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One-rupee rice, only on purchase of dish washing powder

Bangalore, Rasheed Kappan, July 19, 2013, DHNS: 3:16 IST
sops or soaps: BPL card holders allege that they were forced at a fair price shop to buy dish washing powder along with the rice for Re one at Tilaknagar. dh photo
Fair price depots in the City now have another reason to be “unfair” to below poverty line (BPL) families: The much-hyped one-rupee-a-kg rice, ‘Anna Bhagya’ scheme.

The shopowners are threatening BPL families with cancellation of their cards, if they did not buy three to five packets of dish washing powder at Rs 30 to Rs 50, an unnecessary add-on with the one-rupee rice.

At one such depot in Tilaknagar, right behind the police station, the threat is outrageously audacious.

Taken aback by the depot manager’s open threat of quota manipulation, a domestic worker from the nearby Nakkalbande slum had raised objection. Being part of the activist Domestic Workers’ Rights Union, she wanted to know why the powder was being forced upon the poor people.

“The depot manager declared the government rule said so. Then he said I was asking too many questions, and immediately jotted down my card details. He asked me to wait and see what he would do next month,” she told Deccan Herald. Fearing the manager’s wrath, she requested her identity be protected.

Asked to comment on the wrongdoings, Food and Civil Supplies department officials were quick to clarify that there was no such government rule. “There is no such add-ons. If we get written complaints about such illegal sales, we will take action,” said Ashwath Narayan Gowda, Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies.

The Union activist’s angry recall of her recent encounter with the depot manager was trigger enough for many other Nakkalbande dwellers to pour out their PDS woes, worsened ironically by the Anna Bhagya scheme.

“Ever since that one-rupee rice scheme started, the depots have stopped supplying us wheat and sugar. What use is this Sabina powder (a colloqial generic term for dish wash powder) to us. It is of very poor quality as well,” complained Gowramma (name changed).

The same fate awaited Saraswati, a resident of Venkatapura, Teacher’s Colony in Koramangala.
“We are poor people. Even Rs 200 is a big sum for us. The last time I went to buy the one-rupee rice, I was forced to buy soaps and the Sabina packets so that the bill amount can be raised to Rs 200. I couldn’t argue,” she told this newspaper.

The bills were always high, even before the Anna Bhagya scheme. Saraswati had tried resisting, but was silenced by threats of even higher bills. “There is no point showing the bills as proof of wrong-doing. The bill entries are deliberately illegible. The numbers are not clear at all,” she said.

Launched early this month, the Anna Bhagya scheme offers a BPL family, 10 kg of rice per person a month, with a maximum ceiling of 30 kilos per family. So a family of two gets 20 kilos per month at one rupee for a kg.

However, families with more than two members cannot get more than 30 kgs a month, at this rate. The rice scheme has triggered a huge rise in applications for BPL ration cards.

* BPL card-holders forced to buy ‘unwanted’ articles.
* Higher bill amount, bill entries deliberately illegible.
* Threats include card cancellation, enhanced bills.
* Food and Civil Supplies Dept assures action on written complaints.

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