Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ration at last!

Kanti who lives in a slum settlement in South Delhi is happy because the Government is providing her with 25 kg wheat and 10 kg rice per month at highly subsidized prices. This is a new phenomenon for her despite the fact that she has been living in the slum for over 15 years. Till about two months ago, she would not have believed it if someone told her she would actually get her ration entitlement from her ration shop keeper.

The Delhi Government provides foodgrains and kersone oil at very low rates for every poor family but due to large scale corruption, the poor never get their entitlements. SNS has taken steps to fight this malice in low income settlements of South Delhi. It started it’s work from Jagdamba Camp, a slum settlement in Sheikh Sarai by distributing pamphlets regarding the quanity of ration and kersone oil each poor family is supposed to get and the prices they should be charged. The pamphlets also listed the rights of the poor under the PDS.

On reading the pamphlets many women contacted the volunteers of SNS and complained that they had never recieved the correct amount of ration at the prescribed rates . In one shop in Malviya Nagar, women said that the shopkeper had not sold even a grain of rice or wheat to them in fifteen years. About 50-60 women along with the volunteers of SNS contacted the ration shop keeper and the food inspector of the area. The shop keeper eventually had to succumb to public pressure and had to distribute ration properly. For the first time in their lives, the women got their ration from the rationshopkeeper at the correct prices and in the right quantities. Many, in fact, said that it was such a new experience for them that they did not even know how to carry back the 35 kg of grains they had received.

Within a short span of time it is almost as if a revolution has come about related to the PDS in slums like Jagdamba Camp, Begumpur, Lal Gumbad Camp and Swami Nagar. According to the ration shop keepers themselves, if this trend does not stop, it will no longer be lucrative for them to run ration shops in the area. According to Vinita Singh, a representative of the SNS, they are supported in their work on the PDS by several senior Government officials who want that ration meant for the poor actually reaches the intended beneficiaries.

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