The rickshaw-puller you see has no papers: and he buys his own “free food” at market price

13th September 2020

13th September 2020

Not far from my home is a Delhi Metro "junction", Lajpat Nagar, a change-over point for the Pink Line underground and the Violet Line above-ground. Very busy location, serving multiple habitats in the vicinity, and therefore also well served by cycle rickshaws. These rickshaw pullers have lived in Delhi for decades now but are still classified as "migrants" simply because their "permanent address" is somewhere else and their "temporary address" here does not provide documentation.

This is, by the way, the State of Affairs in India for about 20% of India's population. If not more. Some are uni-directional migrants, some are circular, and some are random pattern. A new designation can be invented as often as somebody wants, but fact remains - they are off the welfare net in their own country. And then we wonder why people want to leave India to work like slaves abroad. Remember, they too, pay taxes on everything they consume.

Many of these rickshaw pullers are known to me, they come from the historically and always and currently important Gangetic belt of Bihar and West Bengal, while I grew up as a child of the venerable Eastern Railway and the equally venerable Eastern Command area It is easy for me to revert to dialects of my early days and that helps break the morning "fan" with "tea" which is their nutrition for the first part of the day. 

What is a "fan:? A piece of fried maida with zero nutritional value. What is the "tea" they drink? Brownish hot water flavoured with sugar. Where did the maida and sugar come from? Diverted from the PDS which was probably intended for them. Everybody knows that in Delhi, now, "a particular community" controls the diversions of the PDS. And that the "fan" and "tea" are sold at market prices to the beneficiaries who were supposed to get it free, if not at subsidised prices.

And on which they are supposed to pedal and lug upto 3 overweight people and baggage at times. Basic healthy rice - flour - lentils (chawal - atta - daals) are what it was all supposed to be about, but instead, it is the lack of access as "migrants", so they buy crap at market prices. Fresh veggies, left over from the evening before, are reasonably easy to procure and meat is a luxury mostly forgotten. In many other parts of India, ONOR has resolved issues to a large extent, but not in Delhi. What, then, is ONOR?

The topic, then, of ONOR or One Nation One Ration Card comes up regularly. Why can't Delhi start providing what has become a workable option in the rest of the country is the question I am asked, it will be the easiest to manage, and I have no answer. All I know is that Parivartan, the predecessor of the Aam Aadmi Party, was formed on the basis of sorting out the PDS or Ration or Public Distribution System. Which the AAP appears to have forgotten somewhere down the line as it got busy with the business of trying to win elections by means we all know about are not exactly the purest.

The official stand of the Aam Aadmi Party at the helm in Delhi is that they will do "home delivery" of subsidised or free rations. How will they do this to those who have no home addresses?

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One Nation One Ration Card is a simple scheme. The beneficiary has a virtual card, it could also be a piece of plastic, like the Aadhaar Card. To be used anywhere in India, even and especially when on the move, and aimed at precisely the same people who have to become migrants. The seller has a biometric validation system. The location can be currently any one of 24 States in India. Delhi under the Aam Aadmi Party for whatever reason has not connected up as yet. The reason is simple - diversion of PDS is as old as the hills.

The States which have joined up include Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. It is the loss of a day's income to expect a daily wager to go from Delhi to nearby NOIDA or Ghaziabad or Sonipat to pick up rations. 

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There is also a National Security angle to this. The beneficiary has a certain amount of subsidised foodgrains, or in some cases almost free, being picked up SOMEwhere by somebody else. How does this work and what is the benefit to a Government ELSEwhere, say, Delhi?

The networking in this case is amazing. The migrant on departing his or her home location is doing so often if not always to pay off a debt to the local moneylending system. This moneylending system in rural Gangetic areas is now, as it used to be in the past, in the hands of a particular community. Recall reading Kabuliwallah? There was and still is a deeper angle to the short story which went briefly like this - 10% interest per month on a loan. If not paid? Your guess works too.

The moneylending system, quite strongly based on holding the physical ration card as security, has become a huge National security threat in Gangetic India. And the refusal of the introduction of the ONOR in Delhi is part of this threat to our National Security.

Veeresh Malik was a seafarer. And a lot more besides. A decade in facial biometrics, which took him into the world of finance, gaming, preventive defence and money laundering before the subliminal mind management technology blew his brains out. His romance with the media endures since 1994, duly responded by Outlook, among others.

A survivor of two brain-strokes, triggered by a ship explosion in the 70s, Veeresh moved beyond fear decades ago. 

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