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Delhi elections: People talk of long wait for ration card, aadhaar issues, starvation deaths

By Our Representative
An interaction with representatives of political parties organised by the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan in order to put forward demands ahead of the upcoming Delhi Assembly Elections has seen people pointing out how large number of people were being deprived of ration cards. 
Those who participated in the interaction included Aam Admi Party representative Ajoy Kumar, Congress representative Aman Panwar, and Swaraj India representative Navnit Tiwari. No representative from BJP turned up.
Sangeeta, Mithlesh and Neelam of Kusumpur Pahadi said that though they had applied for ration cards in 2018, the department had informed them that the applications continue to be pending as the quota of ration cards was full. Poonam of the Janta Mazdoor Colony and Ramwati of Mangolpuri had made applications for ration cards 4 years ago, but they are yet to receive any intimation from the department.
Participants suggested, people were left out due to aadhaar being made mandatory. Mohd Sadiq of Sonia Vihar said that even though there are 10 members in his household, names of only 4 are on the ration card and, therefore, they get only 20 kg as opposed to 50 kgs of ration per month. 
Pooja of Mangolpuri spoke of a starvation death, stating, the daughter of the tenant living above her jhuggi was ill and the family had no food to feed her for three days. Others recalled the July 2018 death of three minor girls in Mandawali, East Delhi due to starvation, as highlighted in the post mortem reports.
People urged parties to commit to not implementing National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR), as it would cause exclusion of the poorest and the most marginalised, since they did not possess necessary documents. They said had experienced harassment due to aadhaar, which led to the exclusion of the most vulnerable sections.
A statement was handed over to political parties by the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan, signed by Anjali Bhardwaj, Amrita Johri, Chirashree, Snehlata, Anwar, Rajesh, Kailash, and Aditi.

Text:

India continues to rank among the bottom in indices like the Global Hunger Index and there are recent media reports that show that families in certain places are living in extreme hunger, faced with lack of employment opportunities and rising prices. Even with the expansion of PDS coverage after the passing of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), many are still left out of the PDS net.
In Delhi, lack of food security and social security continues to be a reality for millions of people. In July 2018, three minor girls died in Mandawali, East Delhi and the post mortem reports listed starvation as the cause of the deaths. 
Thousands of people have been left out of the ambit of the National Food Security Act, 2013 due to inadequate coverage, inadequate resources and budgets, insistence on Aadhaar and lack of provisions to address food insecurity of the most marginalised including homeless and transgenders. 
Further, the requisite rules and mechanisms have not been put in place to operationalize the law especially in terms of the grievance redress and accountability provisions.
At a time when the apathy and neglect of the central government on issues of food security, social security is for all to see, it becomes imperative that state governments prioritise these issues and also put in place necessary budgetary provisions.
It is unfortunate that instead of addressing issues which impact people, the central government is pushing forth an agenda in the form of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), NRC and NPR which will cause further marginalisation of the poorest and most vulnerable. We condemn the repression and violence with which the government has responded to the peaceful and democratic protests against the CAA, NRC, NPR.
Disruptions in Public Distribution System causing extreme hardship, exacerbating vulnerabilities of marginalised households
We believe that conducting the NRC in the entire country will only serve to further exclude the poorest, most marginalized, women, Dalits and Muslims from not just their basic entitlements but also citizenship. We have seen the experience with aadhaar, where it has only led to the exclusion of the most vulnerable from these schemes and programmes.
We therefore, call upon all political parties contesting the 2020 Delhi Assembly elections to make specific, operationable and time-bound commitments to ensure a life of dignity of the residents of Delhi. Specifically, we call upon parties to include the below-mentioned points in their manifestos.
  1. Provide pulses, oil and sugar at subsidized rates to all food security cardholders, irrespective of category to which they belong- AAY or priority.
  2. Enhance food security coverage beyond the population norm stipulated in the NFSA as many poor and marginalised people, especially the homeless, transgender and migratory workers have been left outside the purview of the Act. 
  3. End quota system and universalise the Public Distribution System. The multi-layered inclusion/exclusion criteria which has resulted in many needy families being deprived, especially arbitrary exclusion criteria like wattage of electricity meter needs to be urgently removed. Replace the multilayered inclusion/exclusion criteria with a simplified exclusion criteria. 
  4. Put in place simplified procedure to ensure that the most vulnerable categories, especially the homeless and transgenders, are not left out of the purview of the NFSA due to lack of documents like proof of residence and identity. 
  5. Disruptions in the Public Distribution System (PDS) cause extreme hardship and exacerbate vulnerabilities of marginalised households. No untested mechanisms like Aadhaar based authentication through Point of Sale devices should be brought in. When Delhi government had made Aadhaar based authentication through Point of Sale devices mandatory for all ration shops, it had led to large exclusion of the poorest and marginalised families from their right to food. Government figures showed that nearly 4 lakh cardholders were unable to access their rations. Upon learning of the hardships and exclusions, the Delhi government rolled back the decision. Measures like home delivery of rations etc. should be introduced only after extensive testing and consultations with affected people. 
  6. Aadhaar enrolment or Aadhaar enabled biometric authentication or inclusion in NPR, NRC must not be made mandatory for any food security or social welfare programme. The mandatory requirement of Aadhaar has been the cause of several starvation deaths in Jharkhand. 
  7. Establish community kitchens across Delhi which provide hot cooked food to ensure that homeless, street kids, and the most vulnerable are not left out of food security net. The kitchens must not turn away any person desirous of food. Several states have put in place systems to provide hot cooked meals at very nominal costs or free of cost. 
  8. Provide eggs, fruits and milk for children everyday through the mid-day meal scheme and ICDS in schools and anganwadis. Further universal coverage for ALL children under 6 must be ensured through ICDS without any conditionalities. 
  9. Implement maternity entitlements across all districts of Delhi as per the provisions of the NFSA and without any arbitrary conditionalities. 
  10. Provide quality creches across Delhi to ensure care and right to food for children of working parents in the unorganised sector. 
  11. Implement and operationalize all the transparency and accountability provisions in the NFSA Act, including- carrying out of periodic social audits (S. 28), grievance redress including internal mechanism within the department, setting up of State Food Commission, training of GR officials, resources for awareness creation regarding GR provisions (Chapter VII), transparency of records (S. 12(2)(d)), proactive disclosure of records (S. 27), proper functioning of Vigilance Committees (s. 29) in accordance with the repeated directions from the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court. 
  12. State explicit commitment to not allowing public-private partnership (PPP) models or pre-packed food models in Delhi. 
  13. Ensure adequate budgetary provision for universal pensions for the elderly, widows and single women in vulnerable sections, and the disabled as access to financial security is a pre-requisite to accessing even the most basic entitlements under PDS. Providing “adequate pensions for senior citizens, persons with disability and single women” is the statutory obligation of the state government under Section 31 of the NFSA read with Schedule III of the law. 
  14. To provide time-bound and effective redress of peoples’ complaints, enact a Right to Grievance Redress Law along the lines of the legislation introduced in Parliament in 2011 (which lapsed in 2014). 
  15. Commit to not implementing NRC, NPR with the amended questions, as these will only serve to further exclude the poorest, most marginalized, women, dalits and muslims from not just their basic entitlements but also citizenship.

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