Poor man’s protein pulses spike political temperature in Bengal

The trigger is the state’s refusal to take from the Centre any ‘dal’ other than ‘split moong’ or ‘masoor’ for distribution under PMGKY

The first consignment of 4,000 metric ton of ‘masoor’ dal was sent towards the end of April. Representational image: iStock

Rich in nutrients, ‘dal’ is known for being a common source of protein for the poor in India. But in politically volatile West Bengal, pulses have become the latest bone of contention between the Centre and the state government.

The trigger is the state’s refusal to take from the Centre any ‘dal’ other than ‘split moong’ or ‘masoor’ for distribution under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna (PMGKY).

Under the scheme announced by the Centre in March, each household in the bottom rung of the socio-economic strata is entitled to 1 kg of dal along with 5 kg rice or wheat every month for the next three months, for free, over and above their monthly quota of 5 kg food grains.

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The scheme aims at providing free ration to 80 crore poor people across the country under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

The state’s monthly allotment under the scheme is 14,450 MT of pulses, but after delivering about 10, 000 MT of ‘masoor’ dal, the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) informed the state about its inability to deliver more of this variant of cereal.

The first consignment of 4,000 metric ton of ‘masoor’ dal was sent towards the end of April. Subsequently, two more instalments of about 3,000 MT each were despatched.

However, instead of ‘split moong’ or ‘masoor’, as preferred by the state, the Centre could provide whole moong or arahar or chole dal.  But the state government turned down the request on the ground that people of the state don’t prefer those cereals.

NAFED sources said as the state government did not convey its preference well in advance, it had transhipped the consignment of ‘masoor’ dal to north-eastern states. However, the West Bengal food minister, Jyotipriya Mallick, said it was a deliberate discrimination against the state.

The state government also pointed out that though the scheme was announced on March 25, the formal approval by the Centre came only on April 16. It also stated that by sending food grains in phases, the Centre is creating further problem in ration disbursement.

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Ration distribution under the central scheme has been bogged in controversy from its outset with the state government earlier questioning the quality of rice being provided under the PMGKY.

Already violent protests have erupted in various places in the state over alleged irregularities in ration distribution. In the face of the controversy, the state government has shunted out food and supplies secretary Manoj Kumar Agarwal last month.

Meanwhile, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, chipping into the controversy, stated that the Centre provided 14,529 MT of dals, a claim refuted by the state government.

Amid the raging controversy, the beneficiaries of the scheme find themselves in a soup as the Centre and the state are yet to find a suitable dal to put on the plate of lakhs of poor people.

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