400 families block Bengal highway for 3 hours alleging no food amid lockdown
Hundreds of people from the Domkal municipality area of Murshidabad district blocked a state highway for three hours on Wednesday morning, alleging that they did not get food in 20 days amid claims by chief minister Mamata Banerjee that there was no shortage of it in Bengal and that the poor were being given free ration.
There were many women and children among members of the 400-odd families that blocked the Berhampore–Domkal state highway violating lockdown orders. Most of the agitators did not wear masks or maintain social distancing guidelines.
The agitators lifted the blockade when the local administration intervened, but not before the chairman of Domkal municipality, who rushed to the spot, admitted that ration dealers did not disburse the quota of food supplies to those in the below poverty line (BPL) segment. Each ration card holder is supposed to get five kg rice and five kg flour a month.
While talking to HT last week, State food and supplies minister Jyotipriyo Mallick said, “There is no shortage of rice in Bengal. We have 9.45 lakh metric tons in stock and another four lakh metric tons are stored in rice mills. We have enough rice to feed people till August. Our government does not procure rice from the Food Corporation of India. We buy directly from farmers.”
The administration has taken action against some ration dealers for not opening their shops or not giving people their full quota, said the minister.
On Wednesday, Mahadeb Das, a resident of ward no 10 in Domkal municipality, said, “Dulal Saha, the ration dealer in our area, gave a kilo of rice each to a handful of families in the last two weeks. It is not enough to feed a family of 4-5 members.”
“Most people from this area work as wage labourers in Bengal or other states. We lost our livelihood because of the lockdown. We were told that the state and the Centre are providing free food for the poor,” he said.
Subodh Das, another agitator, said “The government is not allowing us to work. Are we supposed to starve to death? We know we risked our lives by gathering so many people for the agitation but there was no option.”
Chairman of the Trinamool Congress-run run Domkal municipality, Jafikul Islam convinced the agitators to lift the blockade.
“More than 1.57 lakh people live in Domkal and 69 per cent of them belong to the BPL category. We received only 42 quintals of rice from the government for distribution among poor people. More supplies are coming,” said Islam.
“I have come to know that the local ration dealer has not given people the quota of ration they are entitled to. Stern action will be taken against him,” Islam added. “I have promised each of the aggrieved families 10 kg rice and 5 kg potato,” he said.