Reyaz Rashid

With rice allocation reduced to 5 kg/person/month, food crisis looms over Kashmir

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People feel let down, pushed to wall; Director FCSCA says matter taken up with govt

Srinagar: With the government reducing the foodgrain rations under its public distribution system to five kgs per soul per month, a grave food crisis is staring Kashmir in the face – triggering panic and anger among the population.

Rice being a staple food – the main source of carbohydrates — in Kashmir, people wonder how they could sustain themselves on a paltry supply of 5 kgs per person per month.

“If we take an average household as comprising just five or six persons, it means they are entitled to 25-30 kgs of rice a month. Now it is common sense that this much rice will not suffice their need for a square meal a day,” says Haleema Begum, a consumer who was part of a protest demonstration against the issue at Nowpora today.

Consumers say that the allocation is in no way in sync with the needs of an average household.

“The decision to reduce the monthly allocation to just five kgs per person per month is simply a ploy to throw people at the mercy of the open market and greedy traders, which is sheer injustice with a vast majority here who are in no position to afford to buy foodgrains from the open market,” consumers say.

Officials also agree.  They also concede that the allocation is not sufficient to satisfy people’s needs.

Explaining reasons for the reduction of monthly entitlements, they said until recently cousumers here would get 15 kgs of rice per soul per month. They were getting 5 kgs under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), 5 kgs of foodgrains per month under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), and another 5 kgs under the Jammu and Kashmir Food Entitlement Scheme (JKFES).

The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) which was launched in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 has been closed down on December 31, 2022.

The Jammu and Kashmir Food Entitlement Scheme (JKFES), which was started in 2016 as Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Food Entitlement Scheme (MMSFES), was unceremoniously withdrawn in September 2022.

So with 10 kgs under PMGKAY and JKFES gone, people are now entitled to just 5 kgs a month under NFSA, officials explained.

Even though the Government of India has decided to provide rations free of cost from January 01, 2023 under NFSA for one year in a move to couch the poor from the effects of the closure of PMGKAY ending on December 31, 2022, but people here are not amused as their main worry is the deficiency they are facing by the closure PMGKAY and JKFES.

“Even though NFSA ration will be free of cost from Jan 2023 to December 2023, every soul who is enrolled in NFSA (AAY/PHH) will get 5 kg per month free of cost but nothing will be given in addition to NFSA ration which means that more than 50 percent of the demand will have to be fulfilled through open market on exorbitant rates,” agreed a top official of Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs (FCSCA) on condition of anonymity.

As per data from FCSCA, in July 2020 total allocation of foodgrains (rice and wheat) under the three schemes — NFSA, JKFES, and PMGKAY — for the Kashmir division was 585671.00 quintals. In the month of August 2021, the allocation of food grains was reduced to 510000.00 quintals.

With the closure of JKFES in September 2022, the allocation of foodgrains got reduced to 455000.00 quintals and now with the winding up of PMGKAY from December 2022, the allocation of foodgrains in January 2023 has got squeezed to mere 283051.00 quintals for approximately 60 lakh populace of the Valley whose staple food is rice.

In purely mathematical terms, this reduction in supply is over 55 percent.

When contacted Director FCSCA, Dr. Abdul Salaam Mir confirmed that JKFES has been wound up by the government and the people of Kashmir are getting ration as per scale in rest of India — which is 5 kg per soul under NFSA.

However, he added that the matter has been taken up with the government for review.

“I agree that rice is a staple food in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in Kashmir. We have got representations from various delegations regarding food curtailment and the matter has been taken up with the government for review,” he said.

Experts say if the government does not address the issue, an imminent food crisis is in the offing here. They say a minimum of 10 kgs per soul per month must be provided for.

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