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Delhi govt adopting "lackadaisical approach" on subsidized grains to 50% urban residents

An Abhiyan-supported demonstration in Delhi
Counterview Desk
The Delhi High Court has said that the Delhi government’s affidavit filed on rules for grievance redress under the National Food Security Act is “wholly unsatisfactory”. In its verdict on Friday, it has directed the presence of concerned official in the next hearing. It was hearing the contempt petition filed by the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan against the state government for its “failure” to comply with the court order of September 1, 2017, requiring it to put in place the requisite grievance redress and accountability framework under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
Senior activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Annie Raja, Koninika Ray, Dipa Sinha, Anwar, Aditi, Shakeel, Kailash and Amrita Johri, in a communiqué issued on behalf of the Abhiyan following the Delhi Court hearing, said that under the NFSA, up to 50% of the urban population is entitled to 5 kg of subsidized grains per person per month. Yet the Delhi government has been adopting a “lackadaisical approach.”

Text of the communiqué

The bench comprising the Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Anup Bhambhani said they were completely dissatisfied by the reply filed by the Delhi government. Further, they demanded to know why the concerned officer of the Food Department had failed to attend the hearing. Taking a strict note of the non-compliance, the court directed that the concerned official of the Food Department must appear before it on the next date of hearing. The matter will now be heard on May 9.
The reply filed by the Delhi government reveals the lackadaisical approach adopted by the government. It places on record that the appropriate rules for grievance redress and accountability have still not been promulgated by the Delhi government, more than 5 years after the law was passed and 19 months after the order of the Delhi High Court.
The affidavit shows that the file regarding framing of rules has just been transferred between various departments and ministries, with no concrete action being taken. The affidavit ends by stating that the matter of setting up the statutory grievance redress framework under NFSA as directed by the Delhi High Court is still under consideration of the government!
Under the NFSA, up to 50% of the urban population is entitled to 5 kg of subsidized grains per person per month. Families under the Antodaya category are to receive 35 kg per family per month. Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Scheme & Maternity Benefits are also covered as statutory entitlements under the law.
Proper implementation of the NFSA is crucial to ensure food security for the poor and marginalised. The recent starvation deaths of 3 minor girls in Delhi highlighted the alarming situation of distress and food insecurity in the capital. The situation is especially dire for children, elderly and the homeless- who are the most vulnerable.
The National Food Security law provides for mandatory periodic social audits and setting up of State Food Commission. Further the law also requires appointment of District Grievance Redressal Officers, internal grievance redressal mechanism and transparency of ration related records.
The Abhiyan has repeatedly stressed the need to seriously strengthen the framework of food security and remove barriers which prevent people from accessing it. Further, having a robust grievance redress framework would ensure that peoples complaints and grievances about problems in accessing their right to food would be addressed in a time-bound manner.

Background

On September 1, 2017, the Delhi High Court bench of the then Chief Justice Geeta Mittal & Justice C. Hari Shankar said that were appalled to note that the Delhi government had failed to promulgate rules under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) including those related to transparency, grievance redress and accountability provisions despite passage of more than 3 years since the enactment of the law. The Court directed the government to frame Rules and operationalise all provisions of the law in a time-bound manner to ensure proper functioning of ration shops in Delhi.
These directions were given in an ongoing case filed by the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan against Aadhaar being made mandatory for receiving ration under the National Food Security Act.
Despite the order of the High Court of September 1, 2017, the Delhi government failed to put in place the requisite grievance redressal and accountability framework. As a result, in February 2019, the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan filed a contempt petition against the failure to comply with the order.

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