Jaipur: In an apparent case of class profiling, the Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan has started painting “I am poor” or “I am extremely poor” outside the houses of BPL families as a condition to avail subsidised food grains.
The humiliating markings have been made to separate the poor from the well-to-do families that abuse the subsidies as the government struggles to fix the public distribution system.
More than 1.5 lakh houses in Dausa district have been painted by the state government. The exercise is reportedly being undertaken all over the state. The stamp of poverty also includes the names of the people on the outside walls of their houses and that they receive ration from the government under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
The people who benefit from the schemes say they feel ashamed and insulted because of the markings. “All the people passing by see this and make fun of us. We feel ashamed. It is as if the government is trying to provoke us,” said a Dausa resident.
Another villager said that just for a few kilograms of wheat, their walls were spoiled by the government. “For three people, they gave us 15kg wheat for three months. For this, they spoiled our wall. They are mocking the poor people,” she said.
The Raje government, which has already been under scrutiny for lynchings, has come under attack from the opposition parties for the move.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari held a press conference on Thursday and called the marking a sick joke on the poor. “If the state government provides them ration under the Food Security Act, it’s their legal right, and not a charity from the government. It proves the BJP governments at the Centre and in states are anti-poor,” he said.
Swaraj Abhiyan founder Yogendra Yadav also slammed Raje in a tweet. “Does such a disgusting joke, or insult, on the poor befit the government,” he wrote.
Congress leader DC Bairwa said after the BJP came to power, they have systematically ensured that people are not able to claim subsidies with such schemes.
State BJP leader Deepak Joshi, however, denied the claims and said the identification was only done so that those entitled to subsidies do not miss out.
This is not the first time that a government in Rajasthan has tried to brand the poor. In October last year, a yellow patch was painted on houses belonging to BPL families in Bhilwara town.
More than 1 lakh houses were profiled and given markings, including the name of the beneficiary and the identification number. Earlier, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh too had painted ‘main gareeb hun (I am poor)’ on the houses of BPL families in 2012 to ascertain the number of beneficiaries under the Food Security Act.