With no PDS rice, Dalits eat roots, leaves to highlight their plight

  Crippling disconnect:  Residents of the Chowdadenahalli Dalit Colony display their Aadhaar and BPL cards.

Crippling disconnect: Residents of the Chowdadenahalli Dalit Colony display their Aadhaar and BPL cards.

On Tuesday, one hundred villagers from Chowdadenahalli Dalit Colony in Chintamani taluk of Karnataka’s Chickballapur district received the unusual quantum of 126 kg of rice each.

They had been struggling to get their share of foodgrain from the public distribution system (PDS) for a year-and-a-half. It had been denied to them allegedly because their Aadhaar numbers were not linked to their BPL cards. In desperation, the 22 Dalit families went on a peaceful protest on Monday, eating only roots and leaves to highlight the government’s apathy. As word spread across the district, the authorities scrambled to control the damage. In less than 48 hours, they not only received their rations — 7 kg of rice per head — but also arrears for 18 months. “This is a huge victory for us, but we had to eat leaves and roots to draw attention,” said Bhagyamma, a resident.

The Chowdadenahalli Dalit Colony is located around 12 km from Chintamani, the taluk headquarters. It houses 47 Scheduled Caste families and has a population of 218.

C.N. Nagesh, a 24-year-old who works for an NGO, said, “The families were deprived of rations as their fingerprints had not been authenticated by the point-of-sale device at the ration shop. The authorities did not heed their pleas even though they gave memorandums to the tehsildar, the Deputy Director, Food and Civil Supplies, and the Food Inspector in the Deputy Commissioner’s office.”

Two other families said they got no rations for three years. They had valid documents and Aadhaar cards.

Inspires others

The success of the protest and the quick response from authorities is inspiring people in other villagers to launch similar protests.

On learning that some Dalit families were eating roots and leaves, a team of officials, including the assistant commissioner of Chintamani taluk and the Deputy Director of Food and Civil Supplies, rushed to village to address the problem on Tuesday.

Shivaswamy, Assistant Commissioner, Chintamani, assured villagers that they would not face such problems again and that their BPL cards would be activated without being linked to their Aadhaar numbers.

“Aadhaar linking process was taken up to weed out bogus cards and a large number of such cards were found. However, genuine card-holders are also facing problems in some cases. That would be sorted out shortly,” he said.

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2022 7:34:59 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/with-no-pds-rice-dalits-eat-roots-leaves-to-highlight-their-plight/article22413900.ece