While Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi was addressing party leaders of the districts about the ‘game changer’ cash-transfer scheme which is going to be introduced in January, a group of people were protesting near Parliament demanding that their food entitlements should not be replaced with cash-transfer. Instead, they want the government to bring a comprehensive Food Security Act which is universal in its coverage and does not differentiate between rich and poor.
Protesting under the banner of Right to Food Campaign on Friday 14 December, their demand found support from the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party, whose national executive member Yogendra Yadav turned up at the protest. “Before Independence, we used to say that deaths due to hunger happen because of British rule. But even after 65 years, we are talking about Food Security Act so as to ensure that no one dies of hunger,” he said. Criticising the government for not being sensitive to the needs of people, Yadav added, “Our Supreme Court says give 7 kg ration to poor, but our government says give only 5 kg because we do not have money. The government has given tax rebates worth Rs 6 lakh crore to industrialists, but cannot charge them Rs 2 lakh crore to roll out universal Public Distribution System. This government has got money for everyone but for poor.”
Smita Gupta, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) and All India Democratic Women’s Association member, also attacked the government for rolling out cash subsidies without any planning. “When not everyone has been covered by Aadhar, then how can government launch such a scheme,” she asked, demanding that every widow and elderly person should be provided with an Antyodaya Card, which ensures food entitlements to the poorest of the poor.
Among those who were present at the agitation were National Advisory Council member AK Shivakumar and National Commission of Protection of Children’s Rights member Dr Vandana Prasad.
The government is set to launch the first phase of the cash-transfer scheme in 51 districts in January 2013.