By Ravik Bhattacharya & Joy Prakash Das
BORDERING Jharkhand, the district of Purulia in West Bengal has zero instances of coronavirus. However, that’s not the one Covid-19 story right here. With the state authorities asserting free rations below PDS for six months to assist households tide over the lockdown, officers stumbled upon a hurdle they are saying they had been unaware of: households having handed over their PDS playing cards as collaterals to moneylenders for quantities they borrowed years in the past.
Lying on a cot in his home in Surjamata village, an ailing Gour Kalindi, 80, reveals the PDS card now again with him after 10 years, when he and his spouse Shyamala handed it over as “bandhak (collateral)” to a “mahajan” for `3,000. He wanted the cash for an sickness which by no means went away.
Neighbour Radhika Kalindi, 60, is hoping their newly returned PDS playing cards will assist his household of seven tide over the lockdown. They gave the playing cards as bandhak 4 years in the past, for a Rs 7,000-loan. Officials stated 24 such households had approached them in Surjamata alone, a village of 150 households.
Most individuals right here work as each day wagers, proudly owning no land and barely any possessions. They approached the Block Development Officer (BDO) after the native ration sellers began distributing 5 kg of rice and 5 kg of flour towards every PDS card beginning April 1, as per the reduction introduced by the state authorities for the lockdown. The BDO requested them to present a written criticism.
While officers stated a probe is on, to this point no expenses have been pressed towards the moneylenders from whom PDS playing cards have been retrieved. Jhalda BDO Rajkumar Biswas stated each side had been made to present written undertakings to not repeat this.
Pointing out that PDS playing cards are usually not transferrable, Food Minister Jyotipriyo Mullick advised The Indian Express, “I was shocked when I heard about it. I told the district magistrate and police superintendent to take immediate action. We have asked officials to check every village.” Mullick stated he had additionally requested officers to register a police criticism.
District Magistrate Rahul Majumder stated that “had it not been for the lockdown”, they’d not have come to know in regards to the apply.
Bhagirath, 33, was a part of the group that met the BDO on April 8. Along together with his brother Nimai, Bhagirath labored at brick kilns in Jharkhand, incomes Rs 150 a day. They returned residence earlier than the lockdown began. Bhagirath, who lives together with his mom, spouse, two youngsters and a brother, says they by no means considered going to officers, until the lockdown meant they had been left with no meals. After their criticism, officers and police raided the homes of 5 moneylenders to grab the playing cards. “I borrowed Rs 7,000 4 years in the past as my mom was sick, handing over my ration card and my mom’s.
After we went to the BDO, we obtained again the playing cards and instantly free ration too,” he says. Jagabandhu Kalindi, 50, says he took a mortgage of Rs 10,000 4 years in the past towards his and his spouse Sakha’s ration playing cards as they wanted the cash for his or her daughter’s marriage ceremony. “It was the norm here,” says Jagabandhu, who has three sons.
The Indian Express discovered households in an analogous state of affairs in two extra villages within the district. Both are dominated by the Sabar tribe, nonetheless bearing the stigma of being categorised as a prison tribe throughout British rule, with most of its younger now employed as labourers in far-away cities and cities.
In Jorgora village, round 65 km from Jhalda, a lot of the 72 households claimed to have handed over PDS playing cards as collateral. Bijay Sabar, 60, who lives together with his spouse and daughter, doesn’t bear in mind the yr all three of them handed over their playing cards to a “dealer”. “Sometimes when we go to the dealer, he gives us some rice. That is it.”
At Kulabahal village, 30 km away, villagers say they’ve been getting rice and flour however their households are too giant for the amount being given.
Subhas Sabar, 45, who has six youngsters, and two ration playing cards between his spouse and him, says they make do by searching. “We hunt rats, rabbits, snakes and monitors.” DM Majumder says they’re doing their greatest to make sure nobody goes hungry. “We have done GIS mapping of all vulnerable households in the 20 blocks of Purulia. They are categorised as nomadic tribes, primitive tribes, large families, daily wagers and so on. We have their locations, cellphone numbers. We make surprise visits. BDOs have also been asked to make random calls every day to check up.”
Having sealed the 180-km border with Jharkhand again on March 20, Majumder says they screened each migrant labourer who returned and are monitoring them nonetheless. “Out of 19,700 people home quarantined, 18,200 are already out. We also have 39 institutional quarantine centres, with 554 people.” The district has stored 3,500 isolation beds and a devoted COVID-19 hospital prepared.
Back in Surjamata, moneylender Rashu Mahato’s spouse Sabita says they’ve been needlessly maligned. The couple develop greens, however haven’t been in a position to go to the market, Three km away, to promote them. Says Sabita, “They took loans from us, that is why we kept the ration cards. Now police have taken the cards. What about our money? I proposed that let us divide the rations since these are hard times for us too, but police refused.”