Around 80 households out of 250 denied PDS welfare in Baramsar
About a third of the households in a village in Hanumangarh district, Rajasthan have not received any rations from the Public Distribution System (PDS) shops. Visits by government officials and even a member of the legislative assembly have yet to bring any relief for the residents.
An elderly woman in Baramsar without any support is one of the beneficiaries suffering from apathy, often going to bed hungry. She is now fighting for survival, often depending on just a meal a day to stretch her food supply.
Devki, a 62-year-old widow with a below-poverty-line (BPL) card, receives only 10 kilogrammes of ration from the local shop. “I am eligible for 35 kg food grains, but the shopkeepers said my fingerprints couldn’t be detected. They refused my entire quota, saying I could not be registered in the BPL category,” she said.
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The sexagenarian is a red card holder, which should certify she belongs to an impoverished family for her rightful share of rations.
The elderly woman relies on the rations to support her in her old age. She finds it difficult to work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, as she tires out easily.
“Apart from the meagre 10 kgs rations, I rely on MGNREGA. But even work availability has been low for the past two years,” she said.
It has become difficult for me to survive, said Devki. “Despite wanting to work, I sleep hungry a few days every month,” she said. Being illiterate, she easily gets confused about official procedures and receives no help.
“I have no relatives in the village and neighbours don’t lend a hand. I have only one meal a day and eat the minimum to save up the ration,” she said, demanding that the officials take cognisance of her situation.
The elderly and unemployed red ration card holders are still eligible for ration according to the government norms. But Devki has no relief.
“My husband passed away about 25 years ago and my mother-in-law around 2015,” she said. She received the entire quantity of ration when they were alive.
Her 25-year-old son, Deedaram has received a ration card but is married and lives far away.“I have no other person living with me to take care of my ill health,” she added.
She also has to cough up at least Rs 4,000 a month for additional groceries like oil and spices. “I require at least 40 kgs of wheat and other groceries,” Devki said.
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She has knocked on all doors and even travelled 15 kilometres to Jaisalmer to reach officials concerned but to no avail. “I cannot make frequent trips alone because of my age and taking someone along demands money and availability,” she said.
There are around 250 households in the village with a total of 2,200 residents, according to Chattaram, a former village Gram Panchayat member. “There are at least 80 families who are not receiving food grain supply from the government, despite being eligible for the same,” he added.
Government officials and upper caste families have colluded to seek benefits, thus depriving the poor, he alleged.
Officials from the government and MLA Roopa Ram had visited the village around September 2022, said Devki. “I raised my issue in front of them, but no one took note of the situation and my problem remains unsolved,” she said.
“Devki’s case was highlighted in a Gram Panchayat meeting in October,” said Chattaram. “However, the meeting was fruitful only for a handful of people who had the documents ready. Many were landholders but still managed to receive rations,” he said.
Farmers with land holdings are not eligible for PDS benefits, he added.
Read more: Dying for ration: Biometric glitches in Rajasthan villages keep the poor hungry
For Devki, the only lifeline is the resumption of the full quantity of her share of food grains. This would require her to be included in the online system through biometrics and assistance from the officials.
Once the process is complete, her ration card will have a stamp that will enable her to receive food grains. She is also eligible for added benefits and government guidelines mention that she should be getting it irrespective of the stamp.
She should receive medical assistance from the state government’s flagship Chiranjeevi scheme, which offers medical treatment to the poor for free. “If I do not have the stamp, I have to pay Rs 850 per year to avail of the benefits. I do not have the money,” Devki said.
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