Gujarat Fair Price Shop Owners go On Indefinite Strike
Fair price shop owners in Gujarat have gone on an indefinite strike demanding a rise in commission from foodgrain sales and a solution to technical glitches in the software controlling the state's Annapurna Yojana.
The Gujarat Fair Price Shop Owners' Association said that around 3.82 crore persons would be affected by this strike, as they were dependent on ration shops for their daily needs.
The state government, meanwhile, indicated that there was no scope for a hike in commissions despite owners claiming that it was lower than even some BJP-ruled states like Rajasthan.
Earlier this week, president of the association, Prahlad Modi, had announced that all the 25,000-odd ration shops, including kerosene dealers, would go on an indefinite strike from March 1 if their demands were not met.
Kanubhai Patel, a key member of the association, today said that fair price shops have downed shutters since March 1 as the government gave no assurance on their demands.
"All the 17,000 ration shops and around 8,000 kerosene dealers have joined the strike from yesterday. We will not open the shops till the government gives us an assurance. As of now, there is no positive indication from the government," said Patel.
Talking about the commission they receive, Patel said, "In Gujarat, shop owners gets Rs 85 per quintal. In Rajasthan, shop owners get Rs 200 per quintal. In Kerala, the government gives a lumpsum commission of Rs 15,000 per month. The Gujarat government should give us a commission at par with these states."
Earlier this week, Modi had also demanded that the software currently being used at fair price shops should be replaced, as it "sometimes fails to read the fingerprint and Aadhaar card details of the beneficiaries, forcing them to return without their monthly quota of subsidised food grains".
However, state Food and Civil Supplies Minister, Jayesh Radadiya, has claimed that there was no issue with the software and it was working as per the requirement.
While talking to reporters yesterday, Radadiya ruled out any possibility of increasing the commission.
"There is hardly any issue with the software and people are getting foodgrains easily. As far as commission is concerned, we had recently increased it. We have always accepted legitimate demands in the past. But, we cannot accept illegitimate demands" said Radadiya.
He urged them to call off the strike and engage in talks with the government to reach a solution.