By Amarpreet Kaur:
The recent incident in Jharkhand, where a group of women had gone to demand what is supposed to be their right, has once again brought to the fore two stark realities of our nation. The issues are: the never-ending violence against women and the failure of the government to ensure the effective implementation of the Public Distribution System (PDS).
The Public Distribution System, or PDS as it is commonly known, is a food security measure that the Government of India came up with. A network of fair price shops was established in every state so that ration at subsidized rates could be provided to families living below the poverty line. The central government through the Food Corporation of India (FCI) would offer quality food grains to these fair price shops. These FPS’s in turn would be responsible for the distribution of ration to the poor and the families that are financially not so well-off. The state governments bear all the responsibility for the supervision of these fair price shops.
In this context, the incident in Jharkhand that happened a few months ago has left a question mark on the credibility of the entire issue. A group of ten to fifteen women, including Saraswati Devi, had not received the ration through PDS for the past four months. Concerned about the welfare and survival of their families, the women in question had no option but to go and enquire as to why the PDS dealer had failed to supply them with ration.
Instead of getting any plausible explanation for the failure of the dealer to give them what they rightfully deserved, these women were threatened and abused by the dealer. What was alarming was the fact that he added that there would be no ration supplied to them for the next six months as well. Not the ones to give up easily, the women decided to lodge a complaint with the police. The infuriated dealer, along with a couple of family members, chased the women away with guns. The women obviously got scared but most of them escaped. However, poor Saraswati Devi could not. She was mercilessly beaten up and had to be hospitalized after she suffered injuries.
Now the flip side to all of this is the fact that the very purpose with which the PDS was established, i.e. to provide ration to the poor, has failed. The entire incident speaks volumes about corruption that is so rampant at all levels of our society. Unscrupulous dealers, whose sole aim is to rake in profits, resort to unfair practices by either supplying poor quality stock to the families or no stock at all. It’s high time that the government intervenes and ensures that the poor get what they are rightfully entitled to get.
Insulting people in the name of their caste, as this dealer did and the way Saraswati Devi was beaten up, has once again highlighted the fact that the women of our society are not safe even today. Violence against women is constantly on the rise and this is something very disheartening to see.
However, the winds of change are blowing. The courage that these women exhibited in getting their complaint registered with the police is a positive sign. The need of the hour is that the case of Saraswati Devi and the women who were with her, be thoroughly investigated. The culprits need to be brought to the book, only then will others learn a lesson. A fair trial should be given to these women in their quest for justice.