As many as 102 organisations and persons, including the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) as well as Mazdoor Kisaan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), have written to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot seeking ration for those hard hit by the distress caused by Covid-19 pandemic.
In the memorandum sent Tuesday, they said: “We are extremely concerned with the increase in the situation of hunger in the state. We are shocked that in this context of deep distress of the people, the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj department has come up with a circular (on May 10) providing symbolic and minimalistic support to the people…with a section provisioning food security for the poor, the homeless, the infirm and daily wage workers is completely inadequate in the circumstance. It is our understanding that it falls extremely short of providing food security to the above-stated categories who have not been selected as National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiaries.”
The organisations have demanded issuing of “Covid Emergency Ration Cards (CERC) to at least 16 lakh families (79 lakh people approximately) provisioning grain, pulses and oil for the next six months as already being provided under National Food Security Act.” They have also said that Supreme Court orders of May 13th and 24th should be implemented and migrant workers, including those without documents, should be provided rations via self-certification.
They say that due to Covid 19, as per “the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), 97 per cent of the people in the country saw a reduction in incomes in the last 15 months and at least a crore people lost their jobs” and that “the unemployment rate of Rajasthan is presently 27.6 per cent which means almost every third person in the state is looking for work.”
It is in this context that the organisations have demanded that a minimum of 16 lakh families should be extended benefits, even though the upper limit could be much higher.
They say that other than the May 10 circular, “not a single order providing relief to the non-NFSA beneficiaries has been issued by your government.”
The May order puts aside Rs 50 crore rupees of the total MLA fund collected from 200 MLAs. “A sum of 25 lakhs from the 5 crores (each MLA’s LAD Fund) has been allocated to the categories of the poor, homeless, infirm and daily wage workers. If rations worth Rs 500: 10 kg atta, 1 kg daal, 1 kg pulses, salt and masala are provided per family, then this amount would cover only 10 lakh families, providing food for only a week. We would like to ask, is hunger only one time? The assurance towards food security must be continuous,” they say.
“It’s a paradox that when the FCI godowns are overflowing with 100 million metric tonnes of grain, a very large section of the people is still living in hunger. Rotting grains and storage losses are clear criminal acts by the central and state governments,” the organisations said.
The signatories include Kavita Srivastava and Anant Bhatnagar of PUCL, as well as Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey of MKSS, among others.