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Ration dealers enjoy CPM support, villagers suffer

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 19, 2007

Bankura, September 18 WHEN villagers at Radharampur in Bankura district attacked a CPM leader busy at a closed-door meeting of the party last Sunday, their demand was simple: “Give us our weekly rations”. The same evening, villagers attacked the house of another CPM leader at nearby Kotalpukur with the same demands.

The story begins and ends with one line: “most dealers in the PDS network are CPM cadres as well as card-holding members”.

In Bankura district alone, seven such members hold government licences for dealerships in PDS goods.

Amiya Patra, CPM district committee secretary, said, “I can’t say what the supporters are doing, but party members should not be given dealerships. I have to check if they became party members first or dealers first.”

DM S K Gupta said: “It is very difficult to comment. At best, I can check if the food inspectors had carried out their responsibilities.”

Narayan Chandra Dutta, a PDS dealer for Kotalpukur earns only Rs 2,500 a month. He owns a two-storeyed house of 4,000 sq ft. The catch: he is a CPM cardholder.

Dulal Bauri, a former village chief and local committee member, said: “We can see the corruption but cannot say anything because they are in power.” He added that the party needs people like Dutta as he is “needed for election and collection purposes”.

Dutta’s working procedure is very simple. A PDS dealer picks up the allotted quota of food grains and kerosene oil meant for the ration card holders who come to his shop, “sell” it to the card holders, deposit the money with the area distributor, who then pays Dutta a commission.

Nirmal Ray, area distributor under Borjora police station, who has 54 such dealers reporting to him, said: “Dutta gets anything between Rs 2,000 to 2,500 as commission. From this, he has to pay for an employee. How can I say how he got to build that house?”

The answer: Dutta’s brother Hiranmoy owns the biggest grocery shop in the village. Dutta gets enough food grain from the government for his flock, but tells ration-card holders that he has nothing. Then he sells the grain to his brother.

Last week alone, Dutta had picked up 763 kg of wheat. The ration shop is now selling wheat at Rs 6.75 a kg. But Hiranmoy sells wheat in the open market at Rs 10 a kg.

For rice, the ration price is Rs 7 a kg, against the open market price of Rs 13 a kg. Dealers like Dutta have around 2,000 ration cards on their books.

Trapped by the nexus are villagers like Sukur Ali Khan, who holds a ration card but has not been given rice or wheat for the last 11 months. “Even this unrest would not have happened, but for the fact that the market prices had shot up. Before this, we used to buy rice from his brother.”

CPM, having sensed the ire of the people over the lack of subsidised rations, had been egging on the villagers to launch a peaceful movement against ration dealers.

Block Development Officer Dibyanarayan Chatterjee said, “I have been holding this post here for the last 11 months, but I was not aware that people were not getting their quotas.”


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