Tribals of about 15 villages of Alirajpur district displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) are facing starvation due to wrong categorisation under the Public Distribution System (PDS) in Madhya Pradesh.
Following a fact-finding visit to the region, the State advisor to the Supreme Court commissioners in the Right to Food (RTF) case, has written to authorities including Chief Secretary Avni Vaish about the plight of “hundreds of adivasis” who are facing the double brunt of displacement and starvation as they have been categorised as living Above the Poverty Line (APL).
The RTF team visited two villages — Anjanwaara ad Bhitada — and found that adivasis were unable to purchase grain from the PDS shops as it was available to them only on APL rates.
“The Supreme Court Commissioners had directed the Chief Secretary, Government of Madhya Pradesh, way back in 2004 to provide rations free of cost or at Antyodaya rates to all the dalit and adivasi families affected by SSP. Almost 7 years later, this directive is yet to be complied with,” said Sachin Jain, advisor to the Supreme Court Commissioners.
People from the region say that the problem could magnify with the onset of monsoons. Also, the incidence of water-borne diseases would further make matters difficult.
“The rations are just lying here since people can’t purchase them. Moreover, 7 kgs per month, per family, is too little and just insufficient to meet people’s requirement. People are forced to go upto Kakrana or even cross the river and purchase bajra and jowar from the open market in Maharahstra, since wheat has become very costly,” says Huma Padiyar, the ration shop caretaker at Anjanwaara.
Efforts to include these families in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category are going on but the progress is very slow, people from the region say.
“During our visit, the district administration assured us to conduct new surveys to enlist these families into the BPL category and extend the Antyodaya benefit to them. This process, we believe is continuing, but as on date, most families in Anjanwara are starving, unable to purchase rations. I got a commitment from officials in May that the process would be over June but even after two months, these families continue to starve,” says Mr. Jain.