign’s statement pointed out.

The 10kg food grain is a one-time dole for a household outside the PDS loop by using the Rs 10,000 contingency fund given to each of the 4,562 mukhiyas or gram panchayat heads. The contingency fund existed earlier but the total sum is hardly enough for a one-off ration to each of the 7 lakh households left out of the PDS, the statement said.

“The state government should strengthen PDS and integrate all those 7 lakh households without delay and provide them ration as per norms of the National Food Security Act,” state convener for the Campaign, Asharfi Nand Prasad, told The Telegraph.

The statement reminded the state that even if the lockdown ends soon, the poor will still be dependent on government support such as PDS and cash transfer. The government must draw a comprehensive relief package for the next six months and not just the lockdown period and the PDS should cover such vulnerable households, the Campaign’s statement said.

The state government should also implement the Centre’s commitment of giving double ration for the next three months, the statement added.

Though the state government instructed PDS dealers to distribute ration, it is not double ration but the monthly ration for April and May with distribution gaps, the statement pointed out.

The Right to Food Campaign also emphasised the need for special grievance redress facilities to swiftly tackle food-related complaints.