With no GR, shortage at fair price shops

State had assured to provide advance food stock for April and May last week

Published - March 24, 2020 01:37 am IST - Mumbai

The Maharashtra government’s delay in issuing orders to make advance food stocks available at fair price shops is leading to shortages at several locations.

The government had announced last week that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would provide two months’ advance stock to the shops so that poor and needy do not suffer. However, 48 hours later, the distribution for the grain stocks for April and May had not begun, which would lead to hundreds going hungry, social activists said on Monday.

Last week, senior officials had said Maharashtra’s food security was not under threat, with reserve stocks lasting up to seven months. At any given time, the government is prepared to provide two months’ grain stocks to fair price shops, while the reserves can last up to seven months if the lockdown persists, officials had said after participating in a meeting to discuss possibilities of hoarding and black marketing in the wake of a lockdown.

“We are prepared at all levels and have already provided stocks in advance for April and May to fair price shops. In order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which could also infect the beneficiaries of the public distribution system (PDS), we have directed shopkeepers not to carry out the beneficiaries’ biometric verification,” Minister for Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Chhagan Bhujbal had announced last week.

But many of the 5,200 fair price shops in Mumbai and Thane regions were falling short of stock. Worst affected were wage earners, who were not covered both by the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and the Antyodaya Anna Yojana.

“Today we received hundreds of complaints from Mumbai, especially parts of Thane and Chembur, where the poor were not able to get their daily ration from the shops. We fail to understand what has taken the Maharastra government 48 hours to issue a government resolution (GR) since it announced advance stocks will be made available,” said city-based food security activist Gorakh Avhad. “The worst hit are those living on the footpath, who are neither covered by the NFSA or Antyodaya,” he said.

Senior officials on Monday held meetings to cover those beneficiaries who are left out of NFSA and Antyodaya. “Today’s meeting was to ensure those left out of the two schemes are covered in our measures. We are concerned about the fate of wage earners and will issue the GR earliest,” said a senior official. The State has promised to provide ₹1,500 cash for daily wage-earning families, along with rice for a month, officials said.

Senior officials of the Food and Civil Supplies Department said advisories have been issued to people not to resort to panic buying. “The PDS facility is being made available on e-POS equipment for the period of the shutdown. This will not require the beneficiaries to put a finger or thumb on the e-POS equipment. There is no need to rush to shops to buy for now. We have goods that will last for the next seven months,” said an official.

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