Slums Affected By Rampant Corruption

Corruption in kerosene distribution is widespread in Mumbai slums, cutting down rations considerably.

Only a few months ago, our Community Correspondent Anand Pagare, reported the unhealthy state of Public Distribution Shops in Malegaon, Maharashtra. In today’s video, Amol Lalzare from Mumbai presents to us the frustration of slum dwellers of the city as their kerosene rations are cut down.

Due to inflation, the prices of basic commodities like kerosene have substantially increased, but their supply to the nation’s poorest citizens has slowly but steadily been cut off.  Kerosene is supplied to individuals solely for cooking purposes, and is highly subsidized by the government. With a ration card, people can get supplies of kerosene at a subsidized rate through PDS (Public Distribution Shops) along with items like coal, rice, wheat, sugar etc every month. However, the line of supply from the Government to a PDS is infested with various middlemen that divert part of the kerosene to the black market. Most of this diverted kerosene is added to petrol and used as substitute fuel for auto rickshaws, while the rest is sold to people at exorbitant rates.

Binoti, a slum dweller in Manpur, says, “We are a family of ten members. Previously, we received 20 litres of kerosene for ten people. Now the quantity has decreased to 13 litres… how much can we cook and how much do we get to eat?”  Ideally, between half a litre and one litre of kerosene is needed to cook meals for four at one time. According to Government regulations, a family the size of Binoti’s should be allotted a minimum of 20 litres per month. Even with a ration card, she still faced a cut of 7 litres, leaving her family in an even worse off state than before.

Many large slum-dwelling families like Binoti’s have no other option but to buy kerosene from the black market, where the rates are much higher than that of government subsidised kerosene. In Mumbai, the government rates kerosene at around 14 rupees per litre, while in the black market, prices go up as high as 60 rupees per litre.

When Amol visited the Government Rationing office in Manpur, the government officials refused to answer his questions as to why the poor were having their kerosene rations reduced. They told him that they had no power in their hands, and that he must go to the Vadala office, an hour’s journey away from Manpur, to get some answers.  This blame game is a common sight all over Mumbai, and the careless attitude of state officials towards their citizens has left the poor of the city in a helpless state.

Uncertain of her family’s future, Binoti tells Amol, “The government propagates that poverty must be eradicated. But this shortage of kerosene and of other things makes us feel that the government wants to eradicate the poor.”

Our Community Correspondent Amol Lalzare is a resident of Sathe Nagar in Manpur, and faces the same problem of kerosene rationing as the other residents. “… the government is not doing anything to stop this black market trend, which has made the lives of these poor slum dwellers very difficult.”, including his own.

– Rajyashri Goody

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