Rajasthan government officials have written “I am poor’’ in Hindi on the walls of at least 50,000 homes across Dausa, about 60 km from Jaipur. The message also says that the residents of these houses receive food grain from the government at a subsidised rate, reported NDTV.

A few residents told ANI that the government officials had even offered to pay them Rs 750 if they painted the message on their own. “Even when we opposed them, they painted our walls with this message,” said a man whose house was one of those that carried the message. As a result, many villagers have removed the markings and are not availing the benefits, reported Hindustan Times.

Nearly 70% of the families in Dausa are beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act, according to ANI. The welfare scheme was introduced by the previous Congress-led government, and under it, benefeciaries are entitled to 10 kg of grain at a discounted price.

Government officials defended the writings on the walls and said it was aimed at stopping middlemen from buying subsidised rations and ensuring that these do not go to rich families. “During the Congress rule, many got themselves registered to avail the benefits of the government’s scheme,” an official told ANI. “But the one who deserve the right are still deprived of it. The ruling government has taken this initiative for the backward class.”

However, Dausa Additional Collector KC Sharma told Hindustan Times that senior officials were not involved in this. “The zilla parishad could have issued the directive as there were complaints of misuse of the Food Security Act by those who are not eligible,” he told the daily. “I will look into this complaint.”

Zilla Parishad CEO Surendra Singh said they “had received directions on this”.

Meanwhile, the Congress has criticised the Vasundhara Raje-led government for the move. “It’s a sick joke,” said party leader Manish Tewari. “If the state government provides them ration under the Food Security Act, it’s their legal right and not a charity from the government.”