Villagers lay siege to West Singhbhum DC office, allege denial of PDS ration
Hundreds of ration card holders of 11 villages in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand on Tuesday staged a protest in front of the district’s deputy commissioner’s (DC) office, alleging they were denied Public Distribution System (PDS) food grains for many months during past two years due to ‘nexus between corrupt PDS dealers and officials.
“None of the card holders of our village has received PDS grains for September-December 2018. We complained several times to the district supply officer (DSO), district grievance redress officer (DGRO), DC, and even the State Food Commission,” John Kayam of Chakradharpur’s Baipi village said.
Kelaram Majhi from the neighbouring village of Kupui said, “We have also not received grains for those months. Eighty-one cardholders of the village have decided they will not take any PDS ration till they get their pending foodgrain.”
Villagers of Ulirajabasa, Bada Bankua, Onkolkuti in Kuntpani Block and Sonua’s Podahat also alleged they were yet to get ration for a few months during past years.
People of Khuntpani’s Ulirajabasa said they did not get ration for three months in 2016, one month in 2017 and four months in 2018.
“After several complaints, we were called for a district-level hearing. But the DGRO declared they would get pending grains only for the four months of 2018, as cases of 2016 and 2017 are very old,” said an elderly woman, Suniya Jojo, of Baipi village.
Biren Diggi of Sonua’s Podahat village had died of hunger in December 2018 after allegedly being denied ration for four months. Kaushalya Diggi of the same village said in the dharna today that despite so many complaints since then, villagers are yet to be given ration for September-December 2018.
Manki Tubid, a rights activist in the district, said irregularities in the PDS were widespread across the district. While ration dealers claim they are not allocated grains, according to the administration, the dealers are regularly allocated grains as per their online transaction reports. “Since Aadhaar was made mandatory in the PDS, cardholders have been facing several hassles. Ration cards not linked with Aadhaar were cancelled in thousands. Many of them are yet to be reissued new cards,” alleged Tubid.
The agitators submitted a memorandum to the DC, demanding immediate distribution of pending grains to all the card holders from 2016 onwards, issuing new cards to eligible families whose cards have been cancelled, dismissal of PDS dealers siphoning off foodgrains and doing away with Aadhaar-based biometric authentication system.
DC rubbishes charges
West Singhbhum DC Arava Rajkamal, however, dismissed the charges, calling the agitation politically motivated. “We have the highest number of 550 off-line PDS shops out of the total of 1,100 in the district. We have provided cyclic fund of Rs 50, 000 to blocks so that none face the curse of hunger. At least 17, 000 fake (nameless and non-Aadhaar-linked ration cards) have been detected and deleted out of 12.52 lakh cards. Around 90% of the eligible beneficiaries have been Aadhaar-linked. As per their memorandum, only 7-8 villages have problems out of 1617 villages here,” Rajkamal said.
He said the administration had been acting on any complaint of denial of foodgrains or corruption by dealers and had even dismissed three PDS dealers so far.
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