Palghar tribals caught in a web of deceit; no ration received since July
Following mid-day's expose about hunger, malnutrition in Palghar villages, it now emerges that rations were updated in online tracker but never got delivered on ground
There seems to be no end to the suffering of Palghar's tribals. A mid-day team that visited Kayari village in Jawhar Taluka, found they are deprived of government schemes. The Priority Households (PHH) ration card is supposed to provide them grain at subsidised rates under the National Food Security Act, 2013. But they have not received ration in July.
As a result there is no manual entry in their cards, but interestingly, the website of the Aadhaar enabled Public Distribution System (AePDS) has been updated.
Villagers alleged that the government schemes are being misused or not properly implemented. "They (government officials) just fill up the forms and show an okay report in the documents," said Arun Pandu Bhoye, a 24-year-old resident of Kayari village.
"The government has floated so many schemes to protect us, but the officials have deprived of our basic rights. The funds are released for developing concrete roads, education, health, sanitation, etc but see the condition of our village. Our previous generations have suffered but we will raise a strong voice to seek our rights," added Bhoye.
"See the PHH cards of villagers. There is no entry of ration in the cards but the website https://mahaepos.gov.in/ is properly updated. How this is possible? Our elders are illiterate and it was easy for the government bodies to manipulate them, but we are the new generation and will not tolerate any irregularity. The Collector of Palghar District is aware of all the irregularities, yet we are suffering. Why? Where is our ration for July?" asked Bhoye.
Ration shop owner blamed
mid-day saw several PHH cards in which there were no manual entries. A 29-year-old farmer, Ganesh Krishna Potinda said, "The government must investigate where our subsidised ration under PHH scheme for July is. The ration shop owner, Dnyaneshwar Potinda, tells us that no ration has been given for July. How it is possible? If it was not given, why is the website updated?"
The school that is upto Std VIII and is run in a three room structure
Bhoye accused the ration shopkeeper of indulging in huge malpractices and added, "The malpractices are not possible without the help of senior government officials. The ration shopkeeper has extorted money varying from R500 to Rs 3,000 from many villagers under the pretext of getting their ration cards made under PHH scheme. But despite taking the money, Dnyaneshwar Potinda has not given them cards."
When mid-day approached the shopkeeper, he first fumbled but later said "Yes, I have taken money to get their cards made. It is my fault. But I have not received any ration under the PHH scheme for July. I don't know how the website was updated in detail." There are over 1,100 people living in Kayari village where families are dying of starvation due to non-supply of rations.
mid-day also spoke to some women and learnt that they are not being given nutritious foods under the Amrut Ahaar Yojana despite our first expose on July 2, 'Palghar tribals hit by acute food shortage.'
Collector's tall claims
However, district collector Kailash Shinde has written an eight-page letter to the principal secretaries of Woman and Child Development and Tribal Development departments on July 6 and boasted of doing a great job in the implementation of all the government schemes in the tribal hamlets.
Some of the malnourished kids at Kayari village
"Under the Poshan Ahar scheme, pregnant women, lactating mothers and kids in the age group of 6-months and 3 years, are provided with Take Home Ration through aanganwadi workers at village level. Under the Amrut Ahar scheme, the lactating and pregnant mothers are given 25 eggs/month and a meal five times a week and kids in the age group of 6-months to 6 years are given 20 eggs per month through an Aahaar Samiti at gram panchayat level. Under the scheme, a total of 23,234 pregnant/lactating mothers and 1,29,309 children aged 7 months to 6 years benefitted in the entire district even during the lockdown," reads the eight-page letter signed by Shinde. But the ground reality is much different from the tall claims.
We visited Kayari village in Jawhar Taluka and found that they are deprived of govt schemes. Hunger-hit #Palghar village was never delivered ration, even as entries on government website show it has been disbursed in July. Ration shop owner speaks:: @mid_day @patel_bhupen https://t.co/bTeulpcMd8 pic.twitter.com/xBfxsSm3DC— Diwakar Sharma (@DiwakarSharmaa) July 17, 2020
Several new mothers and pregnant women told mid-day that they are not getting the benefits of the Amrut Ahaar Yojana. "I am getting only 10 eggs a month. Also, we are not getting Take Home Ration (THR) in the lockdown," said Raveen Bhoye, the mother of a 1.5-year-old baby. The village also has several malnourished children.
The western ghats of Maharashtra witness heavy rainfall every year but the tribals in Kayari village are forced to drink rain water which gets stored in a well dug by the administration. The villagers said they face severe health issues because of contamination in the water.
"We often face severe stomach ache, giddiness, fever due to stomach infections, fungal infection and coughing issues because we don't get clean drinking water," said Ganesh Potinda.
When asked if the government sends water tankers to their village, he said, "I have not seen a tanker coming to my village, but it must be properly maintained in their documents to make money. This is the rainy season and the well is filled with the rainwater, else it is always dry during summer. We get down into the well to collect water from small pockets in the bottom. We have to wait in a long queue to collect water and it takes hours and hours. Some days we can't cook in summer due to lack of water."
The ration given to pregnant women, that they claim is not as much as noted in the schemes
"Funds are sent for socks, shoes, books etc for school children, but they don't get the benefit. The school upto Std VIII is run in a three-room building. So one can understand the level of education being given to our children," he added. For further studies the children have to walk 7-km each way in the hilly terrain.
A 21-year-old villager, Marchand Pandit Bhoye said, "Who cares for the poor and tribals? The government officials want a number of schemes to be floated in documents to mint money every year. Had all the schemes to safeguard us been properly executed, no family would die of starvation and malnutrition."
No toilets as well
The Central government's ambitious campaign under the banner of Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan too was in tattered condition as the villagers said they have been relieving themselves in jungles.
"It has been raining very hard in this region but we have to go in the jungle to relieve ourselves. The path becomes slippery and the jungle is home to venomous snakes and dangerous animals," said Arun Bhoye.
The AePDS site has been updated with the latest details
"There are a few physically challenged people who can't go to the jungles alone. We are forced to live like this but the government's documents say everything is super okay," said Ganesh Potinda.
Talking about the fraud in rationing distribution, the chairman of the government-appointed committee to look into the status of schemes for tribals in Maharashtra, Vivek Pandit said, "This is one case of rationing fraud, there must be many more. The tribals must get whatever they are entitled to. And if the matter is properly investigated, some big scams may be unearthed. The government bodies must function properly."
Officials reacted differently when mid-day approached them regarding villagers' allegations. Palghar District Collector Kailash Shinde did not respond to mid-day's calls and messages.
The supply inspector Sanjay Ahire said, "I am not responsible for this."
While the Sub-Divisional Magistrate Prajit Nair said, "I am confused how the website of AePDS is updated for July and there is no manual entry in the cards."
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