Listen to the people

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People, particularly falling under below poverty line (BPL) category have been hitting the streets following the government decision of decreasing monthly ration quota, particularly the rice –  staple food in Kashmir. The effected people are asking the government to reconsider its decision so that they don’t face food shortage in coming days as buying rice from open market is not possible for them given their low income. It may be mentioned here that the government has reduced the foodgrain rations under its public distribution system to five kgs per soul per month. 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 as the allocation is in no way in sync with the needs of an average household.Explaining reasons for the reduction of monthly entitlements, officials maintain that 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(JKFES), which was started in 2016 as Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Food Entitlement Scheme (MMSFES), was unceremoniously withdrawn in September 2022. With 10 kgs under PMGKAY and JKFES gone, people are now entitled to just 5 kgs a month under NFSA. 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, however, people from BPL category here are not amused as their main worry is the deficiency they are facing by the closure PMGKAY and JKFES.

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. The reduction in the allocation indicates that the people will be forced to buy most of the grains from the open market and given their economic condition, they are destined to face very difficult times. In this backdrop, the UT administration should listen to this vulnerable section of the society and make some corrective measures. The government here can atleast relaunch the Jammu and Kashmir Food Entitlement Scheme (JKFES), which was started in 2016 as Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Food Entitlement Scheme (MMSFES). This scheme was launched exclusively for this section of the society and putting it back in operation will definitely help these sections of the society.

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