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Archive for the ‘Ration Riots’ Category

Present ration crisis exposes the CPM

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 21, 2007

When fury strikes: Ration shops set afire by irate mobs in a town in Birbhum district

Present ration crisis exposes the CPM

We have not heard of ration crisis since mid 60s. Now, after 40 years, we are seeing reports of ration riots in West Bengal. The first symptom of current ration disquiet surfaced on September 16 when the CPM rally was attacked by a mob in Bankura. Next day, a ration dealer’s house was attacked by locals. Within days of being attacked, the dealer committed suicide. The riots, which started in Bankura soon engulfed districts of Birbhumi, 24 Parganas Bardhman, Murshidabad and Hoogly. More than half a dozen persons have died including the one who was shot dead by the police. The West Bengal Government suspended 117 dealers. Thousands of dealers are reportedly in hiding.

Bengal has a long history of famine. During colonial rule, millions of people died of hunger. Film-maker Satyajit Ray made a film on the famine of 1943. The famine was caused due to apathy of the colonial rulers towards Indian masses and willful transfer of food stocks as per their whims and fancies as also hoarding of stocks by profiteers. Then we heard of food crisis in early 1960s. The CPM got a foothold in West Bengal by exploiting this crisis. It caused advent of CPM lead front to power in the State. After three decades of CPM rule the ration crisis remains.

West Bengal went down on the industrialisation front. Large-scale migration of industrialists took place due to continuous gheraos, sand bandhs. It has not progressed much on the agriculture front, too, the State still continues to be food deficit. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee realised that anti-industry policies will not lead his Government anywhere. Therefore, after getting elected in the last Assembly poll he gave a red-carpet welcome to the investors. But his party comrades, especially the CITU, are pinpricking him.

The current ration riots have exposed the Marxists to the hilt. But the CPM patted itself for implementing land reforms and changing the landscape of rural West Bengal. Despite this propaganda, not much has happened. Let us see what happened in the ration front.

There are 20,000 ration shops. The dealership has been given to CPM cadre, workers or sympathisers. Public Distribution System (PDS) is thoroughly corrupt. Under the PDS specified quantity of rice and wheat is given to a family, depending upon the number of person, at discounted prices. In the form of dealers a new section of exploiters have come up. They live in big houses and have a luxurious life style.

There are different schemes for people below poverty line (BPL) and people above the poverty line (APL). First the Centre allots wheat, rice, sugar to the State, the State lifts the stocks and distributes it to BPL and APL cardholders through PDS. There have been numerous complaints about food grains meant for the BPL and APL cardholders being siphoned off in the open market. The Consumer Affairs Ministry conducted an enquiry and found that more than Rs 31,585 crore meant for the poor was siphoned off from the PDS in the last three years. The largest being reported from UP and West Bengal.

During the food riots dealers in West Bengal were targeted. Southern Bengal Ration Dealers Association staged a dharna
outside the State Food Ministry demanding punishment for corrupt officers and protection for themselves. The Association functionary Nirmal Sarkar complained that the dealers are forced to pay weakly bribes to local CPM leaders, panchayat members and the officers. “We have no other way but to make for the loss incurred there by selling the food grains or other goods in the black market”. Perturbed by riots, the blame game. The CPM blamed Centre for decreasing West Bengal quota of wheat and rice. Food Corporation of India (FCI) officials claimed that even allotted stocks were not lifted by West Bengal.

Food and Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar has hinted that the food grains are being smuggled out from West Bengal to Bangladesh in large quantities. The CPM has absolved its of the responsibility by saying that the borders are guarded by BSF who never brought it to their notice. The CPM is sacred due to impending panchayat elections and fall out of ration riots in the election. It has blamed Zamiyat Ulema-e-Hind and Maoists for the riots. It has also pointed fingers at Trinamool Congress.

A portion of blame must be directed towards the price rise. When food grains prices were affordable, large numbers of APL cardholders were purchasing food grain from the market. Due to price rise they have fallen back upon the ration shops. The dealers did not lift stocks for APL cardholders, as they were not turning up. Suddenly during last few months they have been queuing at the ration shops and the crises exploded.

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West Bengal: Food riots expose how graft hurts poor

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 13, 2007

Food riots expose how graft hurts poor

Published: Saturday, 13 October, 2007, 02:07 AM Doha Time

Villagers stand in front of the office of the block development officer during a protest against improper supply of food at Galsi village, about 130km from Kolkata

BURDWAN: Hundreds of government food distributors were hiding yesterday in fear of their lives in eastern Indian state after riots that were triggered when villagers accused them of stealing and hoarding food meant for the poor

Bengal blames Centre for ration riots

Police in West Bengal said three ration distributors have committed suicide in the last two weeks since villagers gave them an ultimatum to pay millions of rupees as a “fine” for diverting grain to regular markets at huge premiums.

“We admit there are some corrupt members, but everyone is being targeted, forcing most of us to either hide or risk getting killed,” said Ashok Saha, the food distributors’ association chief in Burdwan district, from a secret location.

The protests follow a central government inquiry that revealed widespread corruption in the food distribution system.

The investigation found that most rural poor in eastern and northern India were not getting regular supplies of the food to which they are entitled.

In India, villagers living below the poverty level – about 28% of the rural population in West Bengal – are sold heavily subsidised paddy, wheat and sugar under a central government scheme through thousands of private franchisees.

Villagers in the communist-ruled state have looted and set storehouses on fire over the last week. Police have shot dead two villagers during the riots, and more than 300 villagers have been injured in clashes, officials said.

“For years, they have been cheating us,” said a weeping Arjina Bibi in Burdwan, as she stood next to her three hungry children. “They were saying there were no stocks available, while we have seen lorries carry away wheat to flour mills at midnight.”

Burdwan is projected as a model of efficient governance.
But the district bore the brunt of the latest riots with shops and homes of food distributors ransacked.
Angry villagers dug out roads to show their anger and forced their way into homes, snatching jewellery and food grain. In another village, people attacked the distributors.

“Come and see how we share a morsel of rice among eight members,” Noor Jahan, 45, said in another village in West Bengal, as police walked past a burnt food storehouse next to her.

The riots have been a major embarrassment for the state’s ruling communists since it involves people living below the poverty line, the vote bank of the left for the last 30 years.

“This agitation is perhaps the biggest test for the communists,” economist Abhirup Sarkar said.
Earlier this year, a government inquiry showed how most of the rural poor in five states, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand in the east, Assam in the northeast and the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, were not getting regular rations.

The survey showed how only 10% to 15% of the poorest were getting some supplies in remote villages of West Bengal, a state of 80mn people. In Uttar Pradesh state, barely 6% of poor villagers got the food.

A report in the Hindustan Times newspaper said this week that a food ministry panel found 53% of wheat meant for the poor in the capital, New Delhi, was diverted to open markets. – Reuters

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Ration rage singes Red bastions

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 12, 2007

KOLKATA: After the land rage in Singur and Nandigram, the ration row has put the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government in a spot again. Dearth of supplies in the public distribution system (PDS) outlets has become a rallying point for the Opposition, from the Trinamul Congress to the Maoists.

It has led to cracks in the Red bastion as was evident from the huge crowd Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee drew at Sonamukhi in Bankura on October 4. Significantly, this has become a major issue among villagers after the state’s land acquisition bid giving the Opposition an opportunity to continue working together at the grassroots that has never happened in the state before.

A day after Mamata’s rally at Sonamukhi, a resident of Dihipara village, Abhay Chatterjee, said, “People from Dihipara, Palasdanga and Madanpur went in three buses to attend the rally.” He found it remarkable as the Sonamukhi is a CPM stronghold. The discontent and the Opposition’s coming together is likely to have an impact in the coming elections.

Unnerved by the ration rage spreading in the districts, CPM toughs are striking back making matters worse. “Some criminals carrying guns and led by CPM leaders threatened us to return wheat, rice and kerosene looted from the ration shop. Otherwise they would ransack our houses. The police were with them,” Nabagram Block Congress president Mir Badal Ali said.

Now, the discontent against corrupt ration dealers has provided an opportunity to Opposition parties to make inroads into CPM strongholds. Police had said that Naxalites were behind the burning of four police jeeps in the Nabagram area of Murshidabad earlier this week, though local CPM leaders believe that Congress supporters had done it.

The Burdwan district CPM finds it hard to believe the fact that its leaders were beaten up and the party office was ransacked right in the heart of the district town, which is perhaps the strongest turf of the party in the state.
Birbhum DM Tapan Kumar Som believes that it is the criminals who are behind the looting spree. On Wednesday, he said in most places, the criminals are leading the agitation. Some misguided common people, however, have joined them, he added.

In places where Trinamul has a presence, the involvement of the party in the agitation is evident.

Such incidents were witnessed at Labhpur — where a villager died in police firing — and Ahmedpur areas of Birbhum district. In these places, Opposition parties led deputations to the the block development officers and blocked busy roads for hours.

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Dealer slips out, house set on fire

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 12, 2007

Oct. 11: Nearly 3,000 villagers in Burdwan today tried to set Ranjit Sen’s house on fire after the ration dealer gave them the slip without paying “compensation”.

The villagers, from Purbasthali’s Siddhipara and neighbouring Dangapara and Paruldanga, had confronted Ranjit yesterday, accusing him of diverting stocks over the past one year. They demanded that he pay Rs 1,000 to all 3,000 cardholders in the three villages.

The villagers went to his home this morning to collect the money, but Ranjit was reluctant to pay.

Around 1pm, Ranjit went out of the house, telling the villagers he would be back in a few minutes. But when the ration dealer did not return after half an hour, the villagers realised he had fled.

The villagers then ransacked Ranjit’s house and tried to set it ablaze. “Police arrived in the nick of time and rescued me and other family members,” said Bijoykrishna, Ranjit’s father.

In Calcutta, food minister Paresh Adhikari said he would meet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee soon to work out steps against the panchayat members allegedly involved in the ration row.

“Panchayat members from political parties monitor the public distribution system in the districts. I believe they are primarily responsible for the ration rage in Bankura, Birbhum, Burdwan and Murshidabad,” Adhikari said.

The panchayats in these four districts are controlled by the CPM.

However, the minister refused to comment on whether CPM activists were behind the fortnight-long violence.

Industries minister Nirupam Sen said dishonest ration dealers were responsible for the agitation.

“Corruption has spread to every sector of the economy. But people hoarding food should not be excused. It is because of dishonest dealers that districts are seething. We want rice and wheat to be given through ration shops,” Sen said.


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Maoists seize govt warehouses and fed the Masses ……….

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 10, 2007

The evisionsit CPM is busy with the Indo-US nuclear deal at the centre, their ‘comrades’ in Bengal are facing a different kind of protest in the state. A copy of the mouthpiece of the Maoists organization – Guerilla Barta – which is calling on people to loot food warehouses and feed the masses.
(“Don’t beg anymore, don’t die out of starvation. Government’s warehouse is people’s warehouse.” )

“Don’t beg anymore, don’t die out of starvation! Government’s warehouse is people’s warehouse! We should take over that food warehouse with force! Come forward and be ready” is exactly the message Guerilla Batra is giving people.

The government too believes Maoist elements are behind these attacks on ration shops. A series of violent protests have emerged against corrupt ration dealers in the recent past. People are angry as they haven’t got wheat, rice or sugar for last few months.

Reacting to the attacks the CPM secretary has called this a `conspiracy against the West Bengal government’, west Bengal Home Secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray has said.


Original source-“jharkhand_zindabad”

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Riots spread in rural Bengal over missing food in ration shops, CPM target of anger

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 10, 2007

Kolkata, October 09 IN the capital, comrades may be all worked up on George W Bush and the IAEA but here, in their electoral bastion of rural Bengal, they are battling an unprecedented breakdown in what was once considered their formidable organisational structure: the party is directly under attack in a string of “ration riots,” violence over food grain siphoned off the Public Distribution System.

What started six weeks ago as a local law-and-order problem is spreading and has now touched six districts, acquiring political undertones that’s giving sleepless nights to the party and the government. For, it has brought together the Naxalites and the Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind, the same two groups that pushed the CPM against the wall in Nandigram.

Today, Utpal Narasundar, the 27-year-old son of a ration dealer hanged himself after his grocery shop and rice godown were looted at a village near Nalhati in Birbhum. Utpal’s is the third suicide in a fortnight of the riots, the other two victims were ration dealers. Two villagers have been killed in police firing so far.

Utpal had taken a loan from a bank to set up his grocery shop and the godown. Villagers angry at not getting ration supplies from the PDS outlet his family owned slapped a fine of Rs 27 lakh on his father Chandra Kishore. He was asked to shell out the money to each cardholder as compensation for the months they did not get their supplies.

Fear has gripped several of the 20,000 ration dealers across the state, many of them having enjoyed the patronage of the ruling CPM for decades.

Of the 8.35 crore ration cardholders in the state, almost 60% are APL (above poverty line). While the government has taken care to ensure that BPL cardholders get their supplies, it’s the APL ones who are angry. Many of them have routinely depended on the open market rather than the PDS shop for supplies but price rise has fuelled the anger: in Birbhum, one of the centres of the violence, for example, APL wheat sells for Rs 6.75 a kg while the open-market rate is Rs 13. Even Food and Civil Supplies Minister Paresh Adhikari has had to admit that there is “large-scale diversion” of grain from APL PDS to the open market. An investigation into the violence shows why the CPM has reason to be worried:

* In Barjora in Bankura, where one of the worst rioting took place, Narayan Dutta, a ration dealer, owns the only two-storied pucca building. He’s a CPM cardholder and his brother is a unit secretary while another brother owns a grocery shop. The party’s district secretary in Bankura, Amiya Patra, openly admits the nexus between the party and PDS dealers: “So far, we have been able to identify as many as seven CPM cardholders who own PDS dealerships.”

* In Sian in Birbhum, a district secretariat member of the CPM was beaten up by an angry mob when he tried to defend a ration dealer.

* In Burdwan again, Pradip Ta, a district secretariat member, was assaulted for trying to come to the aid of a ration dealer accused of siphoning off the grain.

* In Radhamohanpur in Bankura a violent mob ransacked the venue where a CPI(M) party meeting was underway.

* Riot-affected areas are also those where there’s a significant presence of Maoists and the Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind: Ranibandh, Barjora, Onda and pockets in Burdwan, Birbhum, Nadia and Murshidabad. In Nandigram, these were the same two forces that got together to force the CPM to call off its SEZ plan.

* Police officials say that Naxalite fingerprints are evident in the nature of the violence — torching jeeps, godowns, shops and PDS outlets. And in the method of punishment: imposition of “fines,” considered the hallmark of Maoist groups.

* Shrewdly, the Trinamool and Congress have not rushed in yet leaving the field wide open for Naxalites and the Jamiat.

* Cardholders are increasingly not interested in lifting food grain but, instead, want money as compensation for the months they have not got their supplies. In most places, meetings have been held and huge “fines” imposed on the dealers, many of them forced to give it in writing that they will compensate in cash.

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West Bengal: Kangaroo court’s ration fine: Rs 1.5 lakh

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 7, 2007


Burdwan/Suri, Oct. 5: Ration shops are not being burnt down in Burdwan, nor are their owners being thrashed. They are being tried in village courts and told to pay for cheating villagers, literally.

In Galsi, about 130km from Calcutta, dealers “confessed” to selling foodgrain in the black market and agreed to pay lakhs in compensation.

Around 7.30am, a motley group of villagers that included farmers, shop owners and private tutors gathered in ones and twos in front of Rajib Sain’s shop at Irkuna village.

When Rajib sought their cards, the villagers said they had not come to collect ration.

Aajkey aamra hisheb chai (we want to see your books),” said Anjan Ash.

Rajib was asked to walk to a field with all his papers. A kangaroo court sat under a tamarind tree there.

“Show us the accounts for the past two weeks,” said Anjan, 37, who owns a shop.

Rajib fumbled with the records and mumbled some figures but ultimately admitted that things were not in order.

The villagers shouted “maar maar (beat him)” but Anjan, Kalo Sheikh and Taher Mondal threw a ring around Rajib and pacified them.

“There is no need to look into your documents. Aamra aamaader nijeder hisheb toiri korechhi (we’ve done our own calculation). You owe us Rs 1.5 lakh. Pay us the amount and walk free. We’ll use the money for the development of the village,” said Taher.

Rajib pleaded that he did not have so much. “Please take Rs 1 lakh and let me go.”

A quick discussion and the villagers agreed.

“I felt relieved. There was a lot of discrepancy in my stocks,” said Rajib.

Similar trials were held at Baradighi, Sanko, Daronari and Loapur. At Baradighi, Sheikh Sikandar gave an undertaking for Rs 1.5 lakh.

Galsi Forward Bloc MLA Mehboob Mondal confirmed such delivery of “justice”.

“There was violence in Ketugram (on Wednesday) and one person was killed in police firing. We don’t want a repeat,” he said.

The administration admitted hearing about the kangaroo courts. “We can step in only if there is a law-and-order problem,” said Neera Mitra Sikdar, the BDO of Galsi block II.

District magistrate Manish Jain said a task force has been set up in each block to monitor the ration system.

The CPM state committee discussed the public fury against “dishonest” ration dealers and admitted “corruption and malpractice” in the system.

At Gogram in Birbhum’s Nalhati, a mob set Rabi Dutta’s house on fire. Police said Dutta had fled with his family. Two policemen were injured in trying to disperse the mob.


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West Bengal: Ration riots spread, one killed

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 4, 2007

KOLKATA/BURDWAN/SURI: Ration riots raged on in South Bengal on Wednesday, with another protester dying in police firing at Ketugram, Burdwan — the second death in two days. Ten villagers were injured.

The continuing violence prompted chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to appeal for peace. He asked people not to take the law into their hands and said the government had requested the Centre to increase rice, wheat and kerosene supplies. “Some people are deliberately trying to create trouble,” he said.

Before the CM’s call for calm, Burdwan and Birbhum were rocked by ration riots. Hundreds of villagers attacked ration dealer Bipadtaran Mandal’s house in Burdwan’s Serenda village. When the police tried to disperse them, they responded with lathis and stones, injuring four cops. The police fired on the mob, killing Dhanu Das (45) and injuring 10, one of them seriously.
The police jeep burns at Labhpur. Picture by Tapas Acharya
While villagers claimed the police had fired 20 rounds, Burdwan SP Piyush Pandey said they had fired six bullets in the air. The cause of Das’ death would be revealed in the post-mortem, he said.

Villagers, who had not got PDS wheat for 11 months, had gathered on Tuesday evening to get their due quota. Mandal told them to come later. But when they returned on Wed-nesday, he was missing.

In Birbhum, ration dealers’ houses and shops were atta-cked and looted at Takora, Basapara, Banagram, Gopalpur, Barsal and Belia villages in Rampurhat area. Bombs were hurled in Munigram.

On Tuesday night, Nanoor OC Kartik Ghosh was hit on the head with an iron rod when the police tried to save a ration dealer in Feugram village. On Wednesday, food department sub-inspector Abani Banerjee was attacked and injured by Trinamul supporters who raided his office in Suri.

More than 533 dealers surrendered their licences in Suri and Bolpur subdivisions on Wednesday.

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