According to the Association, about 5 lakh consumers will suffer as a result of their decision, which is about one-third of Goa’s population. However, the data released by the government earlier this year informs that there are a total of more than 2.75 lakh cardholders, including 11,232 Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) cardholders, 1.18 lakh Priority Household (PHH) cardholders and 1.47 lakh Above Poverty Line (APL) ration cardholders in the State.
As per the public distribution scheme (PDS), an AAY cardholder receives 35 kg of rice per card per month, while a PHH cardholder gets 5 kg rice per member per month, and an APL cardholder receives only 10 kg of rice and 5 kg of wheat per card per month.
The decision of the Association not to lift the food grain quota for the month of November is a double whammy for the consumers this year. O Heraldo in May had reported how maggot infested rice was being supplied and yet the same continued in June, July and in some FPSs in August too. In addition, the consumers did not receive any benefits during the festive season. Usually, during festivities such as Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali and Christmas, additional food grains are provided to the consumers alongwith sugar, edible oil and cereals at subsidised rates. These benefits were not extended to the consumers this year.
To add to the woes of everyone, the inflation rate has been keeping steady around 7%, making purchasing power weak and the ones at the bottom of the pyramid have been suffering most. The basic essential commodities continue to be expensive. Therefore, while the government goes gaga about reaching out to the poorest of the poor through the PDS, the reality is that one-third of Goa’s population is dependent on the government for its daily bread and the government department and its agencies care very little for their welfare.
FPS owners acknowledge that in most of the cases the socio-economic difference between PHH and APL cardholders dependent on the PDS is very negligible, yet the APL cardholders are at the receiving end and get very little in comparison.
Goa being a State which is amongst those with the highest per capita income in the country, the socio-economic indices too are different. Thus, it’s necessary that the government develops a State-centric policy and revisits the eligibility criterion for people to take benefit of the PDS, especially during the current crises of inflation and post Covid-19 pandemic when household incomes have been hit very hard. It would be prudent of the government to increase the quota for the APL cardholders.
In order to avoid a crises, the government should immediately release the nearly Rs 1 crore that is due to the FPS owners and grant relief to the consumers.
Another month without subsidised food grains will mean an economic crisis of sorts for the economically disadvantaged section of the society. In addition, the government should release all the dues under various welfare schemes to the people of the State to be able to balance their livelihoods.
Goans by attitude wouldn't like to demean their social status and it’s the government's responsibility to ensure that every Goan's self respect is maintained by strengthening their purchasing capacities.