Over one thousand five hundred residents of a colony in the Loni Municipal Corporation of Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad district have been waiting for food and monetary aid promised by the state and central governments following the nationwide lockdown. Several residents of this unauthorised colony, most of whom are Muslim daily-wage labourers who have not been able to earn anything during the lockdown, said that they have run out of whatever little resources they stocked and do not have any food or money left to survive till 3 May, when the lockdown is scheduled to end.
On 17 April, the Uttar Pradesh government announced its decision to universalise the public-distribution system. “Nobody should be left hungry in the state,” the chief minister, Ajay Singh Bisht—more commonly known as Adityanath—said, according to a press release issued by the state’s department of information and public relations. Yet, according to residents of the colony in Loni, the staff at the local ration shop have been turning them away because almost all of them do not have ration cards. The few of them with ration cards were also turned away because their cards were not issued in Loni, but in their native villages in other parts of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
“We went to the ration shop day three days ago to get the food grains, but they told us that we are not entitled to anything,” Mohammad Jaffrudin, a daily-wage labourer from the colony, located in ward number 55 of the Loni Municipal Corporation, told me over the phone. “My ration card was issued from Noida, but I am staying with my family here. I have my Aadhar card too. How can we go to Noida to get our ration? The staff at the ration shop here are refusing to give us anything.”
The Uttar Pradesh government’s press release stated, “The universalization of PDS would ensure that every needy person is entitled to free ration even if he or she does not have ration card or Aadhaar card. This mechanism has to be evolved under special circumstances due to Covid-19. In order to provide relief to all the poor of urban and rural areas including nomads.” But with the government’s commitment in the press release being incongruous with the reality on the ground, on 21 April, residents from the colony gathered out on the streets in large numbers out of desperation.
“We are out here today because we don’t know what else to do,” Zareena, one of the residents, told me. “We don’t know whom to turn to. The authorities should immediately provide us foodgrain and cooking fuel.” Two days later, the residents said that their situation had only worsened, and that no one had reached out to help them.