We have now successfully ensured that in at least 15 villages, all households avail of their full quota of PDS rations every month. As per most accounts, this is the first time this has happened in these areas since 1947.
Our strategy is remarkably straight-forward:
- We first mobilize our saathis in the village and surround/gherao the PDS ration dealer.
- This is a slow process – eventually, with enough pestering and relentless pressure, the dealer relents and no longer makes false promises.
- What we seem to see is that the dealer is forced to tell his higher-ups that their commission is no longer guaranteed – such grain can no longer be diverted to government officials who sell it in the open market.
- Eventually, the system stabilizes with the villages getting their full quota of ration without any fuss, every month!
In September 2014, the government replace three corrupt PDS dealers, based on complaints by SPSS members.
2 dealers in Amrak Panchayat (Kurhani Block, Muzaffarpur); 1 in Dumri Panchayat (Musahari Block, Muzaffarpur) were removed by the District authorities for malpractice.
The dealers were guilty on two counts: they charged high rates, they delayed delivery of rations.
SPSS members had threatened to strike against the dealers. The dealers dared them to do so.
A verbal complaint was lodged in the district office in July 2014. Within a month and a half, the corrupt dealers were replaced.
This comes close on the heels of the dismissal of other corrupt officials: Panchayat Rozgar Sevaks (NREGA officials) from Ratnauli, Harshankar and Mahant Maniyari Panchayats (all in Ratnauli) have been removed.
Our many awareness campaigns and constant interaction with villagers awoke us to the pitiable state of the PDS in our Panchayats and, indeed, all of Muzaffarpur. The PDS — Public Distribution System — is the lifeline of our people as it makes available rice, wheat and kerosene at affordable rates to the extremely poor. However, like everything else in Bihar, the PDS is ridden with corruption and the Fair Price Shop (FPS) never gives us our ration on time.
In January 2014, a group of SPSS members from Maniyari gathered together at the FPS. They were determined to get what was rightfully theirs — they demanded their share of kerosene oil, long pending. After a week of sustained pressure, the FPS relented. A first, small battle was won.
However, only a small number benefited and rice and wheat were still pending — for six months now!
On Feb 25th, 2014, 400 SPSS members — mostly women — walked up to the Fair Price Shop and demanded that the PDS dealer distribute their rightful share of ration. The dealer managed to stall them, asking for 4 days time.
When they went back on the 28th of February, the dealer was ready with bags and bags of rice, wheat and kerosene — enough for every single person assembled. A full six months worth!
Corruption is rampant, but can be plugged: if everyone works together and demands what is rightfully theirs. We have started our campaign for ration in one PDS, but this spark will catch fire …
2. Women return with their kerosene cans!
3. Women thronging to go to the Fair Price Shop (Feb 28th, 2014)
4. Dealer distributes grain — a victory! (Feb 28th, 2014)
5. Members enjoying hard-won grain