New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s younger brother, Prahlad Damodardas Modi, will sit on a dharna next week along with other members of the All India Fair Price Shop Dealers’ Federation to protest against “problems” in the public distribution system (PDS).
Prahlad Modi is the vice-president of the federation.
The protest will go on for 11 days, starting 2 December, the federation’s general secretary Biswambhar Basu said at a press conference Thursday.
Headquartered in Kolkata, the federation represents fair price shop owners and aims to “attain a universal public distribution system and envisage a hunger-free India”.
Fair price shops (FPS) are those that have been licenced to distribute essential commodities like rice, wheat, etc., to ration card-holders.
The federation listed out its eight demands at the press meet, which included rollback of the ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme that permits card-holders to buy their share from anywhere in the country, and an end to the enforcement of seeding Aadhaar with ration cards.
Basu said the federation has “already contacted and are getting in touch with different non-BJP members of Parliament” to support its dharna.
Trinamool Congress MP and former Union minister Saugata Roy, who was present at the press conference, said he would raise the federation’s concerns in Parliament.
Prahlad Modi didn’t attend the press conference as he wasn’t well, Basu told ThePrint
“Modi ji wasn’t able to attend today’s press conference because he is down with viral fever, but he will be attending the dharna with us at Jantar Mantar from 2-13 December,” he said.
According to Basu, Prahlad Modi has been with the federation since its inception in 2001. He is also the president of the Gujarat Fair Price Shop and Kerosene Licence Holders Association, where he has held a ration shop in Ahmedabad for years.
Aadhaar seeding a ‘big problem’
The federation said the linking of Aadhaar and ration cards is “a big problem” and termed the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme being implemented in Chandigarh, Puducherry and Dadra & Nagar Haveli a “total failure”.
“Mismatch of thumb impression and other problems related to net connectivity are depriving the rationees, leading to harassment, public agitation and even reported hunger deaths in Jharkhand. We demand not to enforce Aadhaar seeding of ration cards,” Basu said, reading out from the federation’s list of demands.
The federation has also demanded that margins for wheat, rice and sugar be raised to Rs 250 per quintal. Besides, it wants fair price shop dealers to be treated “as central government employees”.
Kerosene quota, ‘Food for All’ scheme among demands
Among its other demands, the federation wants the kerosene quota, which has been made voluntary by some states and completely forsaken by others, to be strictly enforced.
“We must take our entire consumers on the streets against any contemplation or action of the Union government to the privatisation of PDS, which may mean exploitation, unemployment and further disaster to the FPS dealers (sic),” the federation’s statement read.
It further demanded implementation of the ‘Food for All’ scheme, similar to the ‘Rajya Khadya Suraksha Yojana’ being implemented by the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal.
“Unless our margins are enhanced and demands for strengthening the Public Distribution System are looked into and remedied immediately, we will be constrained to go for a bigger and more large-scale movement throughout the country in the form of a ration bandh for an indefinite period with effect from January 2020,” the statement added.