Friday, July 12, 2024

Gujarat: 17,000 fair price shops down shutters over unmet demands

Over 17,000 fair price shops across Gujarat downed shutters on Wednesday following a call for an indefinite strike.

This collective action arises from longstanding grievances, chief among them being a call for a guaranteed minimum monthly commission of Rs 20,000 for each shop owner involved in the public distribution system (PDS), officials informed on Wednesday.

The timing of this strike, coinciding with the festive season of Diwali, further complicates the situation. The closure of these shops is poised to significantly disrupt the supply of essential items, impacting around 72 lakh cardholders who rely on them for sugar, oil, and grains during the Diwali festivities. The government’s response to this strike and its broader implications for the public distribution system remains a developing story.

These shop owners, who play a crucial role in distributing essential commodities to ration cardholders, have articulated a list of demands to the state government. Central to their concerns is the fixation of their commission at Rs 20,000. Currently, a mere 5,000 ration managers in Gujarat receive commission exceeding this amount, leaving around 12,000 managers earning below this threshold. This strike comes despite the previous government’s commitment to provide a Rs 20,000 commission to shop owners managing less than 300 ration cards.

Prahlad Modi, president of the Gujarat Fair Price Shop Owners and Kerosene License Holders Association, is spearheading the agitation. Modi said that former minister Naresh Patel had sanctioned an increase in the commission from Rs 13,000 to Rs 20,000. This decision, dated October 14, 2022, is yet to be implemented 15 months later, leading to frustration among the shop owners and their decision to go on strike.

The shop owners’ grievances don’t end with the commission issue. They have also expressed concern over discrepancies in the weight of goods, reporting a shortfall of about 1-2 kilograms in every bag. Additionally, they are seeking redressal of various problems plaguing the barcode ration card system, including frequent server crashes.

About a month ago, a similar strike was announced but was subsequently called off following government assurances to increase the commission for the fair price shop license holders.

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