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77% of most vulnerable tribes forced to eat less since lockdown | India News

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Close to 56% of those who didn’t have any income in April and May still don’t. And what that has directly hit is their ability to afford food.
About 77% from particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) have cut down on food compared to the period before lockdown, a survey by the non-profit Right to Food Campaign (RTF), ‘Hunger Watch‘, released on Wednesday, said.
“For many of them, the source of income was forest collection of bamboo or betel leaves. They sell those and buy food. They don’t have agricultural land. For these three to four months, they were collecting produce but couldn’t sell them. There were no markets, so they had no income,” Dipa Sinha, convener of RTF and assistant professor at Ambedkar University in Delhi, told TOI.
The in-person survey of 4,000 people from marginalised communities in 11 states over September and October found that the quantity of food consumption had also gone down for 74% of the Dalits surveyed, 54% of Adivasis and 69% of OBCs. How easy it was to access food appears to be associated with identity — one in four from both Dalit and Muslim communities said they faced discrimination while accessing food in lockdown. For those in the ‘general’ category, it was one in 10.
Of those who said they never had to go to bed hungry before the lockdown, one in seven said they now had to. And 45% said they had to borrow money for food.
What suffered most was quality of consumption. Of those in the survey who did consume eggs and meats before lockdown, 91% said they could no longer afford to do so. About 73% said they had reduced green vegetables in their diet and 64% said they had to cut down on dal.
This ties in with what they have been surviving on — government foodgrains. About 75% of those surveyed did have ration cards and 69% received free additional food grains under the Public Distribution System (PDS) every month. “More than half the people are getting free grains — it’s better than nothing … But despite that, there is so much hunger. It shows how bad the situation is,” said Sinha. “Besides, it’s still a problem of nutrition. It is only cereal. That’s why when we asked about other food, there were more people saying their consumption has gone down.”
And just having ration cards didn’t always mean access to food. Sometimes, names of all family members were not added, or the quality of dal was so bad that people didn’t take it.
Then, there was the persistent problem of those who could not get food from the government because they didn’t have the papers. Shalu from Kusumpur Pahari, next to Delhi’s upscale Vasant Vihar, for instance, never knew her exact date of birth — only a ballpark. When she tried to get her Aadhaar card made, it mentioned only the year of her birth. She was told it would work. “But now when the food department seeks to verify the ration card application against the UID database … it says not verified and rejects the application,” a case study shared by RTF said.
“People have to go back and get their Aadhaar modified.” And when Pooja, who lives in a shelter near Connaught Place in Delhi, went to apply for a ration card, the food department insisted on an electricity bill. Even when she explained she is homeless.

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