This refers to the article “Chhattisgarh shows the way” by Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera (November 14). The success of the Public Distribution System (PDS) hinges on commitment and sustained enthusiasm of those in the corridors of power to serve the poor. That in Chhattisgarh (a relatively small state), de-privatisation of ration shops and doorstep delivery are being effectively implemented (that is, providing the allotted quantities of essential commodities to the poor at reasonable prices on a regular basis) is really heartening. As the saying goes, “The proof of the pudding lies in the eating”.
The article is an eye-opener to Chief Ministers of other states to make the scheme functional and successful. Primarily, the scheme miserably failed in every other state due to the low level of monitoring by bureaucracy which consequently resulted in poor implementation. Secondly, the PDS is supposed to be a part of the government's safety net but, like the NREGA, is riddled with rampant corruption and misuse on account of which lot of poor people and BPL families are deprived of ration despite being eligible to get grains at subsidised rates. It is time governments initiate appropriate corrective measures to eliminate middlemen and vested interests to make other welfare schemes effective for the benefit of the poorest of the poor.
It is true that “Chhattisgarh shows the way” in implementing PDS in the right manner. If it improves governance in other contexts too, perhaps it may pave the way to solve the Maoist problem too. The other State that implements PDS system and the nutritious mid-day noon meal scheme efficiently is Tamil Nadu. If these States can do it why can't others?
The other India
Harsh Mander's moving piece (Childhoods of hunger and want, November 14) was yet another grim reminder of the conditions in which the poor live even today. That successive generations of poor people are also forced to abandon their hopes for studying and prefer to seek a job to feed the whole family is a disturbing reality. Such a situation creates a breeding ground for crime. Hunger, starvation and the like serve to push children into vulnerability and the consequences can be startling. Unfortunately, our political system has other priorities and the powers-that-be seem little disturbed presiding over two different Indias, one awfully prosperous and the other penniless.
Harsh Mander's heart-rending account is moving and reflects the legacy of bonded labour in rural India. Deeply entrenched in our rural society, bonded labour is too difficult to dislodge. Though officially outlawed, bonded labour survives through corrupt means. It is a crying shame on our Governments which surreptitiously support the legacy of bonded labour in rural and tribal areas.
That we happened to read the article on Children's Day makes it doubly poignant. Harsh Mander convinces us that those at the helm of affairs pursue perverted priorities. Can tele-density and broadband penetration in rural areas be on our agenda? Will the likes of Indradeep be benefited by nuclear agreement and the coming of Walmart in the Indian retail market? We wonder whether we belong to the land of the Mahatma and Nehru whose ambition it was to free our villages from hunger, insanitation and illiteracy. We not only forget them but ignore their great legacy at our own peril.
N. Sadasivan Pillai