May 15, 2021 5:05:13 pm
Non-profit organisations in Delhi, including the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan, the Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS), and the Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN), have written to the Arvind Kejriwal government over unavailability of PDS grain at ration shops despite the government promising free ration for all card holders during the lockdown.
SWAN on Friday wrote to the chief minister saying, “A verification of PDS shops by various civil society organisations found that with PDS shops closed till mid-May, even those who have ration cards in Delhi have not been able to get their entitlements. The order issued by the Delhi government on 14th May on distribution of food under the National Food Security Act also makes no mention of non-ration card holders. Given that the majority of those who called us are temporary migrants, it is unlikely that they possess a Delhi government ration card. In the absence of government interventions to address rising distress amongst workers in the city, the civil society has had to step in. However, with limited resources and reach, this is a drop in the ocean.”
A senior official from the Delhi government, while explaining the delay of the distribution of ration, said, “The grains came in from the Food Corporation of India now under the NFSA and the PMGKAY. The distribution has started today (Saturday).”
On May 7, the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan also wrote to Kejriwal over unavailability of ration for both card and non-card holders in Delhi. “We have visited nearly 70 ration shops located across the capital and we are shocked to note that despite the first week of May coming to an end, ration distribution for the month has not started. This is alarming as Delhi is in the third week of lockdown. Those who have lost their livelihood are dependent on foodgrains provided under the PDS to feed themselves and their families. Owing to the delay, people are being forced to buy foodgrains from the open market at non-subsidized prices.”
It was only on Friday, May 14, that the Delhi government passed a directive for distribution of free ration under the NFSA and the PMGKAY for the month of May and June, even as Kejriwal had said on the eve of the announcement of the first lockdown in April that migrant workers need not head back home.
The order read: “The entitled foodgrains under NFSA for the month of May 2021 will be provided free of cost to all the entitled PDS beneficiaries @ 04 kgs of wheat and 01 kg of rice per beneficiary per month of PR and PRS card holders and 25 kg of wheat and 10 kg of rice and 01 sugar per households to AAY card holders. In addition to the above entitlement for the month of May 2020 under PMGKAY-III, 05 kg of additional foodgrains i.e. 04 kg of wheat and 01 kg of rice per beneficiary member will also be distributed free of cost to all PDS beneficiaries (PR, PRS and AAY).”
Anjali Bharadwaj, a social activist for the SNS and associated with the Right to Food campaign in Delhi, said, “As per the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana, as well as Delhi government’s promises, a ration card holder in Delhi is entitled to 10 kg of grain under PDS for May and June 2021, free of cost. For the 72 lakh ration card holders, this is a big lifeline. However, it was only on Friday, weeks into the lockdown, that the Delhi government gave orders for the distribution of it. This had not been happening at all. Today, we will monitor the ration shops to see if they are being distributed.”
On May 13, the Supreme Court of India directed the governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to file a reply to the application suggesting means and measures by which they shall ameliorate miseries of stranded migrant labourers, and to provide dry ration, adequate transport and set up community kitchens for them in National Capital Region.
Bharadwaj said that those without any ration card must also be included. “Migrant workers were covered last year through the e-coupon scheme. The High Court had ruled that no one should be left out and everyone must be given ration even if they do not have cards,” Bharadwaj added.
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