Friday, June 22, 2012

Residents oppose cash transfers scheme of Delhi Govt. at Jahangirpuri Jan Sunwai




The Delhi Government has recently decided to conduct pilot surveys in Sangam Vihar and Jahangirpuri on cash transfers so as to discontinue the existing public distribution system (PDS). A Jan Sunwai was arranged on behalf of Bhalaswa Lok Shakti Manch (BLSM) and Residents Welfare Association, Jahangirpuri at Ramlila Maidan, G block (near Kushal cinema), Jahangirpuri on 22 June, 2012 so as to oppose Delhi Government’s move to replace the PDS with cash transfers.

Social activist Pushpa from BLSM said that the Jan Sunwai (public hearing) could not begin at the scheduled time (i.e. 11 am on 22 June 2012) since the administration rejected the permission for holding it at the Ramlila Maidan at the last minute, which was sought since a month back. Right to Food is the demand of the present public hearing. Despite problems associated with the PDS, it should not be dismantled. She informed that in a pilot survey of 100 households during 2011 done by SEWA and IDF in association with Delhi government, residents (women heads) of Raghubir Nagar were given Rs 1000/- per household (comprising 5 members). On 26 April, 2012, UNDP and the Delhi Government along with Swami Sivanand Memorial Institute (SSMI) organized a public meeting in Jahangirpuri in order to convince people about the advantages of cash transfers over PDS. However, through a signature campaign, 4500 signatures were collected from people rejecting the cash transfer scheme. The same have been sent and communicated to the Chief Minister of Delhi, FSO Commissioner, AC (north West) and UNDP along with memorandum of people from Jahangirpuri. Cash transfer would affect the farmers since the minimum support prices (MSP) given to them would be ended when it is introduced. Pushpa asked why the government is not ready to reform the PDS to check leakages and corruption. The ration shops do not follow Section 4 of the Right to Information Act so as to proactively disclose information to ration consumers, she asserted.

The Jan Sunwai helped one to understand the situation on the ground. Veenu, a woman from the nearby slum, told that her ration card got cancelled recently and the officials at the ration office and the PDS dealer do not listen to her grievances. She asked for PDS instead of cash transfer. She asked for public support to hold a dharna.

Meenu, a resident of Jahangirpuri, shared how she and other women are struggling to ensure that they receive their entitlements completely and on time. She spoke about ration cards which show that ration has been dispatched but the families have not received any food grains. She also spoke about corruption from ground level ration shopkeepers who sell off the foodgrains in black and are not willing to act on complaints.

A middle aged woman named Zarina said that despite Public Grievance Commission (PGC) orders, ration cards could not be issued to her.  

Raju bhai, a daily wage labourer living in Delhi since the last 32 years said that out of his 4 sons, he has lost 2. He has 2 daughters too. It took him 3 years to strike off the names of 2 of his dead sons and add the names of his 2 sons who took birth later. The officials asked for bribe for performing their duties. Full quota of wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene is not supplied by the ration shops. Old people are cheated by the ration dealers and are made to wait in the queue for long hours. He shouted the slogan: “Paisa Nahi Chahiye, Ration Chahiye” (Give us ration, don’t give us cash).

Sushila ji, a woman from the slum said that despite being a poor, she does not have a card since 5 years. She has requested the officials and filled up the forms several times but all in vain. Given her economic status, it is difficult to pay bribe.

Zahir Bhai, a resident of Jahangirpuri, alleged that the money given by the Central Government has not been utilized properly by the Delhi State Government. Despite identification of households, only a few could receive the Antyodaya Anna Yojana card (red card).

Pushpa, a social activist from Satark Nagrik Sangathan said that if government is formed by the people, then it should be held accountable to fulfill the need of its people.

Tara Chand, FSO, Circle 4 Food and Civil Supplies Department who was invited to listen to the grievances of the residents of Jahangirpuri said that people had many complaints and these should be addressed. He said there had been changes in policy which affected the amount of foodgrains received. Due to the instruction coming from the head office, ration shops reduced the monthly allocation of foodgrains for a household overtime: 35kg->32kg->30kg->24kg. He said that cancellation of cards can be checked on the computer records and followed up at ITO. While mentioning that he did not have the capacity to act on their complaints, he advised people to take their complaints to the Food and Supplies Department, ITO. He assured people that he would support them in their work and they could meet him.       

The grievances raised by the people are as follows:

  • People get monthly allocation of 20 kg foodgrain per household instead of 25 kg.
  • Despite applications being filed, a few ration cards have been issued so far.
  • If somebody complains or protests, the officials and ration dealers threaten to convert their existing cards into “white card” (meant for APL households).
  • Rich people owning houses possess “red cards” (meant for Antyodaya Anna Yojana).
  • The complaints raised during the public hearing should reach the appropriate officials.
  • More such signature campaigns should be held to pressurize the officials.
  • Delhi Chief Minister’s claim of “mahila raj” is a misnomer since women have been harassed by PDS officials and dealers.
  • Media is pro-government and pays little attention to leakages in the PDS.

Bharat Dogra, senior journalist said that the public hearing would act like a warning signal to the people that PDS is going to be replaced by cash transfer. Cash transfer is problematic. There are many limitations within the PDS but that does not mean replacing it with cash transfer. The objective of the government should be to minimize leakages in the PDS. In the past, the Government of India made several efforts to strengthen the PDS to improve its delivery mechanism. Pulses should be given under the PDS as their prices have skyrocketed recently. Although storage of foodgrains under the PDS is major concern presently, it should not lead to dismantling the system. The storage problem is short-term. PDS would cushion the consumers against inflation.

Prof. Utsa Patnaik (ex-faculty member, JNU) informed that 66 lakh tonnes of foodgrains meant for the PDS is kept under the open sky that would get damaged due to rain if not attended to (6.6 m. tonnes of wheat under open sky faces rain fury, admits Centre-Gargi Parsai, The Hindu, 22 June, 2012, http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3555824.ece). Export of foodgrains is taking place amidst hunger, she alleged. Cash transfer instead of PDS is a dangerous move. Due to the ongoing inflation, Rs. 1000/- will not be enough to buy foodgrains in the coming days. There is a need for widespread protest against the Government’s move for ending the PDS. She said that PDS used to be universal in the mid-1960s. The neoliberal policies of the Government gave rise to the targeted PDS in 1997. The poverty line suggested by the Planning Commission recently is shocking, Rs. 22.43 per day per person in rural areas and Rs. 28.65 per day per person in urban areas. She also ridiculed government figures that suggested that only 11-12 % of Delhi's population is poor. She said that wrong policies adopted by the Government are responsible for the problems associated with PDS and ration dealers should not be blamed alone. The 62 year old PDS is being jeopardized by the people at the top. She ended by saying that people should take their demands further and question those ruling over them. She appealed that people should take forward their demands to the streets of Parliament.
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Prof. Ritu Priya (JNU) said that the problem with the PDS is not specific to Delhi and is widespread across the country. The Prime Minister has found that it is a national shame to have 42 percent of its children as underweight. About one third of Indian women are malnourished. Children borne undernourished cannot lead a healthy life. Rs. 1000/- given as cash transfer to cover monthly expenditure of a household of 5 members is a drop in the ocean. There is enough evidence that per capita expenditure on food has come down to compensate for rise in expenditure on electricity bill, daily commutation expenses, expenses on education, clothes etc. The PM is inclined towards helping the corporate sector instead of the needy.

Dunu Roy (Hazards Centre, http://www.hazardscentre.com/home.html) said that people should demand for a universal PDS and there should be one type of card instead of yellow card (for BPL), red card (for Antyodaya Anna Yojana) and white card (for APL). The next step for the residents should to meet the local councilor and subsequently the MLA and the MP.             

Prof. Imrana Qadeer (JNU) said that between 1950s and 1970s, one saw per capita consumption of foodgrains going up whereas from 1970s onward one noticed per capita consumption of foodgrains going down.

Gautam Navlakha (human rights activist) said that a united front should be made for protest demonstration in front of the Parliament against the Delhi Government’s move to replace the PDS with cash transfer.

(This report, which has been prepared by Shambhu Ghatak is partly based on the press release sent by Hazards Centre. Some of the photographs used here are sent by Hazards Centre).

References:

Survey on preference between PDS and cash transfers in Delhi by Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan, Delhi, http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/reports-documents/survey-preference-between-pds-and-cash-transfers-delhi   

Do Poor People in Delhi want to change from PDS to Cash Transfers?-A Study conducted by SEWA Delhi, October 2009,


Justice Wadhwa Committee on PDS,

Bolsa Familia in Brazil: Context, Concept and Impacts (2009), ILO,

The Nuts and Bolts of Brazil’s Bolsa Família Program: Implementing Conditional Cash Transfers in a Decentralized Context-Kathy Lindert, Anja Linder, Jason Hobbs and Bénédicte de la Brière, May 2007,

HUNGaMA: Fighting Hunger & Malnutrition (2011), Naandi Foundation, http://www.im4change.org/law-justice/disaster-relief-41.html?pgno=2

Jahangirpuri residents to protest against cash in place of food-Naziya Alvi, The Times of India, 22 June, 2012, http://www.im4change.org/rural-news-update/jahangirpuri-residents-to-protest-against-cash-in-place-of-food-naziya-alvi-15836.html

Poor want ration, not cash: Activists, IANS, News Track India, 15 June, 2012, http://www.im4change.org/rural-news-update/poor-want-ration-not-cash-activists-15690.html

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Despite protests Delhi Govt. going ahead with cash transfers



While protesting against Delhi Government’s decision to conduct pilot surveys in Sangam Vihar and Jahangirpuri for cash transfers so as to replace the existing public distribution system (PDS), activists from Bhalaswa Lok Shakti Manch told the media persons gathered at Indian Women Press Corps on 15 June 2012 that they have collected 4500 signatures (including 3300 signatures in Jahangirpuri alone) of residents who do not want cash in lieu of ration.

Speaking at the press meet, Pushpa from Bhalaswa Lok Shakti Manch (BLSM) said that Delhi Government is in favour of replacing the PDS with cash transfers. Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan survey conducted in 2011 showed that 91.4 percent of respondents preferred a reformed PDS instead of cash transfers (see the link: http://www.im4change.org/hunger-hdi/public-distribution-system-pds-42.html?pgno=2). She alleged that for distributing Rs. 12 lakh to 100 persons (one each for a household) as money for cash transfers (for a year) in Raghubir Nagar, Rs. 14 lakh was spent on the survey done by SEWA and IDF. On 26 April, 2012, UNDP and the Delhi Government along with SSMI organized a public meeting in Jahangirpuri in order to convince people about the advantages of cash transfers over PDS. However, through a signature campaign, 4500 signatures were collected from people rejecting the cash transfer scheme. The same have been sent and communicated to the Chief Minister of Delhi, FSO Commissioner, AC (north West) and UNDP along with memorandum of people from Jahangirpuri. She said that APL cardholders have been excluded from the cash transfer scheme. People who have demanded for their rights have faced harassment at the hands of officials and ration dealers.

Manmohan Singh, activist from Bhalaswa Lok Shakti Manch informed that for submitting cash (of Rs. 1000/- per month) in favour of a female head of the household in the Raghubir Nagar survey, there were difficulties faced in opening of bank accounts due which the Delhi Government had to directly intervene. The monthly sum of Rs. 1000/- which was given as cash transfer for a household (of 5 members) in the pilot survey by Delhi Government is not enough to purchase ration that can generate 2200 kilo calorie for an adult per day in urban areas. Since 70 percent of BPL households have an average size of 7 (and not 5 as assumed by the Delhi Government), so the sum stipulated under the cash transfer scheme is insufficient to meet the monthly expenditure for a household. Manmohan said that the PDS in Delhi is subject to governance failure. It is not the PDS which is problematic but those who govern the system who are at fault. Despite several RTI petitions being filed, most ration/ fair price shops do not disclose information to the consumers proactively. Repeated complaints made on irregularities in PDS have fallen on deaf ears. Citizens’ Charter of Delhi has not been implemented well. Earlier the Supreme Court slammed the Government for putting a cap on the number of BPL ration cards issued when so many poor people migrate to Delhi in search of livelihood opportunity. The e-PDS is of little benefit to the BPL.

Reetika Khera from IIT, Delhi said that not all cash transfers are bad like widow pension, old age pension etc. She informed about her study that was done in 10 states along with Jean Dreze during 2011. In two-third of the households surveyed, PDS was preferred over cash transfers. In Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, people were mostly in favour of PDS. People preferred food over cash for the following reasons: food security; access to bank/ post office; access to markets; dissipation of cash (for buying alcohol); underdeveloped rural markets; and, artificial inflation caused due to collusion by local traders. If the PDS is replaced with cash transfers, the burden of transportation and storage costs would be transferred to the poor. From her past experience of working with the rural poor, Reetika earlier felt that poor in the cities are not disempowered and do not lack awareness. However, having heard the activists from BLSM, she asked for giving urban poor both the options: cash transfer as well as PDS. In a democratic set up, people’s views have to be taken into account, she added. She said that the arguments in favour of cash transfers were heard during the days when PDS was subject to rampant corruption and pilferage. However, the situation in India has improved a lot. In her study based on secondary data from NSS 2007-08, she has found that states that have traditionally performed poorly in terms of monthly per capita PDS purchase viz. Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have improved their performance between 2004-05 and 2007-08 (please see: People prefer PDS over cash transfers, http://www.im4change.org/news-alert/people-prefer-pds-over-cash-transfers-9935.html). India is wrongly imitating the Brazilian cash transfer model-‘Bolsa Familia’. Poverty headcount ratio at $1.25 a day (PPP) in Brazil was 6 percent in 2009 while in India it was 33 percent in 2010 (as per the World Development Indicators). Brazil has achieved almost universal literacy while India has a long way to go. Brazil is more urban as compared to India. Given these differences, India needs direct Government intervention for removing malnutrition. 

Rashpal Kaur, Delhi state general secretary, National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), the women's wing of Communist Party of India said that though the Government is in a mood to abolish the PDS, there is no guaranty that corruption will not take place in cash transfer scheme. The Government wants FDI in retail to make entry in India at the cost of common man’s interest. However, the government is depriving the poor. The APL and BPL divide in PDS should be ended and PDS should be made universal. She said that the Planning Commission wants to reduce the number of BPL card holders in the country. As against the accepted number of 6.52 crore BPL cards, there existed 10.68 crore BPL cards by end of March, 2009. There is no uniformity in the definition of poor. There are three different estimates for the number of BPL households: one by Prof. Arjun Sengupta, another by Dr. NC Saxena (www.sccommissioners.org) and the Planning Commission estimates. According to Prof. Arjun Sengupta who chaired the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector, 77 percent of the population of India lives below the poverty line. Dr. NC Saxena, a retired civil servant acting as a Commissioner appointed by the Supreme Court, feels that half the country’s population of 1.2 billion is below the poverty line, which he apparently defines as a monthly per capita income of Rs 700 in rural areas and Rs 1,000 in urban areas. A recent Planning Commission estimate puts the head count ratio in India at 29.8 percent in 2009-10. She alleged that quota for Central assistance in PDS to states has been reduced in recent years. She said that even the Prime Minister while releasing the HUNGaMA report has agreed that it is a national shame for India to have 42 percent of its children as underweight. Though the Government spends conspicuously on toilets and gave 5 lakh crore sops in its budget to industrial houses, it never has enough money for the poor. Cash transfer is dangerous and the Government is under pressure from the private sector. The Food Corporation of India has outsourced its work to outsiders and is running short of staff. The Government is not willing to buy from farmers. Cash transfer scheme that is being piloted is not linked to inflation. Somehow the Government wants to manipulate data so as to show that India has reduced poverty as per the Millennium Development Goals requirement. A lot of money is wasted on trivial programmes like Stand Up against Poverty (http://standagainstpoverty.org/suap/) and Make Noise against Poverty.         


References:

Survey on preference between PDS and cash transfers in Delhi by Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan, Delhi, http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/reports-documents/survey-preference-between-pds-and-cash-transfers-delhi  

Do Poor People in Delhi want to change from PDS to Cash Transfers?-A Study conducted by SEWA Delhi, October 2009,


Justice Wadhwa Committee on PDS,

Bolsa Familia in Brazil: Context, Concept and Impacts (2009), ILO,

The Nuts and Bolts of Brazil’s Bolsa Família Program: Implementing Conditional Cash Transfers in a Decentralized Context-Kathy Lindert, Anja Linder, Jason Hobbs and Bénédicte de la Brière, May 2007,

HUNGaMA: Fighting Hunger & Malnutrition (2011), Naandi Foundation, http://www.im4change.org/law-justice/disaster-relief-41.html?pgno=2

Poor want ration, not cash: Activists, IANS, News Track India, 15 June, 2012, http://www.im4change.org/rural-news-update/poor-want-ration-not-cash-activists-15690.html

Delhi government faces SC’s wrath for not issuing ration card, Jagran Post, 18 May, 2011, http://post.jagran.com/Delhi-government-faces-SCs-wrath-for-not-issuing-ration-card-1305730982