Odisha: 78% of poor households about to exhaust PDS rice: Survey
A survey of pension beneficiaries from the four migration- prone districts of Odisha by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) has found that 78% of the households have either exhausted the rice that they had received from the state-run public distribution system (PDS), or about to exhaust their stock over the next fortnight.
The dire projections of an acute food shortage came to the fore on the completion of four months of lockdown restrictions, which were imposed in end-March in a bid to prevent the spread of the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak and the despite the largesse from the state government for 94 lakh beneficiaries between April and June.
The telephonic survey of 63 pension beneficiaries in the four migration-prone districts of Bargarh, Balangir, Kalahandi, and Nuapada was conducted by Odisha Khadya Adhikar Abhiyan, an NGO, between July 1 and 15.
The survey found that 16% of the families reported that rice from the PDS was exhausted.
While 24% of the families said that the stock of rice would last between two and seven days.
Another 38% of the families had a quota that would see them through between eight and 15 days.
An overwhelming 73% of the families reported that they had run out of cash to buy rice.
The survey also found that 54% of the households had consciously reduced their daily food intake during the lockdown restrictions in a bid to ensure that the ration could last longer amid the pandemic.
Out of the 35 families, who had reported eating less during the lockdown restrictions, 37% of them had either no rice at home or the stock could last between two and seven days.
On March 21, at the cusp of the viral outbreak in the state, the Naveen Patnaik-led Odisha government had announced largesse for 94 lakh beneficiaries for the next three months.
It had pledged to distribute five kilograms (kg) of rice/wheat per head at Re 1 a kg and two litres of kerosene oil for free to ride out the pandemic-triggered lockdown restrictions.
The government had also announced ₹1,000 one-time cash assistance to each of the 94 lakh ration cardholders.
It had distributed five and three kg of rice and arhar dal, respectively, to each of the cardholders under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, an initiative under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana.
The government had also announced ₹2,000 as an advance for an old-age pension for all the beneficiaries between March and June.
However, the NGO, in its survey, found that many of the families spent the pension money on medical and food expenses for their household members. “We found that 57% of the families are worried about food scarcity because of an acute cash crunch. Similarly, 69% of the households reported that they had to borrow money and/or buy food on credit from a local grocer,” said Sameet Panda, who had conducted the survey along with Vipul Kumar.
Another telephonic survey, conducted by the Delhi-based National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), a non-profit economic think-tank, in Bargarh and Dhenkanal districts of Odisha in June, has revealed that 81% of the households experienced a drastic dip in their monthly income.
Around 27% of the households in these two districts had no income during the lockdown, while 59.3% had to fall back on their savings or sale assets to tide over the unexpected economic crisis due to the pandemic.