Fee for food coupons stirs protest

Bhopal: Tribals affiliated to Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS) in Barwani have protested against a fee of `275.75 being charged from non-BPL cardholders by HCL-led consortium contracted to provide biometric cards and food coupons in the state.
In a letter written to chief minister on February 25, tribals and dalits have claimed they have been categorised as APL and are now being forced to sell grain, poultry and goats to pay the fee.
They allege they are being threatened that unless they register for the survey, they will be denied rations.
Food and civil supplies commissioner Dipali Rastogi in letters (dated February 10 and 14) to collectors of Jhabua and Barwani districts has authorised collection of this fee. Virgo Softech Ltd, a member of the HCL consortium is currently conducting surveys and data entry camps.
Tribals have protested that `225 crore is being levied on the state’s approximately 80 lakh APL card holders most of whom are poor in need of subsidised rations and this is more than half the total projected cost of the project.
They have demanded a halt to fee collection and a comprehensive review of the whole project. “The project is a drain on the exchequer. In fact, the money would have been more usefully spent on ensuring provision of full 35 kgs of grain to cardholders, according to national norms,” the tribals have claimed in the letter. Currently only 20 kgs are being provided with the state government pleading lack of funds to provide the full quota.
Seeking immediate clarification on this matter, advisor to the commissioners of the Supreme Court in the Right to Food case Sachin Jain has written to Rastogi stating, “I would like to share with you that UID can also not be made compulsory for providing food entitlements under targeted public distribution system for any of its categories because it has not been made an eligibility or entitlement criteria by the government of India…You might be aware that any changes in the schemes (which are covered under the Writ-petition 196/ 2001 – PUCL Vs Union of India and others) can only be done after taking approval of Supreme Court.”

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