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Daily wagers left in lurch: Ration not being distributed for May in Delhi's PDS shops

Counterview Desk 

The civil rights group, Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan (DRRAA), in a letter to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has expressed concern over failure to distribute ration for the month of May from the ration shops. This is adding to the economic distress of the working poor who have lost their sources of livelihood during the lockdown imposed by the government to combat Covid-19, the letter said.
Delay in distribution of rations is forcing people to buy food grains in the open market at non-subsidised prices, the letter, whose signatories include well-known civil rights activists, said, adding, there is an urgent need for ensuring food security for people, including migrant workers, daily wagers and other vulnerable groups, who do not possess ration cards.
According to the letter, last year the Delhi government had distributed food grains and other essential commodities to nearly 60 lakh people without ration cards who were affected by the lock down. It demanded, the government should immediately commence the distribution of subsidised food grains and essential goods to those who are not covered under the Public Distribution System of the National Food Security Act.

Text:

We are writing to highlight two urgent issues which are causing distress among the economically vulnerable residents of Delhi during this Covid-19 crisis.

Non-distribution of ration to ration cardholders: 

Foodgrains provided under the Public Distribution System (PDS) of the National Food Security Act have proven to be a lifeline for the poor and marginalised who possess ration cards. We welcome the decision of the Central government to provide 5 kg additional free ration per person per month under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) and the decision of the Delhi government to provide the regular ration free of cost for the months of May and June 2021. 
Taken together, the nearly 71 lakh priority ration card holders in Delhi are now entitled to 10 kg foodgrains per person per month free of cost. In order to assess the status of ration distribution and document problems faced by people in accessing rations, volunteers of Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan and other groups have been visiting ration shops since the 1st of May. 
We have visited nearly 70 ration shops located across Delhi in areas like Badarpur, Kalkaji, Govindpuri, Bawana JJ Colony, Seemapuri, Dilshad Garden, Sriniwaspuri, Tughlakabad, Mansarovar Park, Sant Nagar, RK Puram, Munirka, Kalu Sarai, Hauz Rani, Adchini, Begumpur, Humayunpur, Gautampur, Masjid Moth, Mohammadpur, Ekta Vihar, Ber Sarai, Moti Bagh, Shahpur Jat, Chirag Delhi, Greater Kailash, Harkesh Nagar, Anand Vihar, Yusuf Sarai, Dakshinpuri Extension, Sanjay Camp, Tigdi, Kalyan Puri, Mangolpuri, Narela and Khichripur.
We are shocked to note that despite the first week of May coming to an end, ration distribution for the month has not started in any of the ration shops. This is alarming as Delhi is in the third week of lockdown. Those who have lost their livelihood are dependent on the foodgrains provided under the PDS to feed themselves and their families. 
The delay in distribution of rations is resulting in people being forced to purchase foodgrains from the open market at non-subsidized prices. At a time when people are dealing with an unprecedented health crisis and job loss, timely distribution of ration is critical to ensure food security. Even if the full allocation of rations (including under PMGKAY) has not reached shops, distribution should have been started in a staggered manner while ensuring compliance with physical distancing norms and other COVID protocols. 
It is also a matter of grave concern that no information is available on the Food Department’s website, Delhi NFSA portal or outside ration shops regarding the schedule for ration distribution. In fact, on the NFSA portal, the links ‘Details of Allocation and Delivery of Ration to Various Fair Price Shops (FPS)’ and ‘Details of Closing Balance of Various Fair Price Shops (FPS)’ keep returning the error ‘No data found’.

No food security program for those without ration cards: 

In our letter dated April 16, 2021 we had highlighted the urgent need to provide rations to all persons in need, irrespective of whether they possess a ration card. The principle of universal coverage of food security programs during times of emergency has been repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, including last year during the Covid crisis. 
Over the last few days, on account of the continuing lockdown the condition of daily wagers, migrant workers, residents of slums who do not possess ration cards has become even more precarious. Just as an indication of the hunger crisis, in the last few days, DRRAA and other groups working on providing emergency rations have received SOS requests for foodgrains from more than 10,000 persons. 
 In such a scenario, it is inexplicable why the government has not revived the e-coupon scheme, under which last year 60 lakh people who did not possess ration cards were provided free foodgrains. Other than the e-coupon scheme, hunger relief centres to provide cooked food were being run last year from more than 2500 sites. 
The setting up of hunger relief centres in only 250 places this year does not address the scale of the problem. Such centres are needed near construction sites, homeless shelters, bus stops, outside hospitals, train stations where people in distress congregate.
We call upon the Delhi government to:
  1. Immediately start distribution of foodgrains to ration cardholders for the month of May 2021 without any further delay;
  2. Ensure updated information is available on the website, outside ration shops and through helplines about the increased entitlement and schedule of ration distribution and ensure all relevant links on the portal indicating current status of ration supply are functional;
  3. Provide rations to all needy persons who do not possess a ration card by reviving the e-coupon scheme under the Mukhya Mantri Corona Sahayata Yojana or initiating any other program/scheme for this purpose;
  4. Start an effective hunger helpline and give wide publicity to the helpline to record all SOS requirements of food/rations and make provision to address the same.
  5. In addition to rice and wheat, provide essential food items including oil, dal and sugar to all ration cardholders and persons in need.
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Click here for signatories

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