New Delhi, June 15 (IANS) The government's plan to replace the public distribution system (PDS) with direct cash transfer into people's accounts under the proposed Food Security Bill is not getting any takers, some social activists said here Friday.
According to the proposal, the PDS through which subsidised foodgrains are made available to people will be replaced with direct cash subsidies where a fixed amount will be transferred into people's bank accounts each month.
Talking to media persons at the Indian Women's Press Corps here, Pushpa, a member of community organisation Bhalaswa Lok Shakti Manch (BLSM), said: "In a survey of more than 4,000 people in our area, 95 percent respondents said they want ration, not cash, but the government is not ready to listen."
Bhalaswa is a village in Jahangirpuri area in north Delhi.
"The government is not even willing to hear us out. An MLA whom I invited for a public meeting suggested that I should get married instead of bothering with this issue," she said.
She said pilot projects of the scheme were already running in Raghubir Nagar of west Delhi, while such projects were planned to be started soon in Sangam Vihar in south and Jahangirpuri in north Delhi.
Alleging that the government was going to the extent of threatening people who were opposing the cash transfer scheme, another BLSM member Manmohan said the problem with PDS lay in implementation, not in the system.
"The PDS system is a good system structurally, but what can the system do if the PDS shops stay shut, or if the food security officers don't do their jobs properly. In some of the shops, we found that higher officials had not bothered to come since 1984," he added.
According to economist Reetika Khera, the move would effectively be regressive.
"Currently, in operating the PDS, government incurs a lot of cost such as transportation and storage of foodgrains, but replacing the system with cash transfers would transfer that cost to the poor," she said.
Rashpal Kaur, Delhi state general secretary, National Federation of Indian Women (NIFW), the women's wing of Communist Party of India, also condemned the move.
"The government is playing into the hands of the World Bank and other similar organisations. The cash transfer scheme is just another example that the country's policies are not made in New Delhi anymore," she said.
"The government is not addressing the root causes of poverty in the country and is using schemes like cash transfer to cover up the realities. And what is the guarantee that there will be no corruption in the cash transfer," Kaur added.