October 23, 2007
The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
On PDS And West Bengal
The written statement issued by the Congress party through its spokesperson on the so-called food riots in West Bengal is as intemperate as it is ill-informed. There are no food riots in West Bengal although some elements who want a mahajot are doing everything possible to incite violence on the issue of ration distribution so as to disrupt the entire system. While the West Bengal government has taken stringent measures to end corruption in the system as evident by the large number of raids and arrests over the last year, the major problem is the huge cuts in allocations to the APL sections by the Central Government bringing it down to just over 3 per cent of the initial allocation.
It is an indication of the total disconnect between the Congress perceptions and the reality of widespread poverty, that the Congress states: “It is an anachronism to even talk of food riots in a country which is proud to flaunt a booming economy”. Unfortunately, in the “booming economy” 3500 tribal children in five districts of Maharashtra have died due to malnutrition in the last year. The Congress would do well to also study the recent report of the National Family Health Service which shows that malnutrition has increased in the last few years. Indeed, India has the highest number of malnourished people in the whole world. This is the reason why the CPI(M) has been demanding a reversal of food policies from the targetted system to a universal system of PDS as recommended by the official committee.
Struggle for PDS
A major problem is the failure of the public distribution system. The nonissuance
of BPL cards on unreasonable criteria and patently incorrect
estimates of below poverty line made on the basis of the Planning
Commission’s guidelines have aggravated the situation. The demand for
issuing BPL cards to all people below the poverty line on the basis of a
reasonable criteria and an end to the efforts to restrict BPL card holders must
be a major issue for struggle by the Party all over the country.
Immediate steps are to be taken to ensure food security. These include
expansion of percentage of BPL lists eligible for subsidised foodgrains; bring
one crore more people with specific priority to tribals in the Antodaya system;
sufficient allocation and expansion of commodities for APL. These are interim
measures we demand towards universalisation of the PDS.