New Delhi: In the wake of Delhi chief secretary Anshu Prakash’s complaint that he was abused and assaulted by Aam Aadmi Party MLAs at a meeting called at chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence to discuss “the issue of difficulty in release of certain television advertisements relating to completion of three years of current government of Delhi”, the ruling party had contended that he was lying as the meeting had nothing to do with the issue of advertisements and had instead been called to discuss the public interest issue of denial of rations to 2.5 lakh card holders.
By evening, the Delhi government announced that Aadhaar identification would no longer be mandatory for the capital’s poor to access subsidised food through the public distribution system. “We decided today to put on hold the old decision to allow the distribution of ration through Aadhaar card. Therefore, it will go back to the old system for some time now. Aadhaar card will not be mandatory,” deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia told reporters.
Although the immediate backdrop for Sisodia’s announcement was the claim and counter-claim aired publicly by Prakash and AAP leaders over Tuesday’s incident at the secretariat, a statement issued by Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan and Satark Nagrik Sangathan underlined the gravity of the problem Delhi’s poor are facing because of Aadhaar.
The two organisations have been spearheading the campaign against denial of legal entitlements of rations to citizens since Aadhaar was introduced.
‘Much higher exclusions than 2.5 lakh’
“The Delhi government has not disclosed the source of data it relied on to arrive at the figure of 2.5 lakh families deprived of ration in January 2018 due to Aadhaar. The data available online show much higher levels of exclusions,” the statement said.
Pointing out that “Aadhaar based biometric authentication through Point of Sale (PoS) devices has been made mandatory in Delhi since January 2018 in order to access rations under the National Food Security Act,” it added that “introduction of PoS has led to large scale exclusions of the poorest from their monthly legal entitlement to food”.
DRRAA and SNS had also organised a public hearing on the issue earlier this month in which the testimony of several people denied rations due to problems with Aadhaar registration, linkage or with PoS machines, were presented.
“Many of the people who participated in the public hearing testified that they were not provided ration as their biometric authentication failed. Further, at the public hearing, it emerged that there are scores of people whose fingerprints do not even get recognised as human fingerprints as such and therefore, the process of authentication is not initiated. These people are neither reflected in the database of successful transactions, nor in the database of failed transactions,” the statement said.
‘No rations provided on four lakh cards in January 2018’
Giving a complete picture of the ration problem in Delhi, the statement said, “of the nearly 19.5 lakh ration cards in Delhi, the online transaction information (success or failure) is only available for about 15.5 lakh ration cards. This implies that four lakh ration card holders, despite being linked to Aadhaar and thereby by the government’s own admission being genuine beneficiaries, have not been able to procure their rations.”
At the public hearing, the statement said, it had also emerged that Aadhaar has enabled a new form of corruption in the Public Distribution System (PDS) which is allowing the ration shopkeepers to pilfer grains.
In his complaint to the north district of Delhi police, Prakash had stated that yesterday he was informed via telephone around 8.45 pm by V.K. Jain, the adviser to the chief minister, that he had to reach Kejriwal’s residence by midnight to discuss the issue of the difficulties faced in release certain television advertisements related to the completion of three years of the current government in Delhi.
The chief secretary had further stated that on reaching the Kejriwal’s residence, he was led by the chief minister’s adviser to the front room where Kejriwal, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and around 11 MLAs were present. “The chief minister told me that persons present in the room were MLAs and they had come to ask him about government’s publicity programme on completion of three years,” he said in his complaint to the Deputy Commissioner of Police.
Prakash said, “I explained to them that the officers were bound by guidelines laid by Hon’ble Supreme Court and any advertisement to be released must be in consonance with the said guidelines.”
The MLAs, he then said, started shouting at him and abused him while blaming him and the bureaucracy for not doing enough for publicity. Subsequently, he complained that he was assaulted by MLA Amanatullah Khan, who was sitting besides him, and others.
While the chief secretary’s complaint maintains that the meeting was called to discuss the issue of advertisements, AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj, as well as the MLAs accused of assault, have claimed that the issue of advertisements was not on the agenda at all and that the problems faced by ration card holders were raised by the MLAs instead. They have claimed that Prakash had been called to discuss the same issue. Khan also said that that the meeting was called to discuss non-distribution of rations through doorstep delivery mechanism.