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New Delhi: The Delhi government’s claims to have adopted a scheme to provide rations to poor and marginalised communities – even if they do not possess ration cards – appears to be proving hollow as no distribution of rations is taking place, a food rights organisation has alleged following a ground survey.
The survey, undertaken by Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan (DRRAA) between January 11 and 13, checked the status of distribution of rations to economically-vulnerable people at 62 out of the 282 schools designated as distribution points. The Abhiyan wither visited the centres physically or contacted them telephonically.
To its surprise and shock, the Abhiyan discovered that “none of the 62 schools checked were distributing rations as they stated that they had no stock of foodgrains”. Disappointed at the lackadaisical approach of the Delhi government in the matter, it said, “The failure to provide ration through designated distribution centres constitutes a violation of the orders of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court regarding providing foodgrains to migrant workers and economically vulnerable people who do not possess ration cards during the ongoing pandemic.”
The organisation also pointed out the importance of providing these rations given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Delhi during the ongoing wave as several restrictions have been put in place which are adversely impacting the economic activities and livelihoods of many already marginalised communities.
Following the report, the DRRAA also wrote to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal about the state of affairs and urged him to intervene.
The letter, signed among others by food rights campaigners Anjali Bhardwaj, Amrita Johri, Annie Raja and Dipa Sinha, said due to the Covid-related restrictions, “the condition of daily wagers, informal sector workers including street hawkers, domestic help, construction labour who find work through labour chowks, people working in temporary positions in private establishments and self-employed persons in the unorganised sector is particularly precarious as their ability to earn and provide adequate food for their families is severely affected.”
The activists reminded Kejriwal that during the previous waves and ensuing lockdowns, the Delhi government had adopted a non-PDS scheme for providing rations to such people and had following directions from the Supreme Court and Delhi high court also enhanced the quota of number of people to be covered under the scheme.
“However,” they lamented, “the ground reports show that in reality no distribution of ration is taking place as there is no stock of foodgrains at the designated centres.”
Referring to the survey undertaken by DRRAA at 62 out of the 282 schools designated as distribution points, the activists said that “people in need of rations were being repeatedly returned empty handed.”
This denial of ration, the letter said, was “extremely concerning and will lead to hunger and food insecurity for lakhs of people in Delhi”. The activists reminded Kejriwal that “only 37% of the population is covered under the Public Distribution System and possess a ration card allowing them to access rations on a monthly basis”.
With 70 lakh people availing of food grains under the Non PDS Scheme meant for those without ration cards during the previous lockdowns, the group members pointed to the importance of the scheme saying, “many vulnerable families are left out of the purview of the food security net as they are not able to furnish the numerous documents required for availing a ration card.”
The letter added that even when people have applied for ration cards, the applications remain pending for months, or even years, owing to the quota for coverage under the Public Distribution System for the state being exhausted. It said ration card applications from nearly 2 lakh households were pending with the Food and Civil Supplies department of Delhi government.
Pointing to the failure of the Delhi government in providing rations to these vulnerable groups, the DRRAA letter said “though in various filings before the court, the government has claimed that it is providing rations on a continuous basis and any person desirous of obtaining rations can approach a designated distribution centre, the verification carried out shows that the ground reality is very different”.
The letter said the Central government had announced continuation of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) till March 2022 while the Delhi government declared that ration under the PDS will be provided free of cost for the next few months. However, it noted that “all these reliefs are only limited to those people who possess a ration card. No food security scheme is functional for those excluded from the PDS, who are equally, if not more vulnerable than those who do possess a ration card”.
As such, the DRRAA members have urged the Delhi government to immediately ensure adequate supply of foodgrains to the designated distribution centre and to provide ration on a monthly basis to people who do not possess ration cards.