A year after the National Food Security Act was notified, the Food Supplies and Consumer Affairs department has told the government that BPL and ration cards would no longer be valid to identify the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) beneficiaries for various education and medical schemes.
But with notifications still to be introduced in different schemes, those who handed over their BPL cards in lieu of new food security cards are facing problems. National food security cards have been issued to more than 70 lakh Delhi residents who earn less than Rs 1 lakh annually.
On December 24, parents of a 13-year-old patient, who needed a spinal surgery, moved the Delhi High Court after AIIMS asked them for additional documents to avail of government schemes such as Delhi Arogya Koshi and Delhi Arogya Nidhi. Even though the parents had a food security card, the hospital asked for more documents — a BPL card and birth certificate of the patient.
However, the High Court on Wednesday directed the institute to provide the estimate “without insisting about the income certificate or the birth certificate”.
EWS beneficiaries are entitled to free education in private unaided schools and free diagnostics and treatment in identified private hospitals. They are also exempt from paying for consumables used for procedures and treatment in government hospitals.
Till now, BPL cards or the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) ration cards were sufficient to avail of the benefits of these schemes.
According to data from the Food Supplies department, against 17.68 lakh people in Delhi who have BPL and ration cards, 73 lakh people were identified to be issued food security cards.
In May, the department had said issuing of the food security cards would be completed by August-September. Officials said the process was now winding up and over 50 lakh cards have been issued. “The instructions were issued earlier when we had started issuing food security cards with the intimation that the process would take another three months. So they could make necessary changes in the rules of various schemes,” an official said.
“Delhi government has converted the BPL card into a smart card of food security. But it did not update this notification for hospitals and school admissions. Authorities in respective departments do not accept the smart card as proof of BPL status. This is a problem for those who surrendered their BPL card in exchange for the smart card,” Khagesh Jha, one of the advocates for the patient who approached the HC on Wednesday, said.