A13-year-old pushed into garbage collection, a domestic help struggling to tend to her newborn, an elderly woman surviving on the neighbours’ generosity — the Covid pandemic has driven the capital’s vulnerable to the brink. People from many such vulnerable groups Monday spoke during a virtual public hearing on hunger and malnutrition, organised by the NGO Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan, which has filed a public interest litigation in the Delhi High Court demanding the resumption of foodgrain distribution to non-PDS card holders.
The Delhi government had in April and May issued around 54 lakh e-coupons for non-ration card holders, out of which around 30 lakh people were given 4 kg wheat and 1 kg rice each. The city has around 71.9 lakh PDS beneficiaries, connected to 17.54 lakh ration card holders.
Rani, a resident of Jagdamba camp in South Delhi’s Sheikh Sarai, said, “My husband and son are dead. I stay with my daughter-in-law and grandchildren. My 13-year-old grandson has been forced to take up the job of plying a garbage cart… Before the lockdown, his mother and I managed to earn some money, but we are jobless now.”
Yashoda, who delivered a child during the lockdown, said she and her daily wager husband used to bring home around Rs 15,000-20,000 per month before the lockdown. “Today, our debt has mounted to Rs 50,000. We do not have a ration card and got food grains only in April and May when the government held camps for non-PDS card holders. We cannot even return to our village as we do not own any land. What will we do there?” she said.
Chanchal, also a domestic help, shared how the lockdown hit her earnings as one of her two employers discontinued her services. “Now I earn Rs 4,000 per month, which goes in paying the rent. My husband is a daily wager. And we do not own ration cards.”
Usha, an elderly woman whose plight was highlighted by the Shahari Mahila Kamgar Union, said she is dependent on neighbours for survival. “I left my husband, an alcoholic, 23 years ago. My son also stays separately… During the lockdown, my elder daughter sent me ration. As I don’t have a ration card, I don’t even get wheat so I can at least have chapatis with salt,” she said.
Many also spoke about the difficulties in getting a ration card made, including getting the landlords to certify their addresses.
Representing the Delhi government, DUSIB chief engineer S K Mahajan said he will convey the grievances to Food Commiss-ioner G S Meena. “As for the homeless, we will soon provide breakfast at night shelters, where occupants already get cooked meals twice a day,” said Mahajan.
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