The Communist Ghadar Party of India has been agitating for a Modern Universal Public Distribution System through which all people will be assured of adequate supply at affordable prices of good quality foodgrains, pulses, sugar, cooking oil, edible oils, cooking fuel and all other essentials of mass consumption necessary to ensure nutritious food.
This is a struggle of the working masses for their right. The government of the capitalist class has tried thousand and one tricks to turn this right into a privilege, which means it can deny it to people as well as curtail it on this or that basis. All over the country, organisations of the people have taken up the struggle for the realisation of this right in earnest, mobilising the masses of people in the struggle. In the last few issues of MEL, we carried reports on the ongoing struggle to realise this right in the capital, Delhi. Below, we carry a report of a struggle of working women in a working class district of Mumbai to realise this right.
Worli Residents fight for ration
On June 23, 2010 in the middle of pouring rain, 50 members of the Lok Raj Sangathan (LRS) of Worli BDD (Mumbai), mostly women, gathered near the local Ration office. They discussed what strategy they would adopt when they met the government officials inside.
Two months ago, on March 24, they had submitted an application with 250 signatures, along with the ration card numbers to the authorities, complaining of inadequate quantity and poor quality of foodgrains and dal supplied. They had made repeated reminders to the authorities, to no avail.
When on June 11th nearly 30 members had marched to the ration office, they were arrogantly asked to provide proof of their residence and identity before they could be given their ration! They were shown a GR (Government Resolution) to that effect. Caught unawares by this demand, the people had got confused at that time and left the office. Later on they thought over this and understood that it was a deliberately diversionary tactic adopted by the authorities.
The activists of LRS explained to the people that this time they would not be diverted. It is the authorities who have to answer where the food grains are being diverted and instead they are asking us to provide proof of our identity! When they met the official he again produced the GR. The LRS activist told him to keep the paper aside and that they were not going to read it. He said it is not the people’s responsibility to produce proof but it is the government’s responsibility to supply proper ration and ensure that it reaches all needy people. The officer said that people do not take food from the ration shops. The women threw samples of dal and wheat, which they had brought, in front of him. These samples were of bad quality. The women challenged the government officials to eat the same. They chastised them saying, "you eat good food and why do you give rotten food to the people?" The activists of LRS said they had visited the government godowns and seen that there was good quality wheat and rice there. They asked where this was getting diverted. At this point a particularly arrogant official entered the room and again asked the assembled people to produce proof of their residences. An elderly lady asked him to stop threatening people and making false allegations that the people are taking too much ration because they are having multiple ration cards. She said she would take him to court and ensure he is dismissed from service. She said if people are issued multiple ration cards then the government authorities must have taken money for the same and hence they were responsible for it. She clearly expressed her anger and shouted at the official, “You people make policies to make liquor from food while the people are starving!”
Faced with the anger of the people, the authorities again tried to divert the people and asked for a time period of one month. The people responded angrily that they were not willing to wait for one month. The LRS activist told the authorities that today itself they wanted all the details of how much food had been distributed to the ration shops during the last few months. He told them that they were fooling the people and demanded a team of inspectors to immediately visit the ration shops. He asked why the people have to wait for one month. He told the arrogant officer that last time on June 11th, you had threatened the people that their ration cards would be cancelled. He asked him who had given him the powers to do such things.
The LRS activists took photos of all the government officials and threatened to publish them in all the newspapers if the action is not taken. The senior government official present, realising the fury of the people, immediately arranged a team of four inspectors to visit the ration shops of Worli BDD along with the residents and carry out on the spot inspections. He promised that within 10 days he would arrange to provide essential rations for the people.
Then the people marched to the ration shops with the inspectors in tow. At the ration shop, the shopkeeper said that he is distributing food grain. The people showed their blank ration cards and asked to whom he is distributing. Then sacks of wheat were brought out and opened and people, for the first time after many months, were given good quality wheat!
The activists of LRS announced to the authorities present that that was a trailer and if the promise that after 10 days all the items that were supposed to be given to the people were not delivered, they would take out an even bigger morcha!