At 50-odd years, Dev Pati looks much older than she actually is. She lost her husband Rameshwar Singh three years ago and now stays with her widowed daughters and two granddaughters. But more than the personal losses, it has been the ‘loss’ of the ration card five years ago which has had a profound impact on her life.
Much of the paltry Rs. 3,500 per month that her daughter earns, by way of wages from a yarn spinning unit, go into procuring the rations. “We had a ration card till 2007 and then we had to deposit it for getting a new one. But that was the last time we got our rations,” she says.
For Pati, life has been an uphill struggle ever since. “Much of what my daughter earns goes into buying items like rice, wheat flour and sugar as also kerosene from the open market,” points out this resident of Bangali Camp, Okhla Phase I in South Delhi.
While Pati is unlettered and finds it difficult to explain her woes, Ram Chander Rai, who sells vegetables for a living near his residence at Indira Kalyan Vihar in Okhla Phase I narrates how the loss of ration cards and the delay in their re-issue has made the lives of the poor miserable in the city.
“I have a family of 10 and used to get 25 kg of wheat, 10 kg of rice, 6 kg of sugar and 22 litres of kerosene on my ration card. Then in 2007, they made us deposit the cards. While we were promised rations till the time we got new ones and had told us that they would be delivered in a month, the Government did not keep its word,” insists Rai.
“Now most of what I earn by selling vegetables goes into procuring these very items at exorbitant rates from the open market. For rice I now pay Rs 25 per kg instead of around Rs 6 per kg; for sugar it is Rs 44 per kg in place of Rs 13 per kg and for kerosene it is now Rs 52 for a 750 ml beer bottle”, say Rai.
Due to non-availability of rations, Rai says he is required to spend around Rs 1,500 per month extra for procuring the same items from the open market.
The problem being faced by Rai is not unique to his area alone. He insists there is widespread corruption in the ration system and that numerous visits by the residents of these colonies and others to the Food and Supply Department offices have not borne any fruit.
“The touts openly ask for Rs 3000 to make the ration card. I did not pay up because I do not have that kind of money to spare,’’ says the man, who notes that he has forgotten when he last bought a kg of sugar in one go. “Most of the times, we now buy sugar by ‘pau’ or in 250 gram packs,” he quips.