Sixteen ration dealers have died of COVID since the pandemic broke out

The ration dealers in Kerala have requested the central government to consider them on par with the COVID warriors, in view of the work undertaken by them in the pandemic situation, to extend the insurance protection being granted to COVID warriors who lose their lives and to distribute the benefits with retrospective effect since the pandemic broke out.

The request, in the form of a letter to the Prime Minister, comes in the wake of the second wave of COVID-19 across the country, and the risk the ration dealers are subject to face while distributing essential groceries to the pandemic hit population.

The number of ration dealers and their helpers who are hit by COVID is increasing day by day. So far 16 ration dealers/helpers have succumbed to the disease in Kerala. “We are engaged in a very important duty in this crisis situation, to ensure availability of food to one and all. Without this network, the COVID toll in the state would have been much higher. We are taking a great risk, just like the health workers. We contact the disease on the line of duty”, said T. Muhammedali, General Secretary of the All Kerala Retail Ration Dealers’ Association. “We expect a higher risk in this second wave of the pandemic”, he added.

Around 80% of the ration dealers/helpers in the state are asthmatic, an occupational hazard, and hence, the effect of COVID on them could be drastic. The ration dealers have sent a memorandum to the Secretary of Food and Civil Supplies department to provide an emergency financial aid to the families of the ration dealers who have succumbed to COVID-19, from the Ration Dealers’ Welfare Fund. They have also asked for a compensation of ₹10 Lakhs to each of those families considering the huge expenses they encountered for COVID treatment.

The dealers have also suggested to make the ration distribution manual, as it was during the first lock down, so as to minimise the contact between the dealer and the consumer. The use of Electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) machines for finger prints, is dangerous in this situation and should be discontinued temporarily, they suggested.

Above all, the dealers have asked for their commission for the last eight months of work, including kit distribution. “Many dealers have passed away without receiving the fruits of their labour”, Mr. Mohammedali said, adding that allowing the dealers a credit for at least 10 days, and providing the ration at the distribution centres as per policy will reduce the number of times a consumer have to visit the distribution centre every month.

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