New Delhi, May 19 (IANS) Various civil society groups and NGOs Thursday came together to oppose the Delhi government's plan to give cash instead of ration to the city's poor through the Public Distribution System (PDS).
The activists said the government had taken the decision in haste.
'We had gone to meet (Chief Minister) Sheila Dikshit yesterday, but she did not listen to us at all. Instead, she screamed at us and threatened to put us in jail if we dared to intervene,' Santosh Koli, working with non-governmental organisation (NGO) Parivartan, told IANS.
Koli claimed that when she argued that it was the people who voted for Diskhit and elected her and that she should listen to them, the miffed chief minister replied: 'I don't need your vote. Keep it with yourself.'
According to the NGOs, the government had taken this decision to put an end to corruption plaguing the PDS, but distributing cash was not a solution.
'Take the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), which followed the same policy, but was marred by scandals and murders of whistleblowers,' said activist Arvind Kejriwal.
He argued that if today one could buy 25 kg of wheat for Rs.1,000, the price may increase later, and the below poverty line (BPL) families will not get the same quantity of foodgrain.
'Moreover, in many poor families, many men are alcoholics. So, giving them cash would result in their increased consumption of liquor and hungry children,' added Kejriwal.
Activists said the step was taken due to pressure from World Bank and the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), and the government was swayed by faulty studies.
'The government has said that as per a survey carried out by NGO Sewa, majority of the poor want cash instead of ration. Firstly, of the 4.5 lakh BPL families in Delhi, only 150 were surveyed and even then, only 60 percent of them agreed,' said Kejriwal.
The activists claimed that according to a survey conducted by them, 99 percent of the 593 families surveyed said that they wanted the PDS system to continue.