Sunday, February 9, 2014

Iranian President Apologizes for Food Baskets Fiasco

People waiting for goods basket
Image by
TORONTO, Canada – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani issued an apology after a  program to hand out food parcels to the country’s poorest provoked an uproar, following long queues in freezing cold, scuffles and allegations that the rations were of poor quality.
“People receiving the basket of goods experienced inconvenience during these snowy days; I apologize to our people for any mismanagement,” Rouhani said on Twitter.
“I have ordered measures to be taken to improve the distribution of the baskets of goods to people,” he tweeted.
Rouhani, who promised to control Iran’s runaway inflation and help the millions of poor who are crushed by rising prices during campaigning before his June election, put his plan into action by beginning the food handouts last week.
Under the program, some seven million poor families are eligible every month to receive 10 kilograms of rice, two frozen chickens, two dozen eggs, two bottles of vegetable oil and 500 grams of cheese.
But large queues and chaotic scenes in freezing weather turned Rouhani’s povery-alleviation drive into a fiasco.
Hard-line newspapers opposed to the moderate Rouhani plastered images of endless queues in freezing weather. Pictures of people fighting and grabbing the baskets were shared on social media.
 Iranians posted comments about the shame the program had brought on Iran, after international news organizations reported the chaos. 
Iranians also expressed confusion over the qualification criteria for the handouts, with the most poverty-ridden parts of Iran reportedly disqualified from the program.
Some Iranians commented that the rations contained in the baskets were of such poor quality that they were only fit to be thrown away.
Meanwhile, the hard-line prosecutor general, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, said on Monday: “What happened during the distribution of the basket of goods is below people’s dignity. The Government should find a better solution.”
On social media, many Iranians expressed “disappointment” at the president’s program, and at the unbridled inflation, officially at almost 40 percent but believed to be much higher.
“A loaf of bread that was 500 tomans suddenly became 1,500 tomans,” reported Ali, from Mazandaran.
“Taxis only pick up people who bid on the price. The low-income group, which is the majority, wait in the freezing condition without any  means of transportation,” said Roya. 
Werya from Sanandaj said: “Governments are rarely better than their people. Iranians have learned to take advantage of the vulnerable and are ready to fight each other over food and rip off one another.”
Western sanctions against Iran, related to its nuclear program and only recently eased, have pushed many Iranian families below the poverty line.

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