'I am poor' stamped on walls of 1.5 lakh houses in Rajasthan

'I am poor' stamped on walls of 1.5 lakh houses in Rajasthan
In a humiliating move, the Rajasthan government is rubbing salt into the wounds of poor families by instructing them to paint “I’m poor and I receive food from National Food Security Act" outside their house, as a condition to avail subsidised food grains.

The walls of around 1.5 lakh houses in Dausa district, merely 50 kilometers from Jaipur have been painted by Zilla parishads or district councils. Every household has painted a prominent slogan which reads 'I am poor and I take benefits of NFSA' in red hindi fonts against the yellow background, along with their BPL numbers, and names of heads of families.

As per the officials the move will fix the public distribution system by stopping the buying of cheap good grain by middlemen and to prevent richer families for grabbing a share of it. However, villagers in the district have started receiving regular benefits under National Food Security Act (NFSA) but at the same time most of them find it humiliating.

"No doubt that we are getting wheat delivery on time and we also receive rations, but we find it humiliating at the same time. Everyone in the village is making fun of our poverty", 51 year old Pooran Devi shared with DH. The NFSA was undertaken during the UPA government, as per which people belonging to backward classes were given five kilograms of food grains for one person per month at subsidised rates.

"Despite our opposing, administration painted our walls and said it will help us in the long run," 48 year old Bishmaram added.

The move has triggered sharp criticism for Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and her party, which has already been under scrutiny for lynchings and cow vigilante attacks in the state.

While attacking at Raje, Congress leader and former Chief Minister of Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot called the move as a form of 'mental torture for poor'. "What a shame! Putting boards outside homes declaring their poverty, is worst form of mental torture. Food security guarantee is the right of people. Administration has turned these people into beggars, which is most insensitive," Gehlot told DH.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari on his visit to Jaipur said that it clearly proves the BJP governments at the Centre and in states are anti-poor. However, government officials defended the writings and said it was aimed at stopping middlemen from buying subsidised rations.

Surendra Singh, the CEO of the Dausa Zilla parishad, said: “This was done just to identify families under BPL and NFSA schemes, we had got directions on this. This was an attempt to regularise the scheme." Sociologists call the move a as kind of 'shaming' practice and an attempt of polarizing of castes. "To ensure that there are no leakages in the welfare system under the NFSA, they should make their paper work strong. No one should be named and shamed for the fact of being poor.," said Dr. Rajiv Gupta, former Dean, Social Sciences, Rajasthan University.

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