Hours after the state Fair Price Shops and Kerosene Distributors Association members went on an indefinite strike today to press for their demands,the state government threatened to invoke the Essential Service Management Act if the strike was not withdrawn immediately.
The agitation is being led by association president Prahalad Modi,brother of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The protesters are demanding salary instead of commission and status of employee,among others. The government wants to show us as villains to hide its inefficiency. Our demands are very reasonable. Our commission is so low that no one can survive and one has to take the illegitimate way to earn more. We want salary and status of employees, said Prahalad.
He further said that the governments new initiative of bar-coded ration cards has many flaws like wrong data entry. At present,we get supply based on the new data while we have to sell the same as per the old quota. When we tell customers that the government is not giving enough supply,they fight with us. We demand that the government should make everything public. If the government wants,we will resign from our services, he said.
The government,meanwhile,termed the claims of statewide strike by the FPS association as baseless. I have spoken to all the district collectors to ensure uninterrupted supply to the FPS customers. As per the district collectors,hardly any FPS distributor has joined the strike, said Food and Civil Supplies Minister Narottam Patel.
He added,The government has decided not to respond to the unreasonable demands of FPS owners. Through a Government Resolution,we have ordered all the departments to start alternate arrangement of supply to FPS customers through panchayats,co-operative society and private shops. If they do not withdraw the strike,the government may be forced to use ESMA.
Reacting to this,Prahalad said,If the government wants to use force against us,they can. Our demands are genuine and we will not withdraw the strike till we get an assurance that the government will accept our demands.
Amid the controversy,the government has launched a web portal http://dcs-dof.gujarat.gov.in giving details related to ration cards and FPS. Any citizen can access his/her ration card details on our new portal. They can apply for new card or renewal to bio-metric card online. The portal will help to curb the misuse of FPS system as everything is now transparent, said Raj Kumar,Principal Secretary (Food & Civil Supplies).
He added that the government has decided to divide the ration card-holders into two categories. One category will be of those who have or want to have ration card either as mere identity/residence proof. The other category will be of those cardholders who actually use or want to use the card to buy ration under the Public Distribution System. Now users can log on to our website and mention that they dont want ration material and need only the card, he said.