Hundreds of people in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district blocked a state highway on Wednesday , alleging that they were not provided food by the state government for 20 days during the first phase of the nationwide lockdown to rein in the coronavirus pandemic, the Hindustan Times reported.
The protestors, including women and children from around 400 families, blocked the Berhampore-Domkal state highway in violation of the lockdown and social distancing measures to fight the Covid-19 outbreak.
Chairperson of the Trinamool Congress-run Domkal municipality Safikul Islam convinced the protestors to lift the blockade and assured strict action against the local ration dealer. He also admitted that ration dealers did not hand out food supplies to those below the poverty line. Each ration card holder is supposed to get 5 kg rice and 5 kg flour every month.
“More than 1.57 lakh people live in Domkal and 69% of them belong to the below poverty line category,” he added. “We received only 42 quintals of rice from the government for distribution among poor people. More supplies are coming. I have promised each of the aggrieved families 10 kg rice and 5 kg potato.”
A resident identified as Mahadeb Das said most people in the area work as wage labourers. “We lost our livelihood because of the lockdown,” he said. “We were told that the state and the Centre are providing free food for the poor. Dulal Saha, the ration dealer in our area, gave a kg of rice each to a handful of families in the last two weeks. It is not enough to feed a family of four to five members.”
This came a day after migrant workers in Mumbai and Gujarat protested against the extended lockdown on Tuesday. They had demanded transportation arrangements to go back to their hometowns.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Tuesday announced the extension of the ongoing nationwide lockdown till May 3. However, he did not announce an economic revival plan or package for the migrant workers despite repeated requests from state chief ministers for urgent measures that could help them weather the crisis. The lockdown has left the workers stranded in several states, with no money, little food and even fewer options of leaving the places in which they are living.