Chhattisgarh – Food Security Region: West

Chhattisgarh – Food Security Region: West

Securing people’s Right to Food

A Public Hearing by various CSOs, Right to Food Campaign and Oxfam India pressed the Chhattisgarh government to successfully reinstate ration cards that were wrongly cancelled during the BPL verification drive. 

“If I hadn’t got my ration card back, I would be going around begging for food which now I don’t have to do” says Phool Kunwar Bai (65), a Majhuar Adivasi who is disabled and lives alone in the village of Manpur, Udaypur Block, Sarguja district of Chhattisgarh. With a pension of Rs.200 and a ration card for the disabled which gives her 10 kilos of rice, she has barely enough to scrape by every month. 

Raie Muniya (50), a Gond adivasi and a widow, lives in the hamlet of Amadugu located deep in the forests of Udaypur block. She farms on encroached forest land and depends heavily on forest produce like tendu leaves, sal seeds and mahua for her family’s subsistence. The Antodaya Ration Card* gives her 35 kilos of grain and is a succor for her family from going absolutely hungry. 

“I don’t get to earn much money. Ration grain is a big help to support food requirement of the family.” says Raie Muniya. 

But during the BPL (Below Poverty Line) verification drive by Chhattisgarh government in September-October 2010 to root out false and duplicate ration cards, many deserving households like Raie Muniya and Phool Kunwar Bai were removed from the BPL list for flawed reasons, leading many to the brink of starvation. The Chhattisgarh government, though committed to correcting their public food distribution system had conducted this verification process haphazardly. As a result, a whopping 3.76 lakhs ration cards which the government considered false or ineligible were cancelled.        

Oxfam India and Right to Food Campaign advocates at state level

Various civil society organisations including Chaupal (Oxfam India’s partner in Chhattisgarh), an organisation taking the lead in the Right to Food campaign in the state and Oxfam India held a state level Public Hearing at Raipur on 10th Oct 2011 to showcase the discrepancies in the BPL verification process and present genuine cases of people whose cards were wrongly cancelled. According to a research conducted by the team, more than two lakhs ration cards out of 3.76 lakhs were wrongly cancelled.     

The Public Hearing attended by eminent jury members like Biraj Patnaik, Sharad Chandra Behar, Sachin Kumar Jain and various government officials like Rajiv Jaiswal (Jt Director of Ministry of Food and Civil Supplies), Som Shekhar (Technical Director of NIC) and RC Gulati (Assistant Food Officer, Raipur) had generated a positive response from media as well. 

The State, even though concerned about the issue was reluctant to look into the cases presented at the Public Hearing. As a result, the jury members submitted their report and raised this concern with the Supreme Court. Post a letter from the Supreme Court to the Chhattisgarh government asking them to re-look at the cases, the State then re-instated 25,685 ration cards. They have also issued orders to the State Food and Civil Supply Department to look into all other false cancellation cases as mentioned at the Public Hearing and re-instate them over a period of time starting March 2012. 

In the 5 months that Phool Kunwar Bai did not get her ration, she reluctantly stayed with her daughter in law and repeatedly complained to the Panchayat and ration shop owner. Her card got re-instated soon after the Block Food Inspector instructed the Panchayat to restart her ration. 

For a year that she didn’t have her ration card, Raie Muniya ran pillar to post to get her card back. To survive, she took loan from private money lenders to buy rice from the open market at Rs.25/-. She finally got her ration card back on March 2012. 

For many like Raie Muniya and Phool Kunwar Bai, the struggle to get basic food will soon be over.

*’ Antodaya Ration Cards are given to PVTG (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups), economically vulnerable or destitute households. Subsidized rate of grain is lower than for those owning BPL cards.  

Story by Bipasha Majumder

Images by Sachi Maniar


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