With a large section of migrant workers back in their home states, the opening up of economic activities, and focus shifting to tackling Covid cases, food distribution operations in the city by the government are winding down.
The number of centres where ration was being distributed to non-beneficiaries of the Public Distribution System had earlier been reduced from 441 to 318. On Wednesday, an additional 120 schools which had functioned as such centres were asked to conclude operations by June 18. The criteria for closing down most of these centres have been given to schools as “low collection”.
After the lockdown began, the Delhi government had also started distributing cooked lunches and dinners at hunger relief centres across the city, most of which were government and MCD schools. A Delhi government spokesperson had said there were 1,800 such centres operating in May.
However, this distribution stopped at several schools after May 31, and is currently being carried out in 33 government schools and a few MCD schools.
Last Friday, people who stood in line waiting to collect their dinner at an MCD school in Garhi village were told it was the last day of distribution. While the number of those at the school has dwindled, those who are yet to find their feet in the city after the lockdown had to start thinking of other options.
Among them was Lakshmi Kumar, who had been collecting two meals a day from the school. She used to work as a domestic help, but had stopped shortly before the lockdown due to an illness “Nobody wants to hire someone new now. My husband returned to our village in Odisha before the lockdown. Since I haven’t earned for months now, this was one less thing to worry about,” she said.
Also in line at the school was Begum Khatun, who used to work as a domestic help. “My husband’s work has also not begun, so neither of us are earning to support our four children. We did not go back home to Bihar because it would have been very difficult to travel with our children,” she said.
Even as the ration distribution exercise scales down, there were many like Khatun who had applied for e-coupons for dry food supplies but never received it.
The government had received 55 lakh applications for e-coupons. However, in the first round of distribution, which began on April 9 and ended on May 16, 38 lakh people received coupons and 24.7 lakh received food supplies. The second round of disbursal, which aims to cover the same set of 38 lakh beneficiaries, commenced on May 18. Till June 10, 20.7 lakh people were covered, as per day-wise data accessed by The Indian Express.
The gap between total e-coupons issued and those covered has been attributed to people “not turning up” and a significant number of migrants leaving the city. “We will once again try and cover all 38 lakh applicants… they all applied before April 25. After that, we will explore modalities to expand the coverage,” said a Delhi government official.
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