Geetha Sunil Pillai| TNN |

  • Government’s move to digitalise the Public Distribution System has added to the misery of residents
  • Ration dealers have to climb on trees to find internet connectivity to use their PoS machines

(TOI photo)(TOI photo)

UDAIPUR: Buying rations in Kotra, a backward settlement around 125km from Udaipur, now requires a vital skill: tree-climbing.

At many centres here, it is a common sight to see men and women perched on tree branches, waiting for hours for their turn to get their fingerprints and biometrics verified by the PoS (point of sale)+ machines. That done, they climb down and walk back miles to the ration shops where they get in another queue to collect the provisions they have bought.

Instead of making life easier, the government’s move to digitalise+ the Public Distribution System has added to the misery of residents of several backward areas, especially Kotra. There are 76 ration centres here of which 13 have very poor connectivity.

At these places, ration dealers have to climb on trees to find internet connectivityto use their PoS machines. People living in small settlements like Merpur, Chibarwadi, Malwiya Khakariya, Peepla, Bhuridebar, Beran, Palcha, Umariya, Samoli have to wait daily for hours to get their biometric verification to purchase ration items like sugar, kerosene.

“The only ration shop is many miles from our home but the ration dealer camps on a hilltop which is even far away. Sometimes, it takes 4-5 hours to find even a thin trace of internet network and only then the machine works. The earlier system was better,” said Bhola Gameti, a resident.

Many houses do not have an electricity connection. There are no roads or proper health facilities. “How unwise is this of the government to implement the PoS system before ensuring proper infrastructure?” said a school teacher.

“Difficult terrain and scattered patterns of settlement, coupled with poor development status makes it difficult to deliver services and hence dozens of villages in Kotra lacks proper communication and internet facilities,” claimed a government officer.

With bureaucrats looking upon Kotra as a punishment posting, delivery of services has taken a severe hit here. While the younger men migrate to surrounding areas to earn a livelihood, those left behind are the elderly, women and children.

The block is largely inhabited by two tribes — Garasiyas and Gameti — constituting 85% of the population. Most families live in scattered hutments, often on hilly areas and engage in agriculture, collection of forest produce and wage labour.