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Policing PDS with right to information weapon Print E-mail

Source: Lawetal News

26.07.2011 | 20:22
Vijay Shah

Gujarat has become the first state in the country where disclosure of all stocks has been made compulsory at fair price shops. This became possible due to the efforts of an 18-year-old in a Gujarat village and his use of the Right to Information Act.

The teenager, Bhadresh Wamja, filed an RTI application seeking details
of the stocks dispatched from the public distribution system (PDS) to
the fair price shops. A second year B Com  student,  who heads a
movement called Youth Against Corruption in his area, Wamja came to
know through newspapers that APL (above poverty line) cardholders were
eligible to get rations  under the public distribution arrangement
through fair price shops.

Himself an APL card holder, Bhadresh was in for a surprise when he
enquired about it from his village fair price shop. He was flatly
turned down and informed that there were no such provisions for APL
card holders. So he was forced to purchase his requirements at
prevailing market prices. In a quandary, he called up the ‘mahiti
adhikar’ (information rights) helpline and was told that the
department of food and civil supplies of the Gujarat government
dispatches foodgrains and assorted supplies every month for BPL (below
poverty line), APL and Antyodaya cardholders.

Bhadresh filed an RTI application on 11 February 2011, seeking details
of the stock dispatched and received by the shop. “This brought
problems for me and my family and we began receiving threats from the
local village functionaries as the PDS shopkeeper and the gram sevak
were all involved in the irregularities”, he pointed out.

Undeterred, Bhadresh contacted the whistleblower helpline of the
Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel which helps and guides all such RTI
Activists. The helpline immediately wrote to the food and civil
supplies department of the government, the RTI chief and the relevant
police station. This resulted in arrest of Paresh Jaiswal who operated
the PDS shop. Jaiswal however secured bail in two days and the vicious
circle of threats and warnings began all over again, alleged Bhadresh.

“I was threatened several times, but I did not give up and kept up the
fight. However, some of my relatives intervened to bring about a
compromise”, Bhadresh said.

He, however, filed an RTI application against the civil supplies
department on March 1. The continuing crusade finally bore results and
on April 30, the state government passed an order under section
4(1)(b), making it compulsory for all fair price shops in the state to
disclose all the details about rations received and kept in the shop.
“This is a just reward for the initiative of the young lad which will
prove a boon for all ration cardholders in the state”, said Pankti Jog
of Pahel here on Tuesday.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 20 September 2011 )
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