In Rajasthan’s Dausa, poor families are ‘insulted’ for ration under govt subsidy scheme

People in Dausa’s many villages say that if they refuse to get the sentence saying that they were poor painted on their house, they might not get the benefits under the government’s food subsidy programme.

india Updated: Jun 23, 2017 08:42 IST
P Srinivasan
P Srinivasan
Hindustan Times, Dausa
Poor Families,BPL,National Food Security Act
A woman stands near the official writing on the wall outside her home in Pilodi in Dausa.(Prabhakar Sharma / HT Photo)

The yellow-and-red message in Hindi reads: “I am extremely poor and take rations under NFSA.”

The government’s food subsidy programme comes with an insult for hundreds of poor households in several villages of Rajasthan’s Dausa.

“I was so ashamed … that I refused to get it written. But the painter insisted and said I will not get the BPL benefits if I don’t get it painted on my house,” said Suresh Meena, a 40-year-old labourer in Sikrai tehsil’s Hingi village.

The mortified man got the humiliating line painted on the wall of his cowshed, not on the main wall of his home. His village has nearly 100 houses and more than 80% bear the sign.

The villagers don’t want to “advertise” their poverty, which they said is a wretched curse itself.

“The message was written on my wall but we removed it. It is very insulting,” said Janak Ram, a 28-year-old professional driver in Hingi.

A man stands near the official writing on the wall outside his home at Pilodi in Dausa. (Prabhakar Sharma / HT Photo)

The message on the wall is believed to be a strategy to mark out homes receiving the government’s food handout amid allegations of widespread corruption and pilferage in the programme.

The government provides cheap grain to 67% of its population of 1.3 billion under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). India is home to a quarter of the world’s hungry poor, according to United Nations data, despite being one of the biggest food producers and experiencing years of rapid economic growth.

Mamta Meena, the sarpanch of Pilodi panchayat, said the food supply department directed around six months ago to write the line on homes of all beneficiaries, apparently to check fake people on the “below poverty line” list from getting the benefits.

A family sits near the official writing on the wall outside their home in Dausa. (Prabhakar Sharma / HT Photo)

However, Dausa district supply officer Mahendra Singh denied his department issuing any such order. The zila parishad CEO, RS Kavia, did not respond to calls for his comments.

Additional collector KC Sharma too denied the district administration giving such a directive.

“The zila parishad or the gram panchayat could have issued the directive as there were complaints of misuse of the food security act by ineligible people. I will look into this complaint,” he said.

The genuinely poor are in a fix — if they remove the slogan, they lose the cheap grain. If they don’t, they live with humiliation.

Santra Devi, a woman from Kundera Dungar village in Dausa, said her family swallows the insult for 10kg of wheat. “We go around in the village with our head lowered.”

In Pilodi, a similar resenting tale was recounted.

Nehru Lal, a 32-year-old farmer from the village of 250 households, was upset as his ration card is of “above poverty line” category but his house bears the insulting message.

“Just by writing on the wall will not make any person rich or poor.”

First Published: Jun 23, 2017 08:25 IST