The message also states that the inhabitants of the houses receive subsidised food grain that poor families are entitled to, triggering sharp criticism of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and her party, the BJP.
Move by local authorities in Dausa district of Rajasthan to identify BPL homes
In an apparent profiling of the poor, the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Rajasthan has painted thousands of houses of Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in the villages of Dausa district with ‘I am poor…I get ration’ for eligibility to subsidised food grains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
The move has sparked an outrage among social activists. The Congress charged the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with humiliating the poor and making a mockery of the Public Distribution System (PDS). The yellow ‘stamps of poverty’ on the walls of these houses carry the name of head of the household.
The markings have come up in the Sikrai and Bandikui tehsils of Dausa district, where about 70% of the population benefits from the NFSA. Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities are among the beneficiaries as BPL families.
The embarrassed villagers say they feel insulted by the markings. “We are made to suffer this humiliation for 10 kilos of wheat…The government officials spoil our walls and people make fun of us,” a resident of the Kundera Dungar village told a television news channel.
Dausa Zila Parishad Chief Executive Officer Rajendra Singh Kavia told The Hindu on Thursday that the markings were made in compliance with three-year-old directions of the State government. “The primary aim of the exercise is to identify the NFSA scheme’s beneficiaries and prevent pilferage of subsidies by ineligible people,” he said.
Mr. Kavia said a similar exercise had been undertaken in several other districts, such as Pali and Baran, and there was no intention on part of the government officials to “name and shame” anyone. He said the “relevant information” was painted on houses via the Panchayat bodies in a transparent manner.
In another village nearby, 65-year-old Soni Devi said, ” I get 15 kilos of wheat – that’s the reason I let this be written on my house. Now people ask what is this written on your walls, and we feel embarrassed and ashamed. People are making fun of us. I am poor and now I am also a butt of jokes.”
“This is wrong, we are enquiring into it,” said Rajendra Rathore, the state’s Panchayati Raj Minister, to whom zila parsihads are accountable. “Some districts appear to have done this on their own. There is no such order issued by our department. In 2009, the Congress had issued an order where BPL (Below Poverty Line) used to be written outside BPL homes, but to write” I am poor” is wrong and I am looking into it.”
“It’s a sick joke. If the state government provides them ration under the Food Security Act, it’s their legal right, and not a charity from the government,” said Manish Tewari of the opposition Congress.
The Opposition Congress has slammed the BJP government for the move, saying it was the legal right of the BPL beneficiaries to get ration under the NFSA. Pradesh Congress spokesperson Archana Sharma said it was a ploy of the ruling BJP to reduce the number of beneficiaries and deprive the poor people of their rights.
Dr. Sharma also took exception to a charge reportedly made by Panchayati Raj Minister Rajendra Rathore that the practice of writing “BPL family” outside the houses of beneficiaries was started by the previous Congress regime. “There is no truth in it. In fact, the NFSA was brought by the UPA government to ensure food security of poor people and remove malnutrition,” she said.