Hundreds of the victims of failed \\\’cash transfer\\\’ experiment in Kotakism met the Rural Development minister Jairam Ramesh at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi where a three-day dharna began on Wednesday demanding a more inclusive \\\’Food Security Act\\\’.
More than 1000 people from all over the country are participating in the dharna which has been organised by \\\’Right To Food Campaign\\\’.
Victims of failed cash transfer experiment shared their experiences with the Rural Development minister at the dharna.
Here is the press statement:
A three-day dharna for the right to food, convened by the Right to Food Campaign, began on Wednesday at Jantar Mantar.
The main demand of the dharna is the immediate enactment of a comprehensive National Food Security Act.
More than a thousand people joined the dharna from Chhattisgarh, Delhi,Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal and presented their testimonies. More will be coming in the next two days.
Among them were hundreds of victims of the failed “cash transfer” experiment in Kotkasim, where people were told to buy their kerosene at the full market price and assured that the subsidy would be deposited in their bank account as and when they bought kerosene (at the full price) from fair price shop.
Most people, however, still don’t have bank accounts a whole year after the experiment began, and even those who have bank accounts don’t trust the subsidy to be paid into their bank account (for good reason: the subsidy payments have been very erratic). As a result, most people have stopped buying kerosene from the fair price shops. The whole kerosene distribution system has come to a virtual standstill.
Sampat Rai from Kotkasim, aged 80 years or so, is among the lucky few who do have bank accounts. But he lives more than 6 km away from the bank, and there are no proper transport facilities in the area. He received kerosene subsidy of only Rs 90 over the year. It takes him the whole day to collect money from the bank with his son, who has to forgo a day’s wages for this purpose – it is simply not worth it.
Kishan, another old man from Kotkasim, also lives 6-7 km away from the nearest bank. He is being asked to maintain a “minimum balance” in his account (which is supposed to be a zero-balance account), which is very difficult for him. In spite of this, he has not got any subsidy since the pilot began 12 months ago. Kishan, Sampat Rai and other victims of the Kotkasim experiment met Jairam Ramesh, Rural Development Minister, at 2.15 pm.
Poor people who are excluded from the public distribution system in Delhi were also heard. Phoolwati, a widow, lives in the night shelter at Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. She has no residence and no ID. She has applied thrice for a ration card, without success. Pradeep, a physically challenged resident of Kalkaji, also has no ID, ration card or bank account.
Activists at the dharna pointed out that in spite of being a fiasco, the Kotkasim experiment had been projected as a success by the government.
Instead of being used as an opportunity to learn the experiment became a “showpiece”. One of the main lessons of the experiment is thatinappropriate cash transfers could play havoc with the public distribution system.
Among other public personalities who spoke at the dharna was Dr. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, former Minister for Rural Development. He recalled a similar struggle to secure the enactment of the National Rural Employment Guarantee and expressed his support for this campaign. He promised to bring up the campaign’s demands in Parliament and said that those who decide economic policies in the country should spend a night in a village and go to the field in the morning with their *lota* – then they will understand what life is like in rural India, with plenty of mosquitoes but no water or electricity.