Free rations, including foodgrains, were distributed to about 10 lakh families on the first day of the distribution of special package in the state in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, said Gujarat government officials on Wednesday.
“About 10 lakh families were covered till 7.30 pm. This distribution will go on till 8 pm and if needed, we will extend the timing further,” said Mohammad Shahid, Secretary, Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, while talking to The Indian Express.
“We have declared this special package to give rations to all those in need during the lockdown period. We are looking to finish the distribution as soon as possible,” he said. The package is for 66 lakh families who are covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), including ration card holders for Antyodaya Ann Yojana and Priority Households.
On March 25, the state government announced free foodgrains and other essentials to 66 lakh families, covering an estimated 3.25 crore population. On Wednesday, about 17,000 fair price shops connected with the Public Distribution System gave away 3.5 kilogram of wheat, 1.5 kilogram of rice per person and one kilogram each of sugar, dal and salt, free of cost to each family.
Though most of the distribution was conducted smoothly, there were reports of over-crowding and lack of social distancing at several shops. People also complained of dirt in foodgrains, especially in Patan district.
In Vadodara, people started queuing up outside ration shops since 6 am, almost two hours before the distribution began. To facilitate social distancing, circles were marked outside ration shops and police were deployed. Vadodara has 803 shops and 2,07,147 beneficiaries.
While the distribution was carried out smoothly in most places with the presence of police force, commotion was reported from certain rural pockets of Vadodara after non-beneficiaries turned up at shops.
In Waghodia taluka, people gathered outside the mamlatdaar office in huge numbers after they were refused ration at the shops. Most of them complained that they were refused the benefits citing that they had not bought ration in the past six months or more. A 34-year-old beneficiary from Goraj village in Waghodia said on condition of anonymity, “I have a BPL card but I did not get foodgrains. The shopkeeper told me that my name is not in the database… so I have come to the mamlatdar office.”
There was commotion outside shops in Nandesari also after people were sent back without ration on similar grounds. Clarifying on the issue, District supply officer of Vadodara district, SD Gokalani, said, “As per the directives every beneficiary listed under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) will be provided with free ration due to the lockdown, including APL and BPL card owners. The confusion happened after APL card owners who are not registered under the NFSA also turned up at certain shops and there names were not there in the database. People with BPL cards but not under NFSA are being given sugar and salt.”
Meanwhile in a small village of Virnagar in Jasdan taluka of Rajkot district, the fair price shop owner said in his two shops, 486 ration cards are registered and that ration was distributed among around 220 of them on Wednesday.
However, an elderly woman came with her Aadhar card and enquired if she can also get ration. “You please come after April 5. We have no instructions as of now as to how to distribute ration among those people who do not have ration cards,” an assistant of the shop-owner told the woman.
Mohammad Shahid also had a similar view about the lack of social distancing seen at some of the shops involved in the distribution process. “In rural areas, people maintained social distancing where circles were drawn at a distance of 1.5 metres. But in urban centres, there were issues of crowding that was sorted out immediately. Those who were not entitled also came and added to the confusion,” he said.
In Surat, there were reports of shortage of sugar and pulses. As per the instructions given by the Surat district collector, the shops in the city was told to open at 8 am and close by 8 pm, but many shops opened at 10 am and closed at 5 pm, as there was no rush in the shops. There are 1,024 fair price shops in Surat city which has around 2.42 lakh ration card holders.
Surat District Collector Dr Dhaval Patel said, “There was large crowd in some of the shops, but many who.came did not have ration cards and were removed from the queue.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines