Saturday, July 28, 2007

Camaign against irregularities in Ration Shops

Every month, 467 kilo liters of kerosene and 2000 metric tons of rice are being declared as unused surplus in the city even as poor families complain they are being deprived of their entitlements from fair price shops. Eleven lakh families in the city of Hyderabad are dependent on fair price shops for their sustenance.

This cruel paradox has come to light in a study conducted by the Greater Hyderabad unit of the Lok Satta Party in the last one week. Lok Satta volunteers gathered the opinion of 79 fair price shop dealers and customers served by them in Greater Hyderabad.

The principal complaint of white cardholders is they are being given only five liters of kerosene against 10 liters they are entitled to. Cardholders are often compelled to pay well above the official price of Rs. 9.50 per litre. In many cases, the 10 litre coupon is accepted by the dealer, but only 5 litres are issued. In fact, their entitlement has been reduced over the years from 18 liters to 10 liters per month. This huge shortfall is putting them under enormous financial burden.

Poor people are also put to great hardship because of the dealers' insistence on their lifting the entire quota of 10 liters of kerosene and 20 kgs of rice at one go.

The users of fair shops are people who experience regular and consistent financial stress. Therefore, it is imprudent to assume that they can pay for all commodities at one time. Cardholders should be given coupons that facilitate purchase of commodities in small quantities and in installments.

Another finding of the survey is that fair shops do not adhere to the stipulated time schedules - 8 AM to 12 Noon and 4 PM to 8 PM - making it difficult for cardholders to access them at convenient times. While the poor complain that they are not receiving their basic entitlements from fair price shops, large quantities of kerosene and rice are going unutilized.

The Lok Satta Party survey has revealed that elected local government representatives - municipal corporators - have very little control over the functioning of fair price shops. Mr. Ankaiah demands that ward committees be constituted and empowered to oversee the functioning of the fair price shops within their ward. There is also need to constitute a stakeholders' committee for each fair shop with local users, members of local civil society, local youth and women groups as members. Such stakeholder empowerment will go a long way in improving the functioning of fair price shops.

Lok Satta Party calls upon local youth to become volunteers to monitor and improve the functioning of the fair price shops. The volunteers will be trained and given logistic support by Lok Satta Party to help improve distribution of essential commodities to poor households. Volunteers may please contact 040 - 2323 1818 / 2323 2829.

Lok Satta condemns Mudigonda violence

Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, National Coordinator of the Lok Satta Party, today appealed to all political parties and Governments to introspect whether violence and counter-violence were warranted in a 60-year-old democracy. Failure to arrive at solutions through peaceful and constructive means merely mirrored the deep democratic crisis the country faced and exposed our inability to resolve problems peacefully, he told a meeting organized by the party.

He made the observations in the context of the police firing at Mudigonda in Khammam district in which eight CPI(M) activists were killed.

Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan decried that governments, whichever party is in power, and political parties are perpetuating a vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence. Brutal lathicharge and extreme use of force and firing resulting in deaths of innocent and poor citizens has become all too common. Equally, civil society movements and parties are resorting to extreme tactics to provoke people and invite repression. Lives of innocent people are lost all too often. Political calculations, not human decency have become the norm. Political parties and Governments should ponder whether action and reaction reminiscent of colonial rule were warranted in a democratic society.

He was addressing a conference titled "Ration - Pareshan" organized by the Lok Satta to highlight how poor families were undergoing hardship because of their inability to draw the 10 liters of kerosene and 20 kgs of rice they are entitled to every month. The Government spent Rs.3000 crore of taxpayers' money on subsidized supply of rice and kerosene to white cardholders. Although laws, rules and regulations were clear and widespread government machinery was in place, it could not render justice to the poor.

He commended Lok Satta volunteers for trying to find a peaceful solution to the chronic problem of rations through citizen assertion constructive means. This is the meaning of new politics fit for a constitutional democracy. Resort to violence itself is a symptom of failure of our democracy, he added.

"If a young man or woman adopts a ration shop in his or her area and spends an hour or two a week monitoring the fair shop functioning, things would improve. Lok Satta Party would train these volunteers and give them the information to monitor shops, mobilize citizens and ensure implementation of rules. If that fails, they should represent the problem to officials. The Lok Satta Party would provide all support. Fair shop dealers too had their problems. They lifted Government allotted stocks by borrowing money on interest while their margins were low. The Government could consider permitting them to lift stocks on credit and provide a solution.

Mr. B. Ankaiah, Convener, Greater Hyderabad Lok Satta Unit, Mrs. D. Lakshmi, Mahila Satta Convener and Mr. G. Rama Murthy, senior party leader, took part in the conference in which many representatives from different parts of the city voiced their distress and anger over their plight.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Tremendous Response to Lok Satta Primaries

The Lok Satta Party's policy of asking voters to choose its candidates for by-elections to ZPTCs and MPTCs in the State has elicited tremendous response.

The party deliberately opted for candidate selection by people through secret ballot as part of its policy to make politics people-centred, instead of being politician-centred.

This marks a radical departure from established parties' culture of choosing candidates based on their money power or muscle power or pedigree. The Satta has, in fact, challenged other parties to contest elections without recourse to purchase of votes or distribution of liquor.
The party has so far chosen its candidates to contest two ZPTC and 10 MPTC seats through primary elections. The by-elections are scheduled to take place on July 12.

According to Mr. D. V. V. S. Varma, Secretary, Lok Satta Party, the people's response to primaries would have been far greater had there been more time between the announcement of by-elections and the filing of nominations. There was a gap of just one day, as per the election schedule.

Ungutur in West Godavari district where an election is taking place for the ZPTC stands as a shining example of new politics at work. The Lok Satta short-listed three candidates and appealed to voters to choose the best one to represent them. All the candidates travelled in one vehicle and appealed for votes in one pamphlet as they toured villages in the constituency.

Of the 45000 registered voters, 9095 took part in the primary election. Mr. Potla John Raju, who polled 5260 votes, was declared the party candidate.

Similarly, 300 to 600 voters took part in the Lok Satta MPTC primaries held in different parts of the State to choose its candidates.

Mr. D. V. V. S. Varma said in a statement that the primaries demonstrated people's contempt for the traditional parties' culture of foisting candidates selected in secret conclaves.

Mr. Varma congratulated the voters on embracing Lok Satta Party's new political culture.