Kolkata : A major chunk of the 20,370 ration dealers in West Bengal Monday resigned en masse demanding protection from violent mobs and a thorough revision of the state’s public distribution system (PDS).
The Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) has called a 12-hour statewide shutdown on Oct 30 to protest against the deteriorating PDS in West Bengal.
“At least one third of the total 20,370 ration dealers have resigned Monday. The rest would resign tomorrow (Tuesday) since owing to holiday not everyone could put in their papers today (Monday),” West Bengal Modified Ration Dealers’ Association (WBMRDA) state committee general secretary Jagannath Koley told IANS.
The resignations came in the wake of statewide food riots by poor people who were denied ration under the PDS due to hoarding by some unscrupulous dealers and corruption in the system. The mobs looted shops, set the ration dealers’ houses on fire and even killed some of them. Some dealers committed suicide.
“We will call off our protest only if the chief minister takes proper action and protects us from the people’s ire. The system should be immediately revised with the formation of a high level committee with our representation,” Koley said.
“The system is itself full of errors and we are facing the peoples’ wrath because of the government’s bogus rationing system. The age of the consumers has also not been updated for the past 10 years and so many of them receive lower quantity of rations,” he added.
“The bogus cards of the APL (Above Poverty Line) should be scrapped and the BPL (Below Poverty Line) people should be given cards afresh. Why should we take the slur of government failure?” asked Koley.
“The government should also ensure that a dealer can earn at least between Rs.10,000 and 15,000 a month. We are meeting the food minister on Tuesday and hopefully the chief minister would also meet us and take suitable action,” he said.
Reacting to the resignations, N.K. Saha, a district controller of food and supplies, said: “We cannot accept such a mass resignation letter because it is completely illegal. There is no provision of such mass resignation in the contract of licensing system between the government and ration dealers.”
“If they do not take food materials and disturb the public distribution system, the government can take action against them,” he said.
The ration dealers’ association had earlier sent a notice to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya informing hin that they would resort to mass resignation Oct 22 onwards.