The “data capturing” of people having lunch and dinner at hunger relief centres in the capital remains incomplete, according to Delhi’s revenue department, which has said the absence of these details may impair contact tracing in the event of someone attached with food distribution testing positive for coronavirus.
This internal communication, shared with Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, assumes significance in light of the fact that an average of nine lakh people turn up at these centres — numbering around 1,800 — twice a day for cooked lunch and dinner, mostly rice and lentils or rajma.
According to the revenue department note, issued by its legal and judicial wing, the need to capture data — essentially the name and contact number of beneficiaries — was mandated by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs through an order dated April 19.
The following day, on April 20, Sisodia had written to the District Magistrates, underlining the need to maintain these details. On May 6, he wrote again, raising the fact that data had not been captured “despite his earlier note”.
“In his note dated May 6, the Deputy CM has observed that data pertaining to beneficiaries in hunger relief centres has not been captured fully despite his earlier note dated April 20. Data capturing is required as per the direction of Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India vide order dated April 19, 2020. The data is absolutely essential for the purpose of contact tracing in the eventuality of anyone found with Covid-19 at any of the hunger relief centres. It is seen that data has been captured only to a very little extent,” the revenue department note, dated May 18, states.
The department requested the DMs to expedite the process and make their submissions within two days. “All DMs shall ensure that we capture the contact details of each and every beneficiary to meet any eventuality related to contact tracing, which is absolutely essential for containment of corona pandemic. All DMs shall capture the data and submit the same within two working days. The data shall be collected and entered in the weblink by two civil defence volunteers in each hunger relief centre,” the note added.
A Delhi government spokesperson said there are 1,800 hunger relief centres in Delhi, where roughly nine lakh gather for lunch and dinner every day. The centres are mostly located in government- and MCD-run schools, teachers of which have been taking the lead in food distribution along with staff of revenue department and civil defence volunteers.
On April 19, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced that every volunteer attached with distributing meals will be tested, after one such person had contracted the infection. “Imagine how many people he may have infected. We have now decided to carry out rapid testing at the centre among people who come to that particular centre. I am assuming the same set of people come to get food at that centre. And across all the food centres, volunteers and others distributing food will also be part of rapid testing,” the CM had said.
Around the same time, the food department had also put under scanner staffers of 13 schools and 41 PDS shops after a food inspector’s kin had tested positive.
While data from all 11 districts was not immediately available, there are around 460 hunger relief centres catering to a population of 1.25 lakh in South district, 80 catering to around 50,000 people in East district and 127 catering to around 1 lakh people in Central district.The North district administration said there are 116 hunger relief centres under its jurisdiction, where around 80,000 to 90,000 people come for lunch and dinner.
Officials of South, East and North districts claimed they have the database. A Central district said, “Our civil defence volunteers at each hunger relief centre take contact details of all beneficiaries.”
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