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PDS – private distribution system?
Public service system led to poor’s food into private business
The recent spate of food riots in West Bengal is the outcome of corruption and privatisation of state’s public distribution system made possible by patronage of Left Front Government. The state has not witnessed this kind and this scale of riot for food in last 40 years, which is spread over six districts. The censure was started by those belonging to APL (Above Poverty Line), which turned into a rage against CPM cadres, claiming five lives, including two, from police firing. Fear has gripped majority of ration dealers (20,000), who enjoyed CPI(M) patronage for last 30 years.
The first symptom of current ration disquiet surfaced on September 16, 2007, when a CPI(M) rally was attacked by a mob. Next day, a ration dealer’s residence was attacked. The riot started in Bankura district, very soon engulfed Birbhum, 24 Parganas, Bardhaman, Murshidabad & Hoogli. State government suspended 117 dealers, and thousands others are absconding. A report of Supreme Court appointed Special Commission on Food Security, called it ‘double burden of privatisation’ of Public Distribution System. It further states, not only the Fair Price Shops are run by private parties; the entire distribution of foodgrains is controlled by politically supported private parties, leading to corruption. Owing to double burden of corrupt and privatised PDS, 34.9% of PDS rice and 86.6% of PDS wheat, got diverted. Worse still, 83% of the wheat meant for Below Poverty Line people and 60% of rice, got stolen.
The yoke of corruption in government machinery yields a system which is actually depriving them of their sanctioned quota of foodgrains & fuel. Amiya Patra, CPI(M) Secretary of Bankura district says that 24 out 1,245 dealers are CPI(M) members. What he did not say, is that the rest are supporters & donors of CPI(M).
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