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Home / India News / Demand for ration cards increases amid lockdown

Demand for ration cards increases amid lockdown

NFSA covers 75% of the population in rural areas and 50% in urban areas. Food right activists claim that the new rush of applications for ration cards shows that many poor households, especially the families of migrant workers, have been left out.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2020, 00:56 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Odisha has received applications for 500,000  new ration cards in addition to 32.6 million cards already issued.  (Photo by Diwakar Prasad/ Hindustan Times) PHOTO FOR REPRESENTATIONAL PURPOSE
Odisha has received applications for 500,000 new ration cards in addition to 32.6 million cards already issued. (Photo by Diwakar Prasad/ Hindustan Times) PHOTO FOR REPRESENTATIONAL PURPOSE

The post-Covid-19 lockdown has sparked a renewed scramble for ration cards under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), which entitles poor households to subsidised foodgrains from government-run fair price shops, according to multiple officials in state governments.

The demand for ration cards hints at a perception among people that normality will not be restored anytime soon and a shortage of essential may be looming as a hard lockdown, confining residents indoors and shutting commercial establishments, is expected to stay in place beyond May 3 in 300 districts affected by the pandemic. A partial lockdown may continue in other districts.

NFSA covers 75% of the population in rural areas and 50% in urban areas. Food right activists claim that the new rush of applications for ration cards shows that many poor households, especially the families of migrant workers, have been left out.

“The only way to ensure every poor {household} gets rations is by universalizing the Public Distribution System. The states should ensure that every family gets access to rations,” said ReetikaKhera, a professor of development economics at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi and a food rights activist.

According to data provided by the state governments, the demand for new ration cards is particularly high in the poorer states such as Odisha, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where up to 90% of the population in rural areas is already covered under NFSA.

Odisha has received applications for 500,000 new ration cards in addition to 32.6 million cards already issued. Some 100,00 cards have been issued and the remaining would be issued in the next two months under the state government’s food scheme, said MQ Haque, additional secretary in the food supplies and consumer welfare department.

“No one will go hungry in Odisha and we are working towards that,” said Haque.

The Rajasthan government has decided to give rations to 9 million people not having ration cards under the NFSA. “These are the people who are demanding PDS rations; now ,even though they are not NFSA beneficiaries, we have decided to give them grains,” said Siddharth Mahajan, food secretary, Rajasthan. Around 44.6 million people are beneficiaries of the NFSA in Rajasthan.

The West Bengal government has issued food coupons to 500,000 families that applied for ration cards, entitling them to access fair price shops, according to food and supplies minister, Jyotipriyo Mullick. The state has 56.5 million NFSA beneficiaries.

Uttar Pradesh has issued 323,000 new ration cards in addition to 34 million cards already issued under NFSA.

In Jharkhand, 697,000 new applications for ration cards are pending. “In the lockdown period, we have decided to give 10 kg rations at Rs 1 per kilogram to applicants of new ration cards,” said Sanjay Kumar, Jharhand’s food director.

Madhya Pradesh’s food secretary, Shivshekhar Shukla said about 3.2 million people, who don’t have ration cards, are being given five kg of rations - 4 kg of wheat and 1 kg of rice -- free in April. MP has 11.6 million beneficiaries under the NFSA. Shukla said processing the new ration card applications will take time.

Andhra Pradesh state civil supplies commissioner Kona Sasidhar said as many as 95,000 people had applied for new ration cards this year. Of them, after verification, 81,000 have been approved. Officials in Telangana said no new application for ration cards had been received. Karnataka has decided to give rations to every family which has applied for new ration cards, said Vijay Kumar, joint director of Karnataka’s procurement and food department.

Even in affluent Punjab, applications have been received for 320,000 ration cards. Punjab has 14.1 million beneficiaries under the NFSA. The neighbouring food bowl state of Haryana has received around 250,000 new applications for ration cards.

Some state government officials say they were willing to provide rations even to non-NFSA beneficiaries provided the Centre increases the allocation of foodgrains. “Since the central government is not allocating food for such additional people, we are having problem in giving rations to them,” said an official of the MP food department, who requested anonymity.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel has already written to the Centre asking it to provide rations on demand during the lockdown period and not in line with the state-wise quota fixed by the Centre.

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