They earn under Rs 1 lakh a year. And the Public Distribution System is supposed to help them deal with life just above the state-drawn poverty line, by providing essentials like rice and wheat at subsidised rates.
Yet every time Ujjwala Sherkhane and her neighbours in the sprawling slum of Dharavi line up at the local fair-price shop, they are turned away empty-handed.
With food prices heading north already up by 25 per cent in the last year most families keep returning, hoping for some respite.
“Everything I earn is spent on food,” said Sherkhane, a single mother with three school-going children.
Sherkhane and 22 lakh other families living just above the poverty line in Mumbai are entitled to 35 kg of grain each at subsidised rates Rs 9.50 per kg of rice and Rs 7 per kg for wheat. These rates are almost half of the current open market prices.
But despite the price rise, stocks remain low.
Yeshwant Kerure, the official in charge of the PDS in Mumbai and Thane, said the city would receive under 2,000 tonnes of grain in June. That is less than 2 per cent of what each family is entitled to, and amounts to under 1 kg of grain per month per household that’s about 30 gm per day.
But half of that grain lies forgotten at Food Corporation of India godowns across the city.
When HT visited shops in various slums and crunched data, stocks were so low, they amounted to under 1 gm per family per month.
The hole in the food safety net will be plugged by July, the state has promised.
Sherkhane and her children are waiting.