New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s younger brother, Prahlad Modi, has plans to join a protest march in Delhi to demand that the central government increase and fix a uniform rate of commission for fair price shop dealers across the country.
The protest march, being organised by the All India Fair Price Shop Dealers’ Federation, of which Prahlad Modi is vice-president, will be held on 2 August if demands raised by the organisation are not fulfilled within July. The planned march will begin at Ramlila Maidan and end at Parliament.
Fair price shops (FPS) are those that have been licensed to distribute essential commodities like rice and wheat, among other items, to ration-card holders.
Headquartered in Kolkata, the All India Fair Price Shop Dealers’ Federation represents fair price shop owners and aims to, according to its website, “attain a Universal Public Distribution System and to envisage a hunger-free India”.
Kali Charan Gupta, co-president of the federation, told ThePrint that they have been raising their demand for a higher commission for almost 10 years now. “We used to get 70 paisa commission on 1 kilogram of ration, now we get 90 paisa. We have been demanding a commission of Rs 4,” he said.
It also demands uniform commission for FPS owners in all states. “In some states, it is as low as Rs 30 per quintal [in Meghalaya]. The central government allots a particular amount to state governments, which further implements it. The Centre should fix a certain uniform rate in all the states,” said federation co-president Pushpa Raj Deshmukh to ThePrint.
The younger Modi, who himself owns a ration shop in Ahmedabad, insists that he is not protesting against his brother, but against the policies of the government.
“Bina maange toh maa bhi nahin deti (even a mother doesn’t provide without being asked). I work with the organisation, I do what it deems fit. I will render full support to what the organisation decides to do,” Prahlad Modi said to ThePrint.
The two brothers have not met in the past eight years, since Modi became prime minister, Prahlad said. “Even when he meets our mother, Heeraben, nobody from the family is present there,” he added.
Calling him “the son of the country”, Prahlad Modi said: “Narendra bhai left the house in the 1970s. Since then, he has been the son of the country and the nation is his family. So, there is no point discussing my relationship with him. He always speaks about the nation’s interest everywhere,” he added.
Prahlad Modi, who has been with the All India Fair Price Shop Dealers’ Federation since its inception in 2001, has been, along with the organisation, raising the commission issue for fair price shop owners for quite some time.
The planned August protest will not be the first time he has protested against the government’s policies. In 2015, just a year after PM Modi came to power, he protested on behalf of his organisation, demanding an increase in compensation for fair price shop owners and said that the NDA government had “failed to live up to peoples’ expectations”.
In February 2021, he held a dharna at the Lucknow airport after the Uttar Pradesh Police allegedly detained his supporters. Police had denied the allegations and accused his supporters of trying to organise an event without taking the requisite permissions.
Later that year, he also asked traders to not pay GST (Good and Services Tax) until various demands made by the traders’ association were met.
According to Gupta, Prahlad Modi’s association with the PM has not helped. “TMC MP Saugata Roy is our chairman. Such big names are associated with our organisation. But what can we do? Our issues are still not resolved,” he said, adding that if the Centre doesn’t heed their demands by the end of July, 15 lakh associates of the organisation will hold the protest march on 2 August.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)