Food for the poor
The 21-day lockdown intended at arresting the further spread of the deadly coronavirus has jeopardized lives of several crore daily-wagers and other poor people of the country, and Assam is no exception. While individuals and organisations have come forward to extend some help to this huge chunk of our population, it is heartening to note that the Government of Assam has announced its decision to distribute rice, free of cost, to over 58 lakh families of the state under provisions of the National Food Security Act, with effect from Tuesday itself. Apart from these 58 lakh families, the programme will also cover 2.78 lakh registered construction labourers who will get an ex gratia of Rs 1,000 each for purchase of foodgrains to tide over the remaining period of the nation-wide lockdown. Several thousand other families in rural areas as well as in Guwahati city will also get an ex gratia of Rs 1000 in the next few days, the Government has announced. It is a fact that several thousand families across the state which are solely dependent on daily-wage, are passing through extremely difficult times. While there is no work – which means no money – they cannot even go out begging or looking for som foodgrain or a few rupees as loan from others because movement has been totally restricted in order to break the chain of coronavirus infection. One must admit that though the Government has launched several schemes in the past few days for the welfare of the poor people of the state, a sizeable chunk of them are still left out of the registration procress for various reasons. Illiteracy and ignorance continue to adversely affect these poor people, most of whom incidentally belong to the indigenous communities. As far as the immigrant communities – particularly of those having roots in erstwhile East Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh – are concerned, it was already seen during the NRC preparation how certain organisations had systematically helped them enrol, in many cases with suspected fake documents too. The Government should engage its concerned machinery to identify each and every family who continue to remain unregistered with various welfare schemes, so that not even one family is left out to starve during this trying time.