he 2019 global multi-dimensional poverty index report by the United Nations states that 27.1 crore of the poor in India have come above the BPL index. According to the report, Jharkhand is among other states which have improved by leaps and bounds in poverty reduction.
The UN report is based on factors such as income, health, quality of work and threat of violence.
While the report shows growth among the poverty-stricken people, some right to food activists do not seem to be impressed by it. They said that Jharkhand still has to go a long way in addressing the issues of poor, public distribution system (PDS) and food guarantee.
The government may not admit the ground realities, but deaths due to starvation have been reported time and again in Jharkhand from the beginning, activists said.
An advisor to the Supreme Court on the right to food, Balram, questioned the basis on which the poor have been identified and put in different categories. In the 2011 census report, 23.94 lakh poor were kept under PVTG (Particular Vulnerable Tribe Group) category. Everyone belonging to the PVTG was allotted red cards, indicating that they are eligible to get 35 kg of food grain every month.
Around 11.44 lakh were identified as priority household (PHH). Prior to the National Food Security Act, 2013, these people were eligible for 35 kg of food grains every month, but after amendments in the provision, every individual is entitled to only 5 kg of food grains per month.
Earlier, any household or family received 35 kg. But now, if there are only four members in a family, their ration will be curtailed by 15 kg.
Moreover, the population is another reason behind the struggles of the poor. The population in India has grown rapidly by 25 per cent since 2011, but the allotment of ration to the poor section of the society by the government under different schemes remains the same. This has led to a yawning gap between demand and supply.
According to many, digitalisation has played a spoilsport in the PDS. A big lot of beneficiaries are left out following the internet problem and poor connectivity or network.
However, Jharkhand’s Minister of Food and Civil Supplies Saryu Roy refuted the argument. He said, “After 2016, it was clearly instructed that ration dispensation is mandatory, no matter if it is online or offline. The offline process just needs approval from BSO (Block Supply Officer).
Roy also said that the ration cards of only those members were cancelled who had two cards issued in their name. To avoid the issue of double ration cards, the government had made it mandatory to link ration cards with Aadhar number.
Jharkhand minister Saryu Roy said, “We have formed a food bank in every panchayat. They have been sent a standing imprest of Rs 10,000 to distribute among those who are unable to access ration from the dealers following technical reasons. The steps were taken with an aim to minimise the chances of starvation.”