Category Archives: govt schemes

Flood relief money flows to the unaffected

Residents of Gandhi Mandapam Road, Kottur, were surprised when a bunch of men came knocking at their doors on Thursday, offering them flood relief money. The residents said they were not affected by flood last month unlike those in Kotturpuram who suffered due to inundation. A resident said that the men who were distributing money took Rs.500 for themselves and gave Rs.1,500 to the residents.

flood reliefHowever, residents of Kotturpuram, who were affected by the flood, had to resort to road roko to protest the delay in flood relief distribution. On Friday, several Kotturpuram residents were seen waiting at the Mylapore-Triplicane taluk office to get an endorsement in their family cards to avail themselves of Rs.2,000 given as flood relief. Banumathi, a resident of Ellaiamman Koil Street, said, “In our street only half the residents got the relief money.”

District Collector Mythili K. Rajendran said that enumeration was still on and those who had not  received the money yet would get it in the days to come. On those not affected by the flood receiving the relief, she said the “revenue officers do not go about distributing money at people’s homes. It is necessary to establish the identity of these men.”

Residents were also confused about the procedure adopted to identify eligible beneficiaries. Officials said that they identified “low-income group areas with the help of local councillors.” However, residents said that they had no prior knowledge of revenue officers or councillors visiting their areas. A Thiruvanmiyur resident D.Subramanian said that he was not at home when the revenue officials came. “Now, I am struggling to get an endorsement in my ration card to collect the relief money,” he said.

Alwarthirunagar resident P.S. Srinivasan said, “the compound wall of my house collapsed and electronic gadgets were damaged. But my name has not been included in the list of beneficiaries.”

Several men and women gathered outside the municipality office demanding relief money on Friday.

He said that resident protests were reported in Thiruverkadu, Kaduvetti and Ponneri areas and he was aiming to complete the relief distribution work by Sunday.

(Originally published in The Hindu, Tamil Nadu edition, dated Dec 21, 2008)


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Poor women cash in on one-rupee rice

For Lakshmi, the Re.1 a kilo rice scheme introduced by the government has come as a boon. She uses this rice to make batter for idli and dosa which she sells at the small tiffin shop she runs outside her house in C-Kalyanapuram, Vyasarpadi. In this locality alone, there are at least 25 tiffin shops run by women.

idli kadai

Lakshmi says the cheap rice distributed in ration shops is better for making tiffin items than for cooking. She says she uses most of the 20 kg rice obtained every month through her BPL (Below Poverty Line) card to make idlis and dosas at her shop. With the rice now available for Re.1/kg instead of Rs.2/kg, her profit has improved, she says.

Poor women across the city who run road-side eateries (or idli kadais as they are known locally) have thus been able to capitalise on the subsidised rice offered by the government.

However, there are several issues plaguing the Public Distribution System (PDS) in the city which comes in the way of insulating the poor from inflation. According to a Government Order passed in Tamil Nadu in 1997, there ought to be one ration shop for every 1,000 card-holders. The government order, if implemented, can go a long way in helping the poor to maximise the benefits already offered by the government.

N. Umapathy, who does slum development work in North Chennai, says that information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act shows that most ration shops in this part of the city have between 1,200 and 3,000 card holders. This, he says, affects the efficiency of distribution in fair price shops.

To get around the problem, most ration shops follow a rotation system, wherein card-holders are specified particular days in a month to collect their quota.

“This affects the livelihood opportunity of daily wage labourers. Much of their time is wasted waiting in the queues and bickering with shop-keepers over under weighing of the commodities purchased,” he says.

The government’s problem, according to an official, is the availability of space to set up new fair price shops. The rotation system ensures that every one is covered, he says.

In Semmenchery, at a resettlement colony for the urban poor developed by the TamilNadu Slum Clearance Board, there is only one ration shop for the 5,000 families living here. T. Kanta, who works as a maid in Santhome and lives in Semmenchery, says she cannot go to work on days when she has to go the shop to pick up her rations.

There are also complaints from some quarters that PDS rice is diverted to departmental stores. Many people end up buying the diverted rice for a higher price, says M. Sundar, a scrap metal dealer in Moore Market.

(Originally published in The Hindu, Tamil Nadu edition for the column ‘Prices & People’ dated Sep 23, 2008)

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