Activists and proponents of the famous Right to Food Campaign may have welcomed the Centre’s decision to give free ration to the poor and needy till November but there is something that they continue to be sceptical about.
The Right to Food activists have expressed concern about the plight of people who are poor and hungry but do not ave ration cards or those who have been additionally included by state governments through state schemes.
The activists were worried and raised questions about what the government’s plans were for the section of the population and how it could be made to survive amid the coronavirus pandemic.
They also highlighted the important point that most Indian migrant workers didn’t own a ration card and asked how they would be able to access food in such a scenario.
PM Modi had recently announced that the Centre would extend the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till November this year due to the economic distress that had bee prevailing in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown.
The prime minister had promised that under this new scheme targeted towards the poor, all Indian people who owned a ration card or Antyodaya Anna Yojana ration card under the National Food Security Act would be eligible to received 5kg of food grain per person and each household that has a ration cared will get 1 kg of pulses free of cost.
The Right to Food Campaign activists have said that although the scheme is of vital importance and would be a great relief to millions of poor and marginalised people amid the pandemic, they raised critical questions on the fact that often the most poorest and marginalised sections of the society are left out of the PDS system because they don’t have access to the necessary documents.
They highlighted that even had the ‘One Nation, One Ration’ scheme been functional it would still leave out a large section of the population because the PDS leaves out people who don’t have the necessary documents.
The scheme is likely to be rolled out by March 2021.
They also pointed out to the irony of the fact that since food stocks are allegedly at a record high in India and people are facing large scale poverty and starvation, the government could have easily unrealised the public distribution system and included everyone in its fold.
This would have ensured anyone in need of ration would be provided with it irrespective of whether they possessed ration card.
They also suggested that it was important for the government to have necessary procedures in places to provide states with subsidised grains so that the benefits of the scheme may be taken to all those who are in need of it .
The activists also suggested that the only way that the government can make sure that the PDS is universalised is through allowing anybody who is in need of ration to access it through them.
It is high time that the PDS system is universalised and people are benefited urgently. It is paradoxical that even one person should have to die in the country due to starvation when the godowns are overflowing.