Statement of Lok Raj Sangathan, Maharashtra Committee, and Jagrut Ghar Kamgar Sanghatana, May 1st 2010.
To read the Statement in Hindi and Marathi see the attachments
We are all reeling under the impact of high food prices. 40% of India’s population, that is 40 crore people, have to go to bed hungry every day. The Central and State Governments tell us that they are doing their best to solve the problem. This is the biggest lie and fraud on the Indian people. In fact, the UPA government is bent on doing the opposite. It is trying to introduce a bill in parliament called the National Food Security Bill, which will actually further deprive millions of people of food!
The Government’s Godowns are overflowing with a mountain of food grains!
India currently produces more than 200 million tons of food grains annually. This is enough to feed one and a half times India’s population. It is enough to give to every family of five about 1000 Kg of food grain per annum, which is equivalent to more than 80 kg per month per family!
The Government of India has currently a stock of 50 million tons of wheat and rice in its godowns, run by the Food Corporation of India (FCI). This food was bought from the Indian farmers at a price of Rs 11/ Kg for wheat and Rs 9/ kg for rice. The FCI godowns have a storage Capacity of only 20 million tons, which is the required buffer stock. Hence the balance 30 million tons is stored in the open for the last one year and will be unfit for consumption unless immediately distributed. The winter Rabi crop has already started pouring in and the food stock will increase by another 20 million tons, taking the total to 70 million tons – a surplus of 50 million tons over the required buffer stock.
Targeted “Public” Distribution System (TPDS) –To fool and divide the People!
Before 1997, there was a universal Public Distribution System, whereby every citizen was entitled to a certain amount of food grain. In 1997, the Central Government claimed that the cost of maintaining this system was very large and henceforth only the very poor people would get benefit of rations. So they introduced a Targetted Public Distribution System. They divided the 200 million families of India into two broad categories, Below Poverty Line (BPL) with a Yellow Card and Above Poverty Line(APL) with an Orange Card. Those whose family income is more than Rs. 100,000 a year get the white card and are not entitled to get food grain or sugar. The “Poverty Line” is decided by the State Government. The Maharashtra State Government has decided that those families whose total monthly income is less than Rs. 1250 will be classified as poor or BPL and will be entitled to a Yellow Ration Card! With such a ridiculous definition of poverty, the vast majority of Mumbai’s working population fall under the APL category and less than 1% of the population is BPL. So in the name of “Targetting” they are actually dividing the people and depriving the vast majority of subsidized food. Though in the last 13 years prices have soared, the Maharashtra government has not redefined the poverty line.
The yellow card holders are supposed to get 20 kg of wheat and 15 kg of rice each month at Rs. 5 a kilo and Rs. 6 a kilo respectively while the orange card holders are entitled to only 10 kg wheat and 5 kg rice at the rate of Rs. 7.20 and Rs. 9.60 a kilo. Since the Government procures wheat at Rs 11 per Kg there is hardly any subsidy for the APL card holders. Apart from this, most people actually get only a small fraction of the amount they are entitled to, and that too of very bad quality.
According to the Government’s own estimates, 65 million families or 30% of the family households in India are BPL. The vast majority of these are in the rural areas. However according to a National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) survey, 60% of these poor households have not been allotted BPL cards!
Loot of the Government Food Godowns by Government Officials and Big Traders!
After the TPDS was introduced the amount of food grain distributed through the ration shops has come down by half! For example in 1996, 60 million tons of food grains were distributed through the ration shops all over India while in 2009 this had come down to 30 million tons. Despite this, the Government’s expenditure on food subsidy has gone up from Rs 70,000 million in 1997 to Rs 550,000 million in 2009, an eight fold increase. This is not expenditure to feed the people as the Government claims (we all know how much food we get from the ration shops). A large part of this cost is for storing and preserving this mountain of food, most of which is being looted instead of reaching the people: according to the Central Government’s own Planning Commission estimates, of the food that is taken from the godowns and meant to be delivered to ration shops, only 40% of this actually reaches the people and 60% is siphoned off by the big wholesale traders, food processing companies, and ration shop owners in full collusion with the Central and State Government authorities. The value of this looted food grain is Rs 200,000 million which is shared among all these thieves and robbers.
While the International price of wheat is Rs 9/ per kg, and the Government has huge stocks of wheat and rice procured at Rs 11 per kg, we working people have to pay a much higher price for wheat and rice in the open market. So apart from our food godowns being looted, the people of India are being fleeced by big corporations and merchants!
The Government of India, which did not reach food to the starving millions of Indians, exported 28 million tons of food grains at low prices (Rs 5-8 /kg) during 2001-2008! It is very likely to soon announce the intention to export the huge surplus that currently exists.
The Government of Maharashtra has announced a new Policy on Bio Alcohol, whereby 36 factories will be allowed to be opened up in Maharashtra to generate 1,100 million liters of alcohol made from food grains. Out this 10 have already started. Each of these factories can get a subsidy of Rs 500 million. Hence Rs 18000 million will be given away to the owners of these factories, most of whom are prominent members of the ruling and opposition parties in Maharashtra. 1.4 million tons of food grains will be consumed in Maharashtra by these factories, which is enough to feed 14 million people.
It is essential that we the people unite and fight for a Universal Public Distribution System where apart from food grains, all other items of mass consumption like grains, pulses, sugar, cooking oil, dal, kerosene, vegetables, fruit and clothing would also be made available in adequate quantity and of good quality at prices affordable to all the people.
When it comes to providing for people’s welfare, the Government always says that it does not have money. This is totally false:
When in 2008 the big capitalists of India were faced with an economic crisis due to the worldwide recession, the Government of India was quick to give them Rs 2,000,000 million as a “stimulus package”. This amount itself is enough to take care of all the hungry people of our country.
The Central Governments’ Defence expenditure itself is Rs.1,700,000 million of which 70% is for acquisition of new armaments like warplanes and bombs. There should be an immediate cutback on this item. The interest and debt payment to financial institutions for one year is Rs. 3,000,000 million. The government would be able to generate a lot of money for the people by declaring an immediate moratorium on payment of interest to the financial institutions. Further, all the unaccounted wealth of capitalists, ministers and officials should be seized by measures such as issuing new rupee notes, All these measures would generate more than enough to take care of the people’s needs.
Our organisations, like many others in our country, are fighting for a universal public distribution system. We are also organising Lok Raj Samitis in different areas to fight for people’s rights, including the implementation of various provisions for ration cards and ration that exist today only on paper. We appeal to you to join us and strengthen our struggle.
Organize into People’s Committees to:
Ensure the implementation of “rights” that exist on paper!
Punish the Thieves and Robbers who loot the Food Godowns and Divert Ration!
Oppose all attempts to cut back our rights, like the National Food Security Bill in its present form!
Fight for a Universal Public Distribution System where all essentials are supplied in adequate quantity and of good quality at prices affordable to all the people!