Unable to fix its public distribution system, the state government humiliates the poor by marking their houses.
New Delhi: From being in denial over violence in her state to allegedly ‘using an army of paid trolls’ to defend herself on Twitter, Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons in the past few weeks. This latest news from Dausa district will not exactly help Raje’s image in the state, which goes to polls next year.
According to local news reports, below poverty line (BPL) families receiving subsidised food grains were asked by the local authorities to paint “I am poor” on the walls outside their homes. These humiliating markings can be seen outside over 50,000 dwellings in Sikrai and Bandikui tehsils, reports Dainik Bhaskar.
In some cases, the sign was reportedly painted multiple times outside the same household. The idea behind this bizarre exercise is to stop the alleged misuse of the government scheme by “relatively well-to-do” families.
The BPL category primarily includes communities which are socially and economically backward – Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities.
“We have to suffer this humiliation for 10 kg of wheat. It has become difficult to hold our head high,” a villager told the Hindustan Times (HT). Many embarrassed villagers have reportedly removed the signs and are not availing the benefits anymore. There have also been reports of the government offering a cash incentive of Rs 750 for the poor to ‘brand’ themselves:
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“It’s a sick joke. If the state government provides them ration under the Food Security Act, it’s their legal right, and not a charity from the government. It proves the BJP governments at the Centre and in the states are anti-poor,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
Political activist Yogendra Yadav also slammed the Raje government for insulting the poor.
Dausa’s additional collector, K.C. Sharma, told HT that the district administration had not issued any such order. “The zila parishad could have issued the directive as there were complaints of misuse of the Food Security Act by those who are not eligible. I will look into this complaint,” he said.
However, this isn’t the first time such an exercise has been carried out. In 2016, yellow patches with the name of the beneficiary and his/her identification number were painted outside houses of BPL families in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara town.
Sociologists and psychologists fear that such institutionalised ‘profiling’ could lead to caste and class polarisation.
The food security scheme was launched in a hurry in 2013 by the then chief minister Ashok Gehlot during the last month of his tenure, ahead of the state assembly polls that year. To expedite the process, instead of making a fresh list of eligible beneficiaries, the Congress government retained old lists of entitled families under the categories of antodyaya or the poorest of poor, BPL, and an updated BPL list to include those left out, reports Scroll.in.
The Raje government, which has been busy rewriting history, eliminating Urdu-medium schools, denying justice to families of lynching victims, introducing a cow surcharge tax, and, of course, getting everyone to do yoga, clearly hasn’t been able to fix the issue in past four years.