FCS&CAD- dealers stand off puts consumers to hardships

Avtar Bhat
JAMMU, Feb 7: The stand off between Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs Department (FCS&CAD) and ration dealers has put the hapless consumers to unnecessary trouble, who are not getting ration for months together now.
This has not only generated a lot of public resentment but the tussle between the dealers and the Department has snowballed into a big controversy at the cost of hapless consumers who have not received ration since October last year, reliable sources told Excelsior.
The problem surfaced in October last after the Department asked the ration dealers of Jammu to lift the ration from the FCS&CAD godowns themselves which earlier was supplied by the Department itself, sources added.
This gave rise to an unavoidable controversy as the dealers objected to the decision demanding the old pattern should be followed, which existed since the Maharaja’s rule, sources said.
They said protesting against the decision, the dealers of urban areas of Jammu district stopped lifting of ration from the Department with the result the consumers were put to many hardships. As a result of it, the people in many areas of Jammu have not received the ration supply since October last year and they have been forced to purchase the ration from open market at exorbitant rates.
The consumers, who have been sandwiched in this controversy, said the tussle between the Department and dealers is unending with both sides sticking to their respective stands so there seems to be no end to their woes and sufferings.
They said to manage the crisis, the Department, however, decided to supply ration on the basis of rotation in the City and suburban areas of Jammu and public notices were issued in this regard by clubbing areas which were fed by four to five ration dealers. But the system seems to be unmanageable as it gave rise to chaos and confusion because the consumers had to stand in long queues for their turn. The heavy rush of consumers at these spots also led to clashes among the consumers and this has added to public nuisance also, they added.
There is already a lot of resentment among the consumers over the deduction of ration after the implementation of National Food Security Act in the State and the consumers said that the quota fixed by the Government under NFSA per soul is not sufficient. Besides the quota of sugar has also been reduced since the implementation of the Act while the rates for Non Priority Household (NPH) have been increased from Rs 8 per kg of flour to Rs 13 and from Rs 10 to Rs 15 per kg of rice.
The dealers, while challenging the order of the Department, that they should lift the ration on their own instead of being supplied by the Department, said “it is impossible for them and this practice will give rise to corruption”.
“The Department should go as per the old practice which was existing for over 70 years”, said Prabhu Dayal Sharma, president Fair Price Ration Dealers Association Jammu.
Maintaining that they will stick to their decision, he accused the Department of harassing the dealers by adopting authoritarian methods. “We are asked to lift the ration for three months at a time by depositing the money with the Department in advance which is not possible for us”, he added.
Sharma said a dealer has to deposit Rs three to five lakh in cash if he is asked to lift ration for three months at a time and it is not possible for a poor dealer to arrange such a huge amount. Moreover there is no storing capacity where the dealers can store the ration for three months at a time, he added.
In addition to it, the ration depots in the city are in narrow lanes and by lanes where the big vehicles can’t enter and it also becomes problematic for the dealers to lift and store such a huge quantity at a time, he said.
Criticizing the Department, Sharma said the commission enhanced under NFSA which had sanctioned Rs 147 per quintal has also not been released in favour of dealers as only five percent has been given to them. Moreover there is loading and unloading problem too, he added.
He said the Department has to clear the liability since October and the ration supplied by Department itself is of December and January months while the ration of October and November is still in backlog.
Terming it a discriminatory step, he said when the ration is supplied to dealers by the Department itself in Srinagar why the Jammu dealers are subjected to humiliation and harassment.
However, the Department is optimistic to tide over the crisis. “We have started supplying ration ourselves area wise, said Ankush Hans Assistant Director FCS&CAD”.
He said out of 3.5 lakh ration cards comprising of 13.5 souls in Jammu City, the Department has distributed ration among 12,000 families so far.
He said the problem has started after the dealers refused to lift ration themselves as the Department wanted that the dealers of urban areas should lift the ration by arranging vehicles and laborers themselves as is done by the dealers in rural areas.
He said out of over 300 dealers in the City some agreed to it and they lifted the ration but majority is adamant and wanted the order should be revoked.
But the dealers of the City said that the problem is different in rural belt and urban areas hence, the two can’t be compared together.
Even the migrants putting up in camps and non camp also alleged that they have not received the ration for last three months despite the fact that the Relief organization has made payment for the same in advance to the Department.