One of the first issues taken up by the Community Development Committee of Mujhmahuda basti, in Vadodara, Gujarat was that of corruption in the Public Distribution System (PDS) shop. This issue was brought up repeatedly during committee meetings. In order to understand the issue in further detail, committee members, with the support of SAHAJ staff, undertook a small survey in the basti that revealed several shortcomings – the shop was opened for fewer hours than recommended, adequate quantities of grains as per entitlements were not being distributed, the price charged was much higher price than the stipulated rate and the shopkeeper was probably siphoning off goods to his private shop. In addition to the survey, committee members were supported by SAHAJ which held training sessions for them on PDS entitlements and also printed material on this.
Equipped with knowledge regarding their entitlements and information on the existing situation in their basti, committee members decided to take action. Attempts to dialogue and reason with the shopkeeper proved futile. Committee members then photocopied ration cards of households that documented the irregularities and submitted them to the PDS department and also petitioned the Deputy Collector. However, since no follow up action resulted, the committee organized a protest rally to the shop.
On the day of the rally, as the issue resulted in widespread resonance in the community, several hundreds of people joined in and marched to the PDS shop to protest against the irregularities. SAHAJ staff helped with focusing media coverage on the event. The rally and the associated media coverage gained the attention of concerned authorities who suspended the license of the shopkeeper for a couple of months.
Following this, a committee member was chosen by the community to temporarily receive, store and distribute stocks with the help of the PDS department till the issue could be sorted out. Committee members also faced threats from the shopkeeper, but remained unfazed and in fact lodged formal complaints against him for the threats
Subsequently, the same shopkeeper was re-awarded the license due to his political connections. However, people now receive their entitlements as they are able to question him and monitor what they receive.
According to committee members, this successful action against corruption greatly energized the committee members. It also raised their standing and support in the community with more members opting to join the committee after this campaign.