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11 July 2007

Kirana king, retail raja

Biyani of Big Bazar has a plan for setting up fair price shops. Wasn't that the name for what is generally termed Ration Shops? So is it a back door privatisation of the ration shop?

I am intrigued. Will shopping at his shops also give me THE identity card that is proof of residence and serves as a VID in India? A Very Important Document- the RATION card.

The government fair price shops issued these cards in an era when rice, sugar and kerosene were available in these shops and the ration card was a literal passport to not just food and household items but many legal and illegal stuff. For instance families would cancel and add names in these little pass books to establish prooof of residence or scuttle a relative out of one. It was all powerful.

Today when a courier guy or gas connection agency asks me to produce it with a surly, "Ration Card hai kya?" I want to laugh and tell them some things which may not be polite to mention here, like Captain Haddock, but I just shake my head and enquire, Aur kya chalega? Then the list is rolled out, quit elike a waiter at an udipi hotel-electricity bill, voter id, pan card, passport . But the Ration Card has to be top of the babu list. And anything else is looked at with disdain and a curl of the lip as if to suggest, what I am not sure- Capitalist? Migrant? but it is not pleasant at all. It's like, Oh you are one of them. Ration Card nahin hain?

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