Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Food distribution in India is full of corruption

India has a food distribution system that gives out food at drastically reduced prices. Ration shops that dot India's countryside often become dens of corruption instead of distributors of food. The people in charge of the ration shops often turn into money lenders instead of public servants, withholding food until a payback is made.

From this Le Monde article that we found at the Guardian, writer Julien Bouissou describes the curruption within India's food distribution system.

Malnutrition in India is on the rise, despite nutrition rehabilitation centres and ration shops. "Indicators of urban food insecurity ... reveal an alarming picture," says the Report on the State of Food Insecurity in Urban India, published by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation and the World Food Programme. The Congress party, which promised to lift the country out of poverty when it returned to power in 2009, is drafting a revolutionary Right to Food bill.

To achieve this goal, organisations will have to be reformed – starting with the ration shops, which are supposed to distribute rice, sugar, wheat and even kerosene at subsidised prices to anyone in need. But none of the inhabitants of Gautam Nagar are entitled to this bounty.

Munna Lal, for instance, had to give up his ration card two years ago. After a violent dispute with his cousin he was arrested by the police, who demanded $14 as bail for his release, and $50 as a bribe. "To pay, I gave my card as security to the owner of the ration shop so he would loan me the money," Lal explains. Some ration cards are no longer used to obtain food but as collateral for debt and many shopkeepers have become money-lenders.

Others do not even have a ration card, for instance the seasonal migrants who have neither a fixed address nor an identity card.

Those who do have a ration card may not be able to use it. "They can only buy their monthly allowance of food at one time. Day workers often cannot save enough to buy 20kg of wheat or 3kg of rice in one go," says Seema Deshmukh, of the Muskaan NGO, who works with Bhopal slum dwellers. According to a 2004 study by the Planning Commission, only 40% of the food allocated to the poorest people by the public distribution system reaches them. The rest ends up on the black market or rots in warehouses.

1 comment:

Siddhartha said...

Most of the communities in India (such as Bengali), are succumbed in 'Culture of Poverty'(a theory introduced by an American anthropologist Oscar Lewis), irrespective of cl-ass or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is at all ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-administrative system, weak mother language, continuous absorption of common space (mental as well as physical, both). We are becoming fathers & mothers only by self-procreation, mindlessly & blindfold. Simply depriving their(the children) fundamental rights of a decent, caring society, fearless & dignified living. Do not ever look for any other positive alternative behaviour (values) to perform human way of parenthood, i.e. deliberately co-parenting of those children those are born out of ignorance, real poverty. All of us are being driven only by the very animal instinct. If the Bengali people ever be able to bring that genuine freedom (from vicious cycle of 'poverty') in their own life/attitude, involve themselves in 'Production of Space' (Henri Lefebvre), at least initiate a movement by heart, decent & dedicated Politics will definitely come up. - Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, 16/4, Girish Banerjee Lane, Howrah-711101.