Former chief minister Sheila Dikshit stepped in to broker peace between fair-price shop (FPS) owners and Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung after nearly a 1,000 of the 2,500-strong FPS dealers in Delhi threatened to quit due to financial unviability on Tuesday.
In early September, the Delhi government had announced that they would double the margin money — from Rs 35 per quintal to Rs 70 per quintal — on wheat and rice sold through the public distribution system (PDS). But dealers said this increment in margin money — to be paid by the Delhi government — was fixed in 1997 and was no longer in tune with the current inflation rate.
Prompted by what they alleged was inaction on the part of the government, the Delhi Sarkari Ration Dealers Sangh (DSRDS) said over 1,000 vendors had decided to tender their resignations. But on Tuesday, when they presented a memorandum of their demands to the Lt-Governor, Dikshit urged vendors to not resign and cripple Delhi’s PDS.
According to the DSRDS, they had approached Dikshit with their problem soon after she returned from Kerala and invited her to the meeting on Tuesday.
“I recommended that the problem be dealt with constructively. If they are unable to make any headway, then I said I’d help them by making a recommendation to the Lt-Governor about the problem,” Dikshit said. These highly subsidised food grains are supplied under the National Food Security Act 2013. Over 11 lakh ration cardholders are beneficiaries of the scheme in Delhi.
“The government has fixed the margin at Rs 70 per quintal and they have told us that we should be happy with a 100 per cent increase. But this means that we make Rs 5,000 a month while our labour charges, in comparison, is Rs 8,600 per month,” Shivkumar Garg, president of DSRDS, said.
The former Delhi CM once again reiterated the issue of “non-approachability” in the absence of an elected government. “People don’t know who to turn to for help. This is a problem that is becoming increasingly pronounced,” she said.
She recommended the formation of a committee with various stakeholders to find a solution that is acceptable to all. “My recommendation to them was the formation of a committee that looks at the problem. Apart from the licensees themselves, relevant government officials will also be a part of this and after two or three months, the committee will present its report. The government can then take definite action on this,” Dikshit said.