The campaign, initiated by several groups, urged the government for a more comprehensive food security act and for reforms in the Public Distribution System.
About 10,000 people across eight districts protested against the rotting food grains in FCI and state godowns in Bengal. The protesters demanded that grains should be distributed for free or at subsidised rates to the poor, instead of letting it rot in godowns. Demonstrations were held in front of the BDO offices and FCI godowns in Nadia, North and South 24-Parganas, Burdwan, Bankura, Hoogly, West Midnapore and Purulia on September 27 and 28.
“We have more grains than what is required. But they are kept in the godowns and are rotting. More than 5 lakh Antodaya Cards (providing food subsidies to the poorest of the poor) are lying undistributed since 2005,” said Anuradha Talwar, president of Paschim Banga Khet Majdoor Samity, an NGO.
The campaign has been started by Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS), Shramajivee Mahila Samity, Udayani Social Action Forum, Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), Shramajibee Samanvay Committee and Human Rights Law Network among others.
Apart from ensuring that food grains are not wasted in godowns, the campaign also focuses on a thorough reform of the Public Distribution System. “We want a universal PDS as the present system, meant only for the BPL, excludes a huge chunk of the needy people. The ration cards should be computerised and the PDS system should get rid of wholesellers and private dealers,” said Talwar. A major problem with the PDS system in Bengal is the rampant usage of bogus cards. According to an estimate of Ration Shop Owners’ Association, about 500 to 800 bogus cards are registered in each ration shop.